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Consumer Panic Subsides With Declining Fuel Prices

Since reaching a peak in September, the price of gasoline in the United States continued to decline through mid-December and drivers are reacting to these moderating fuel prices. The December 2005 Fuel Price Impact Survey conducted by AutoPacific’s ( VehicleVoice ( confirms that many consumers are paying less for gasoline but are still very aware of the long term effects of gasoline priced above $2 per gallon. The Fuel Price Impact Survey is based on the results of a VehicleVoice Internet survey with 1,122 respondents who completed the survey between December 13 and December 19, 2005.

Actual fuel price continue downward since September peak

In the last month the median price respondents say they paid for fuel has declined by about 11¢ per gallon (to $2.22) following a dramatic 50¢ per gallon decrease in November. The median price they expect to pay one year from now has decreased by another 8¢ per gallon to $2.45.
Shift away from SUVs now moderating
Many drivers reconsider the types of vehicles they are driving when fuel prices spike higher. Drivers of sport utility vehicles represent about 25% of the total car market today. In September, when fuel prices peaked, about 27% of SUV drivers indicated they would consider shifting the type of vehicle they drive to something more fuel efficient. The vehicle segments most likely to benefit from this migration are Mid-Size Cars and Small Cars both up 25%. While the data do not show a direct relationship of drivers moving from SUVs to more fuel efficient cars, there is a clear tendency for drivers to consider moving from less fuel-efficient segments to vehicle types that get better gas mileage.
Drivers considering shift to hybrids, but 6-cylinders remain “sweet spot”
About 18% of drivers having vehicles powered by V8 engines say they will shift to more fuel-efficient engines, down from 25% in September. But 27% of drivers of vehicles with gas-sipping 4-cylinder engines also say they will consider changing. The transition for both is towards 6-cylinder engines and hybrids. Hybrid-powered vehicles will be considered by 12% of the respondents, down slightly from the 15% peak in the October 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 higher fuel prices. 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 still seen as BAD for America!
The culprits identified by the respondents as contributing to high fuel prices remain Big Oil Companies, OPEC, Natural Disasters and Limited Refining Capacity. When asked whether high fuel prices are good or bad for America, 73% say that high fuel prices are “bad for America”, down from 80% in the September survey. In the land where roads have been paved by unlimited 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, reduce pollution and provide the Middle East with less money to use against American interests, but respondents don’t see it that way, and vote their pocketbook.

1 Comment

  • K.C.| December 27, 2005 at 7:17 am

    Why doesn’t Ford, and others, offer a diesel engine as an option on ALL their vehicles? Who cares about the price of gas if Biodiesel is a viable alternative. Maybe biodiesel will put downward pressure on gas prices for those who choose to stay with the gas product.
    I want to keep my old Ford, but I want to swap out the engine for a diesel engine that will run cheap on veggie oil.

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