Report: Cost Drives Buyers Away from Alternative Fuel Vehicles

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\Most automobile shoppers are unwilling to pay the price premium that accompanies vehicles with alternative fuel technology over traditional-gasoline powered vehicles, says a new survey measuring consumer attitudes regarding diesel, hybrid, electric, and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The survey, conducted by AutoTrader.com, found that 46 percent of respondents believed that diesels were too expensive to purchase, with the numbers going up for EVs (60 percent), hybrids (66 percent), and plug-in hybrids (71 percent).

“As automakers continue to invest in alternative fuel technologies to meet the ever-increasing fuel economy and emissions standards, it is important that they address car shoppers’ concerns about these vehicles if they want to accelerate adoption,” says Brian Moody, an editor at AutoTrader.com.

The fact that automakers have begun to reduce the prices of vehicles with electric powertrain technology is proof that they recognize that cost is a major factor for consumers, Moody says. “However, if they want to increase sales, they will need to keep making improvements in range, as well as charging infrastructure and technology to lessen the anxiety and perceived burdens these alternative technologies introduce into the ownership experience,” he says.

While costs consistently topped the lists of deterrents for each category, consumer perceptions also can make a difference. For example, 32 and 29 percent of consumers cited noise and “not really better for the environment,” respectively, as reasons for why they would not buy a diesel.

“Diesels have come a long way since they were first introduced in the U.S., but that perception of the clunky car with black soot coming out the tailpipe persists,” Moody says. “Automakers who are investing in clean diesel technology need to ensure that they are clearly explaining and promoting how diesel technology has changed.”

Other top concerns for EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids include maintenance and battery life/range. Respondents also were concerned about the number and distance between charging stations.

On a follow-up question regarding EVs and plug-ins, 59 percent of respondents indicated that EVs would need to get over 150 miles per charge for them to consider the vehicle, and 56 percent said plug-in hybrids would need to get over 80 miles on a single charge for them to consider the vehicle.

In a separate automotive survey, sales satisfaction among new vehicle buyers was found to be 52 percent higher when a salesperson used a tablet device during the sales process.

“Although tablet usage has increased from a year ago, dealers are still missing an opportunity to improve their sales experience by providing shoppers with sales information on a single platform that allows them to easily browse options and features with immediate commentary from their salesperson,” says Chris Sutton, senior director of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power, which conducted the study.

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