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Are High Fuel Prices Changing The Way Americans Drive?


AutoPacific’s Vehicle Voice Research – Consumer Reaction to Continuing High Fuel Prices

How are you reacting to the price of fuel? VehicleVoice surveyed panelists to find out.

As the price of gasoline in the United States remains high, the October 2005 Fuel Price Impact Survey conducted by VehicleVoice ( for AutoPacific, Inc confirms that many consumers intend to shift the type of vehicle they drive, though not quite to the extent they indicated only one month ago. The Fuel Price Impact Survey is based on the results of a VehicleVoice Internet survey with 1,145 respondents who completed the survey between October 17 and October 22, 2005.
Actual fuel price down; anticipated fuel price up!
In the last month the median price respondents say they paid for fuel has declined seven cents per gallon, but the median price they expect to pay one year from now has increased by five cents per gallon.
Major, but reduced shift away from SUVs and towards Small Cars.
While over half (63%) of the respondents indicate that they will not change the type of vehicle they drive, there clearly is impact on the Sport Utility Vehicle category. About 22% of SUV owners say they will shift to another type of vehicle next time they buy, down from 27% a month ago. The vehicle class most likely to benefit from this migration is Small Cars (up 33% this month, compared with a 41% increase last month). While the data do not show a direct relationship of drivers moving from SUVs to Small Cars, there is a tendency to move from less fuel-efficient classes to vehicle types that get better gas mileage.
Hybrid preference still huge, seen as silver bullet!
About 25% of drivers who have vehicles powered by V8 engines say they will shift to more fuel-efficient engines, the same as reported last month. Vehicles with hybrid powerplants will be considered by 15% of the respondents, virtually unchanged from the prior survey. This is a reaction to the continuing positive media attention surrounding hybrid-powered vehicles and the public’s perception that hybrids are an answer to the higher price of fuel. There is also somewhat more interest in diesel engines, though significantly less than the level of interest in a gas-electric hybrid.
High fuel price seen as BAD for America!
The culprits identified by the respondents as contributing to high fuel prices are Big Oil Companies, OPEC, Natural Disasters and Limited Refining Capacity. When asked whether high fuel prices are good or bad for America, 80% say that high fuel prices are “bad for America”, unchanged from the prior survey. In the land where roads have been paved by cheap gas, attitudes are that conservation stimulated by higher gasoline prices is not the popular way to go. Higher fuel prices might actually encourage conservation, and thus be good for the planet, but respondents don’t see it that way.

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VehicleVoice Beauty Contests


Every month VehicleVoice ( panel members give their reactions to the styling of eight to ten newly introduced cars or trucks and interesting concept vehicles. The Internet panel is shown photos of the vehicles without identification. Their badges are Photoshopped out so only the cogniscenti might really know what the vehlcle really is. At the end of the Beauty Contest the vehicle names and manufacturers are revealed.
Over the months, we have become pretty good at predicting what will juice up the panel members. Usually a really hot sports car will do the trick. The Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice were tops for “great styling” ratings in the months they were shown. Some interesting recent results show the Ford Fusion and Lincoln Zephyr being strongly rated for having “great styling”. This is an impressive result for mainstream sedans.

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