Hybrid vehicles have landed on the radar of a growing number of American motorists, according to a new Harris Poll. Nearly a third will consider buying one of the high-mileage vehicles and almost a quarter of those surveyed indicating they’re more interested in hybrids than just a year ago.
On the other hand, 59% of American motorists already expect to buy a conventionally powered vehicle the next time they’re in the market. And, if history holds true in the near future, the vast majority of those who now seem to be open to hybrids will stick with more conventional technology, as well.
Nonetheless, “This survey shows that automakers are starting to win over consumer confidence in hybrid vehicles, especially with younger drivers,” said Mike Chadsey, Vice President, Automotive Solutions Consultant, Harris Interactive. “While this appears to be driven in large part by personal economic needs to reduce fuel expenses, automakers seem to be making a strong case for the performance and reliability of hybrid vehicles compared to traditional options.”
Hybrids have garnered a growing share of the headlines since the first models, the Toyota Prius and the original Honda Insight came to market nearly a dozen years ago. Today, almost every major manufacturer offers some form of gas-electric option and even specialty makers, such as Bentley, are looking at the technology.
But while consumers are clearly more interested and there’s a growing list of alternatives for them to choose from, hybrids have yet to gain any real traction in the marketplace. They’ve struggled to capture just 3% on the U.S. new vehicle sales charts and demand slipped after fuel prices began leveling off in April – as has routinely occurred after every gas price run-up in recent years.
Significantly, the Toyota Prius is the only hybrid nameplate that has continued to show momentum – but even that is somewhat misleading because Toyota now has four different models sharing that familiar badge as part of a new Prius “family,” such as the bigger V and compact Prius C.
“The work has only begun” winning over skeptics and those simply unfamiliar with the technology, said Harris Interactive’s Chadsey.
The new study shows 32% of the 2,634 adults polled between May 7 and May 16 reported having an interest in purchasing a hybrid as their next vehicle. Perhaps more significant was the fact that 23% said they have more interest in hybrids than a year ago.
According to the survey, the level of interest seems clearly linked to demographics. The adoption curve, Harris noted, “appears to wane with age.” A full third of those under 35 have seen their interest in alternative powertrain technologies increase over the last year. But only 15% of those over 67 said the same thing.
In fact, 11% of those senior citizens indicated they are actually less interested in hybrids than a year ago.
The new Harris poll looked at a variety of different alternative powertrain technologies and hybrids generated by far the strongest interest, appealing to 26% of buyers overall, while only 11% said they would consider diesels. And pure battery-electric vehicles are on the shopping list of only 9%, according to Harris.
What’s driving the growing interest in alternative power? Over half, 55%, of those looking at a hybrid, diesel or electric simply want to save money on fuel. (That jumps to 59% among adults aged 18 to 35.) Only a quarter, 26%, of those considering alternative propulsion say their interest is driven by concerns about the environment. And 18% say they want to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
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