YONKERS, N.Y. (June 24, 2016) — Consumers still favor fuel-efficient cars and trucks in spite of historically low gas prices, according to a survey by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports (CR) magazine.
Higher automotive fuel efficiency also is positively associated with higher owner satisfaction, according to a separate CR statistical analysis.
As federal and state regulators begin their review of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for model years 2022 to 2025, the findings highlight that car and truck buyers place a high value on fuel economy over many other vehicle characteristics, Consumers Union said.
“Consumers want cars that don't drain their pocketbook — either through costly repairs or guzzling gasoline,” said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union. “These findings should be another reminder to automakers that developing more fuel-efficient vehicles is attractive to their customers.”
About 84 percent of American survey respondents said increasing fuel efficiency is important and 73 percent said the federal government should continue to mandate higher fuel economy in cars and trucks. This support extends across all regions of the U.S. and across political parties, Consumers Union said.
Other survey results included:
- About 32 percent of respondents said fuel economy was where their current vehicle could use the most improvement;
- About 60 percent stated they were willing to pay more for a fuel-efficient vehicle if costs could be recouped by fuel savings within five years;
- More than 80 percent said making larger vehicles, including SUVs and trucks, more fuel efficient was important; and
- About 76 percent said increasing fuel economy from today's average of 25 mpg to an average of 40 mpg in 2025, as the existing CAFE standards mandate, is a worthwhile goal.
Perceptions of fuel economy also impact Americans' view on which auto makers produce the “best” vehicles, Consumers Union said.
According to the survey, auto makers identified as the offering the most fuel-efficient vehicles (Honda and Toyota) also topped the list of the “best” vehicles. Similarly, auto makers believed to have the worst fuel economy were among those listed as producing the worst vehicles overall.
The report also looked at consumer perception of fuel economy standards in states that have high percentages of auto industry workers (Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Missouri).
A majority of respondents in these states said they believe that improving fuel economy will strengthen the industry, that increasing production of more fuel-efficient vehicles will create jobs in their states, and that the auto industry can both improve fuel efficiency and maintain healthy sales.
Meanwhile, CR found a strong link between fuel economy and owners who are most satisfied with their vehicles. Fuel economy was second only to reliability in its influence on owner satisfaction.
The study is based on vehicle data collected from Consumer Report Auto Test Center and survey responses from about 1 million Consumer Reports members who owned a tested vehicle. Owner satisfaction is determined by survey respondents who stated that they would definitely buy their vehicle again.
When holding other vehicle characteristics (acceleration, horsepower, reliability and price) constant, the study found a strong positive correlation between owner satisfaction and fuel economy, CR said. The analysis found the correlation to exist for both cars and SUVs.
The study also looked at owner satisfaction based on owner-reported miles-per-gallon for the same vehicle model, in order to isolate other factors that might impact satisfaction rates. This analysis corroborated the link between satisfaction and higher fuel economy, CR said. Owners of SUVs, pickup trucks and vans all reported increased owner satisfaction as fuel economy increased.