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Consumer Car Choices Counter to What Government Mandates

AutoPacific_VV.jpgInterest in Small Cars, Hybrids
Declines Despite Fuel Price Increase

TUSTIN, Calif. (February 11, 2010) – AutoPacific regularly tracks the impact of fuel prices on the type of vehicles Americans will consider buying. The results for the just-completed Fuel Price Impact Survey show very surprising results.
Governmental mandates and consumer desires appear to be moving at cross-purposes. At a time when Congress and the Obama Administration are mandating more fuel efficiency, fuel price increases have moderated. Consumer preferences are swinging in the direction opposite what the government desires. Consideration for small cars and hybrids, the most fuel efficient vehicles, is down dramatically, while consideration for pickups and SUVs is up dramatically. Over 1,000 respondents completed AutoPacific’s January 2010 wave of its Fuel Price Impact Study.

Fuel Prices Increasing at a Moderate Pace
The median fuel price paid in January 2010 was $2.69 per gallon, up only 21 cents from July 2009, but up 80 cents per gallon from January 2009. Fuel prices increased significantly over the first half of 2009, but have significantly moderated over the last six months.
Interest in Small Cars and Hybrids Fades
Study respondents are asked what kind of vehicle respondents would select if they were to replace their primary vehicle today. In January 2009, 24% selected a Small Car. By June 2009, Small Car consideration had fallen by a third to 16% and fell another third to 12% in January 2010. In one year, consideration for Small Cars has fallen by a half. During this time, the price of fuel went up, but the interest in small cars went down. Perhaps Americans have become accustomed to higher gasoline prices.
The story with respect to hybrids is even more dramatic. Despite an 80-cent-per-gallon increase in the price of fuel, hybrid intention is down from 25% a year ago to 14% six months ago to 11% in January 2010. Is the bloom off the hybrid rose?
Are SUVs and Pickups on the Comeback Trail?
The small car results are in dramatic contrast to the replacement vehicle intention with respect to SUVs: 16% a year ago, 20% six months ago, and 26% in January 2010–an increase of 63%. Pickup truck intention follows a similar pattern: 10% a year ago, 12% six months ago, and 15% this January, for a 50% increase. “What a short memory we have,” said Jim Hossack, the studies’ author.
About AutoPacific
AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing research and product-consulting firm. Every year AutoPacific publishes a wide variety of syndicated studies on the automotive industry. The firm, founded in 1986, also conducts extensive proprietary research and consulting for auto manufacturers, distributors, marketers and suppliers worldwide. Company headquarters and its state-of-the-art automotive research facility are in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area.
Additional information can be found on AutoPacific’s websites: and http:/


  • bob| April 21, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Just how often do people who drive SUVs have to drive through mud, unplowed snow, and high water? Ninety percent of the time, this is a lame excuse to get a booster-seat car and to justify the rudeness of visibility-blockage committed on other drivers. Intuitively, we associate SUVs with arrogance, and a better question to ask, besides whether or not fuel prices are high enough to justify better fuel efficiency, is what’s happening to American life to make expressions of arrogance more appealing to American drivers. That’s what should be addressed. Thrift has traditionally been a conservative value; thinly-veiled surrender to psychological insecurities has not. Change the social trends that evoke such insecurities, and there won’t be a need for SUV compensations.

  • Ana| February 27, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I choice in a vehicle is based on an all around service
    fuel economy plus service to move both more passangers as well move stuff without having to make 100 trips and as be able to drive thru hi water

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