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Nearly One in Four Car Owners are More Interested in Hybrid Vehicles than a Year Ago

August 8, 2012

NEW YORK, Aug. 8, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — When it comes to selecting a new automobile, car owners are showing an interest in purchasing a hybrid vehicle over traditional combustion engine vehicles. One-third of car owners (32%) report they have an interest in purchasing a hybrid vehicle and 23% say that their interest in hybrids has increased from a year ago. Yet, even as new car buyers look more deeply into alternative fuel options, traditional combustion engine vehicles still get the nod by more than half (59%) of consumers as a vehicle choice they will consider for their next purchase.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,634 U.S. adults (ages 18 and over) of whom 1,991 own or lease a car, truck, minivan or SUV, surveyed online between May 7 and May 15, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

The adoption curve for hybrid vehicles appears to wane with age. While nearly one-third (32%) of those under 35 years of age are more interested in alternative vehicle choices than they were a year ago, the same can be said for only 15% of those over the age of 67. In fact, 11% of those 67 and older report that they are less interested compared to one year ago.

Among the alternative fuel choices for new automobile purchases, hybrid (gas/electric) vehicles win out with more than a quarter (26%) of car owners identifying that they will consider this type of alternative fuel vehicle for their next purchase. Other alternative fuels are further down the list, as just one in ten say they would consider diesel (11%) or all electric (9%) automobiles for their next purchase. Almost two-thirds (63%) report that they, in fact, are not likely to consider diesel or all electric options at all for their next car purchase.

Alternative fuel choices are likely to be impacted by perceptions of the time frames needed to offset the premium of purchasing the alternative powertrain option. According to recent data produced by the 2012 Harris Poll AutoTECHCAST(SM) study, 32% of consumers expect that flexible fuel vehicles will see a return on investment in under a year. This compares to 14% for pure electric engines and 7% for clean diesel.

When asked what may be driving their growing interest for alternative fuel vehicles, more than half of those who indicate an interest in alternative fuel vehicles (55%) simply state that they want to save money on the cost of fuel purchases. This is higher among those between 18 and 35 (59%) than it is for those older than 67 (45%). Just a quarter (26%) of those with an interest report that this interest in alternative fuel vehicles is tied to their concern for the environment, while others (18%) share that they would like to see a reduction in dependency on foreign oil.

American or import?

Beyond fuel choices, new car selection is also heavily based on opinions about vehicle quality. When asked about the vehicle quality of American-brand automobiles, more than one-third (35%) of car owners say that they find the vehicle quality of American brands to be lower than imports. Just under a quarter of car owners (24%) find American-brand vehicle quality to be better than imports, while 42% find them to be the same in quality.

Gender differences in attitudes towards American-brand vehicle quality show that more women car owners (27%) find American cars to be better in quality than imports compared to men (18%).

So What?

“This survey shows that automakers are starting to win over consumer confidence in hybrid vehicles, especially with younger drivers,” said Mike Chadsey, Vice President, Automotive Solutions Consultant, Harris Interactive. “While this appears to be driven in large part by personal economic needs to reduce fuel expenses, automakers seem to be making a strong case for the performance and reliability of hybrid vehicles compared to traditional options.”

“However, the work has only begun,” added Chadsey. “A majority of consumers will still consider traditional gas-powered vehicles for their next car and as automakers continue to improve gas mileage for these vehicles, the adoption rate for hybrid vehicles may see an impact. American automakers in particular need to continue their focus on building consumer trust while improving some consumer perceptions around car quality, regardless of its fuel type, to continue to attract new consumers in every demographic.”

More insights and trends on consumer preferences for over 60 advanced automotive technologies can be found in the 2012 Harris Poll AutoTECHCAST(SM) study. Among an array of topics, the study evaluates distracted driving habits, preferences for mobile applications within the connected car of the future, and the perceptions of time needed to offset premiums of alternative powertrain technologies. To learn more about the 2012 AutoTECHCAST(SM) study, which is available now, please visit: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/Products/AutoTECHCASTUS.aspx

                                                                                                      TABLE 1
                                                                                                      -------
                                                                                         HYBRID VEHICLE PURCHASE INTEREST
                                                                                         --------------------------------
                                                           "Which of the following best describes your current interest in purchasing a hybrid vehicle?"
                                                           ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Base: Owns or Leases a Vehicle
    ------------------------------
                                                                                                                                                   Total                     Generation                        Gender

                                                                                                                                                                                                         ---
                                                                         Echo                                                                      Gen X       Baby    Matures      Men       Women
                                                                       Boomers                                                                     (36-49)   Boomers      (67+)
                                                                       (18-35)                                                                          (50-66)
                                                                        ------                                                                     ------                                         ---
                                                                          %                                                                           %         %          %         %          %         %
                                                                         ---                                                                         ---       ---        ---       ---        ---       ---
    I am more interested now than a year ago                                                                                                            23         32        24         18         15      26        20
    ----------------------------------------                                                                                                           ---        ---       ---        ---        ---     ---       ---
    I am interested and my interest has not changed over the past year                                                                                  32         40        30         31         22      30        33
    ------------------------------------------------------------------                                                                                 ---        ---       ---        ---        ---     ---       ---
    I am less interested now than a year ago                                                                                                             9          6        10          8         11      11         6
    ----------------------------------------                                                                                                           ---        ---       ---        ---        ---     ---       ---
    I never had any interest in a hybrid vehicle                                                                                                        37         22        36         43         52      33        40
    --------------------------------------------                                                                                                       ---        ---       ---        ---        ---     ---       ---

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

                                               TABLE 2
                                               -------
                                    TYPE OF CAR FOR NEXT PURCHASE
                                    -----------------------------
    "Using a scale from 1 to 7 where 1 means not at all likely and 7 means extremely likely, how likely are you to consider each of the following for
                                        your next new vehicle?"
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Base: Owns or Leases a Vehicle
    ------------------------------
                                          Likely          7     6     5     4     3     2     1     Not likely
                                       (NET 6 & 7)                                                  (NET 1 & 2)
                                        ----------                                                  ----------
                   %                        %            %     %     %     %     %     %     %
                  ---                      ---         ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---
    Traditional Combustion Engine                  59    37    22    15    14     4     2     6                 8
    -----------------------------                 ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---               ---
    Hybrid gas/electric                            26    13    13    15    16     9     8    25                33
    -------------------                           ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---               ---
    Diesel                                         11     6     6     7    11     8    10    53                63
    ------                                        ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---               ---
    All Electric                                    9     5     5     8    10    10    13    50                63
    ------------                                  ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---               ---

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

                                    TABLE 3
                                    -------
                 TYPE OF CAR FOR NEXT PURCHASE - by generation
                 ---------------------------------------------
    "Using a scale from 1 to 7 where 1 means not at all likely and 7 means extremely likely, how likely are you to consider each of the
                      following for your next new vehicle?"
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                         Those saying "Likely (6 or 7)"
                         ------------------------------
    Base: Owns or Leases a Vehicle
    ------------------------------
                                          Total           Generation
                                          -----           ----------
                 Echo                Gen X         Baby         Matures
                Boomers             (36-49)      Boomers           (67+)
                   (18-35)                       (50-66)
                ------                          ------                                ---
                   %                   %         %         %        %
                  ---                 ---       ---       ---      ---
    Traditional Combustion Engine        59         47      58         67         63
    -----------------------------       ---        ---     ---        ---        ---
    Hybrid gas/electric                  26         37      26         22         16
    -------------------                 ---        ---     ---        ---        ---
    Diesel                               11         18      12          8          6
    ------                              ---        ---     ---        ---        ---
    All Electric                          9         21       7          4          4
    ------------                        ---        ---     ---        ---        ---

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

                                     TABLE 4
                                     -------
                 REASON FOR INTEREST IN ALTERNATIVE FUEL VEHICLE
                 -----------------------------------------------
    "While all may be important, which one of the following is the main reason you are interested in purchasing an alternative fuel vehicle?"
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Base: Interested in alternative fuel vehicle
    --------------------------------------------
                                              Total              Generation
                                              -----              ----------
                  Echo                 Gen X           Baby          Matures
                 Boomers              (36-49)      Boomers           (67+)
                    (18-35)                        (50-66)
                 ------                            ------                                 ---
                    %                    %         %         %        %
                   ---                  ---       ---       ---      ---
    I want to save money on fuel
     purchases                             55         59      58         52         45
    ----------------------------          ---        ---     ---        ---        ---
    I am concerned about the
     environment                           26         28      20         28         31
    ------------------------              ---        ---     ---        ---        ---
    I want to reduce our dependency
     on foreign oil                        18         14      22         20         25
    -------------------------------       ---        ---     ---        ---        ---

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

                                          TABLE 5
                                          -------
                             QUALITY OF AMERICAN MADE VEHICLES
                             ---------------------------------
    "When thinking about American made vehicles, which of the following is closest to your opinion? American made vehicle quality is..."
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Base: Owns or leases a vehicle
    ------------------------------
                                          Total                       Region                  Gender
                                          -----                       ------                  ------
                 East               Midwest  South      West      Men    Women
                 ----               -------  -----      ----      ---    -----
                   %                   %        %        %         %        %       %
                  ---                 ---      ---      ---       ---      ---     ---
    BETTER THAN IMPORTS (NET)            24      17         22       28      24      19        27
    ------------------------            ---     ---        ---      ---     ---     ---       ---
      Much better than imports           11       9          8       13      11       7        14
      ------------------------          ---     ---        ---      ---     ---     ---       ---
      Somewhat better than imports       13       9         14       15      13      13        13
    ----------------------------        ---     ---        ---      ---     ---     ---       ---
    The same as imports                  42      49         48       37      37      45        39
    -------------------                 ---     ---        ---      ---     ---     ---       ---
    LOWER THAN IMPORTS (NET)             35      34         30       35      39      36        33
    -----------------------             ---     ---        ---      ---     ---     ---       ---
      Slightly lower than imports        26      25         24       27      28      28        24
      ---------------------------       ---     ---        ---      ---     ---     ---       ---
      Much lower than imports             9       9          7        8      11       8        10
      -----------------------           ---     ---        ---      ---     ---     ---       ---

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 7 to 16, 2012 among 2,634 adults (aged 18 and over), of whom 1,991 currently own or lease a vehicle. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J41826

Q855, 870, 875, 880, 885

The Harris Poll(®) #51, August 8, 2012

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom and multi-client market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll® and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research. Harris possesses expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing our client’s research investment. Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices and a network of global partners, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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