Consideration for Hybrid Vehicles Rising; Consumer Education is Key to Adoption

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As the automotive industry continues to develop alternative powertrain vehicles, consumer consideration for these vehicles is on the rise. However, infrastructure, price, driving range and maintenance concerns continue to dampen enthusiasm about these technologies according to the 2011 AutoTECHCAST Study released by Harris Interactive.

Basic barriers continue to limit widespread consideration of these technologies. Forty percent of consumers who are somewhat or not at all likely to consider a hybrid electric vehicle still express reservations about replacing the batteries, while 43% of consumers indicate that pure electric vehicles will not travel as far as they need, an increase over last year (36% in 2010).

When price is taken into account, consideration for pure electric engines has more than doubled over the past year (5% in 2011, 2% in 2010) and is in-line with consideration for plug-in hybrid technology. With plug-in hybrid technology, 5% of consumers say they are either extremely or very likely to consider this technology at market price compared to 4% in 2010. Consideration for a fuel cell vehicle increased from 4% in 2010 to 7% in 2011.

"While consideration is on the rise, consumers still have questions about these technologies, both financial and environmental." said David Duganne, Sr. Research Director of Automotive and Transportation Research. "Consumers continue to take a 'show me don't tell me' attitude. In order for wider adoption to occur, considerable consumer education needs to take place, and automakers need to enhance the value proposition."

Additional key findings from the study include:

  • Although the brands do not yet have an entry in the category, Toyota and Honda are perceived by consumers as market leaders in the electric vehicle category. When asked about being leaders in plug-in hybrid technology, 51% of consumers identified Toyota while 33% identified Honda. For pure electric technology, 27% identified Toyota while 14% identified Honda. Nissan, which has the Leaf available, was identified by 8% of consumers.
  • Younger buyers, aged 18–34, are far more likely to consider new technologies at market price. They had the strongest consideration for voice activated controls and features (44%) and MP3/iPod audio system interface (43%). For both technologies consideration was at least 11 percentage points higher than those ages 35 — 54. These technologies are a cost of entry for younger buyers. The gap was much narrower on convenience items such as capless fueling system (27% vs. 19%) and rain sensor and automatic wipers (30% vs. 22%).
  • Despite higher brand equity, automakers have yet to sufficiently take advantage of aftermarket navigation system brands. Garmin (84%), TomTom (81%) and Magellan (67%) all had significantly higher awareness among consumers than all other navigation system brands combined (48%).
[Source:  "2011 AutoTECHCAST Study."  Harris Interactive.  15 June 2011.  Web.  21 June 2011.]