Hybrid Car Status Symbol Older Americans
October 11, 2013

Hybrid Cars Seen As Status Symbol By Older Americans

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

While hybrid cars may not be as powerful as a muscle car or as dignified as a Rolls Royce, they are increasingly considered as something of a status symbol by people of a certain age. According to a new Baylor University study, many drivers aged 60 and older consider their hybrid car as a source of pride and prestige, in addition to being good for the environment.

"If I want to pay $5 for a 'green' detergent or sponge, I'll know that I'm helping the environment. But those things aren't highly visible. Other people aren't going to notice," said study author Jay Yoo, an assistant professor of family and consumer sciences at Baylor.

In the study, which was published in the journal Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing and Service Industries, the research team looked at a national survey of over 310 older consumers who had purchased hybrid cars. The researchers found that customer satisfaction was driven by pride and other social values, as well as quality and price. Respondents said they were not only satisfied with their vehicle purchase, but with the potential for future savings on gasoline.

According to Yoo, social value, price and quality are major factors for boosting senior citizens' customer loyalties as indicated by repurchase intention responses and positive word-of-mouth. He added that a sense of excitement and other emotional factors did not significantly influence customers' purchase intention or satisfaction.

"The findings suggest that elderly consumers are concerned about how they appear to others when driving a hybrid car," the researchers wrote in their report. "They believe that driving a hybrid car builds a positive self-image of the people who drive them."

"This knowledge can help as a marketing tool," Yoo said. "Hybrid cars have increased in visibility because of their environmental consciousness. So people may be willing to pay an extra $5,000 or so in order to think, 'I'm great, and this is good for the environment.'"

The Baylor researcher added that other studies have found older consumers are more likely to act in a pro-environment way than younger consumers.

According to Swapalease.com, a company that works to get people out of their automobile lease, hybrid cars and green vehicles leases are becoming increasingly popular. The company recently announced that leases for green or hybrid cars has increased by 66.7 percent in just the past year, the highest rate of increase among any type of car.

“Since the recession we’ve seen a steady rise in the number of Green/Hybrid vehicles in the Swapalease.com marketplace,” said Scot Hall, Executive Vice President of Swapalease.com. “We anticipate this trend to continue in the near term, particularly with the strong emphasis on lease deals for these eco-friendly vehicles.”

In a statement, the company noted that car manufacturers have increased the options in the green/hybrid category over recent years, and consumers have responded in kind.

“Manufacturers and dealers have also introduced more attractive lease programs on these vehicles, which helps to explain the rise in transfer activity for these vehicles,” the company said.