Fuel Price Impact Study:

Do Fuel Prices Really Affect Vehicle Purchase Intentions?


Drivers today are shelling out nearly $4/gallon, on average, to fill up their vehicles, about 25 cents more than this time last year. But this added expense is not persuading consumers to ditch their SUVs for more fuel efficient small cars. Results from AutoPacific’s latest Fuel Price Impact Survey (FPIS) actually show SUVs being the top vehicle replacement choice, with small cars coming in third. In addition, 76% surveyed would replace their current vehicle with a similarly sized one, whereas only 18% say they would go smaller.

Only Minor Vehicle Segment Shifts: In general, US drivers would not shift to a different vehicle segment when time to replace their current vehicle. Differences from replacement vehicle segment choice and what respondents currently own range between 0-2 percentage points, according to survey results. For example, 28% of respondents own an SUV, and that same percent would choose one for their replacement as well. About 19% would choose a small car, which is two percentage-points higher than current respondent ownership. This is a stark contrast to the July 2008 fuel price spike when the top replacement choice was small cars at 32% of the sample, 12 percentage points higher than current ownership at that time.

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Let's Talk Cars: AutoPacific 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, and a Fuel Price Discussion


Welcome to “Let’s Talk Cars”

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This week on Let’s Talk Cars, the results are in! One of the autmotive industry’s most coveted awards, the AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, have been announced. So VehicleVoice contributor David Barrett sits down with AutoPacific president and founder Geroge Peterson, for the first in a series of conversations about the comprehensive consumer survey that led to the awards. You’ll not only find out the winners of each vehicle class, but you’ll also find out what was so completely surprising about this year’s results. The first podcast concerns overall winners of the Vehicle Satisfaction Awards and award-winning cars. In future installments we will discuss award-winning trucks, brand winners and which product segments yield the most satisfying vehicles.
Also this week, a conversation about fuel prices and why Americans should stop their whining. Well, not really. We are whiners, but Barrett and Peterson are joined by AutoPacific Vice President and Senior Consultant Jim Hossack for a lively discussion about why fuel price relief is not around the corner.
Show Rundown
01:24 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards – The Winners Are! – VehicleVoice contributor David Barrett and AutoPacific president and founder, George Peterson introduce award winners
13:36 Americans’ Reaction to Fuel Prices – VehicleVoice contributor David Barrett engages AutoPacific Vice President and Senior Consultant Jim Hossack and AutoPacific president and founder, George Peterson about rising fuel costs

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VehicleVoice Fuel Price Impact Survey – April 2006

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The Fuel Price Impact Survey conducted monthly by AutoPacific‘s VehicleVoice indicates that the median fuel price paid by U.S. motorists increased from a September 2005 peak of $2.90 per gallon to a new peak of $2.94 a gallon in April 2006. This was up from $2.42 in March. April’s spike is the largest month-over-month spike since September 2005.

SUV Loyalty Deteriorates – Small Cars Set to Boom?

In September respondents reacted to the price shock with about 27% of SUV owners saying they would consider buying another type vehicle when they replaced their SUV. As fuel prices moderated in the months following September, loyalty to SUVs rebounded. By March, only 13% would consider shifting away from SUVs. But, given the new April peak, about 25% of SUV owners say they may buy something different next time. Similarly, interest in Small Cars, up 41% in September, and up only 17% in February, was up 40% in April. Clearly, there is a direct relationship between fuel prices and the type of vehicle a person wants to drive.

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Source: AutoPacific – VehicleVoice Fuel Price Impact Study – April 2006

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Fuel Price Increases Spur Changes in American Drivers


The Fuel Price Impact Survey conducted monthly by AutoPacific’s VehicleVoice indicates that the median fuel price paid by U.S. motorists increased by 12 cents, to $2.42 per gallon, the highest level since $2.83 in October, 2005. The March data are based on the results of an Internet survey with 1,060 VehicleVoice panel members completing the survey between March 14 and March 21, 2006.

Replacement Vehicle Interest Shifts Towards Small/Mid-Size Cars

As reported in prior months, respondents indicate that if they were to replace their current vehicle at this time, they would be more likely to buy a more fuel efficient Small or Mid-Size Car, and less likely to buy a less fuel efficient Large/Luxury Car or an SUV. The interest in more discretionary Sports/Sporty Cars and in Pickup Trucks, which often meet a specific functional need, remains close to current levels. The interest in a Hybrid powered vehicle remains very high relative to their current small share of vehicles in operation, but appears to be moderating somewhat. In October, 2005, 14.8% of respondents indicated that they would like a Hybrid engine if they were to replace their current vehicle, but in March, the percentage indicating an interest in a Hybrid powered vehicle had declined to 11.5%.

Most Check Fuel Prices, but Many Have Not Changed Driving Habits

We were wondering if people actually check the price of fuel before they fill up. One fellow in the office contends he never checks. He contends that he cannot do anything about it, so just pay up and drive off. Well, he certainly is not in the majority. Seventy percent of respondents indicated that they “always” check fuel prices, while only 5% say they “never” check fuel prices… and while 43% say they “always” shop for the lowest fuel price, 47% “sometimes” do so, and only 10% say they “never” shop for the lowest fuel price.

When asked if higher fuel prices would cause you to change the type of vehicle you drive, a surprisingly high 65% said “no”. They like what they have, and are reluctant to change. When asked at what fuel price they would change their vehicle type, the median answer was $3.28 per gallon, up 86 cents per gallon or 35% from the March survey median fuel price of $2.42.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents indicated that higher fuel prices had caused them to combine trips to save fuel, and 31% say they drive slower and smoother than they used to. On the other hand, fully 29% say that higher fuel prices have not caused them to change their driving habits at all.

The median price respondents expect to be paying for fuel a year from now was $2.74 per gallon in March, significantly less than the price at which most say they would be willing to change vehicle type.

When you become a VehicleVoice Panel Member, you too can contribute to this important monthly tracking study. Just go to VehicleVoice.com to join. It’s free and you can win cash and prizes.

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