Australian consumers savvier about alternative fuel technologies than those in the US - Synovate study reveals
According to a new survey by global market research firm Synovate, Australian consumers are savvier about alternative fuel technologies than their US counterparts. However car manufacturers and governments still have a lot of work on their hands to ensure consumers are well-informed about car and fuel choice, with over a quarter of the market having never heard of diesel electric hybrids, fuel cell electrics or petrol hybrids with plug in, and over half the market unfamiliar with flex-fuel vehicles.
Synovate's global survey asked owners and prospective buyers about attitudes towards advanced propulsion and alternative fuel technologies, with Australia participating for the first time.
Matt Crellin, Managing Director - Melbourne, said "In 2007, Australian new vehicle sales broke the one million barrier so we have more cars coming onto the road than ever before. With increasing concerns about the environment and inflation, there has never been a better time to consider more economical and environmentally-friendly vehicles."
Australian consumers appear to be more concerned with fuel economy (most important) and reliability (second most important) than emissions, but many say they are still prepared to pay a premium for an environmentally-friendly vehicle.
"It is women, respondents with children, and not surprisingly, those earning over $100,000 per year who are more likely to consider paying extra for an environmentally-friendly vehicle", said Crellin.
Consumers were asked the length of time before they would shop for alternative fuel vehicles, with 62% of respondents saying it would be more than two years away, but over half (59%) saying it would be their next vehicle, which reflects the longer purchase cycle.
Of the energy companies, BP, Shell and Caltex are perceived to be better at bringing alternative fuels to the market, with around a third of consumers rating their performance as excellent. A key barrier for consumers purchasing a vehicle that uses alternative fuel engine technology is the availability of that fuel.
Scott Miller, CEO Synovate Motoresearch says: "People feel that about half the filling stations would need to carry an alternative fuel before they will consider a vehicle that runs on that fuel." Interestingly, diesel technologies have the highest rejection rate of all the fuels evaluated (25% of consumers) but are also one of the better-known alternative fuels.
The study looked at brand associations under a number of different characteristics, with Toyota seen as the market leader for making 'fuel efficient vehicles' (48%), and 'environmentally-friendly vehicles' (45%). Honda was the second best manufacturer for making 'fuel efficient vehicles' (35%) followed by Hyundai (29%). Honda was also second for making 'environmentally friendly vehicles' (28%), followed by Volkswagen (14%).
Consumers feel strongly about the government's involvement in bringing these new technologies to the market, yet 60% of Australians think the government's performance is poor. "It's not only the responsibility of the government; however, manufacturers and energy companies also have a vital role to play in providing consumers with the choice they are looking for", said Crellin. "Consumers need to believe there is a long-term plan for sustaining these new technologies."
Consumers are recognising that alongside these other technologies, the days of petrol internal combustion engine (ICE) are numbered, with 60% of consumers saying they will shop for something other than a petrol ICE next time they buy a new vehicle.