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Sierra Daily

Jan 06, 2011

How Green Is My...Wallet?

Despite the buzz about the new all-electric Nissan Leaf and plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, American car buyers aren’t as smitten with green cars as some of us might think or hope, according to marketplace mavens Consumer Reports. In its just-released 2011 Car Brand Perception Survey, the non-profit publication found that of 7 factors that influence a shopper’s purchase decision, “the environmentally friendly/green factor continues to drop with only 28 percent of consumers finding it to be an important factor, down by 4 percentage points since last year and by 12 points since 2008.” CR attributes the drop to leaner economic times and consumers’ unwillingness to spend more for green technologies rather than, say, inroads made by screeching conservative pundits who believe environmental concerns are just too darn silly to even care about.

In November, a survey of green-car attitudes by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that  “most U.S. car owners want to cut the nation’s oil consumption and dependence on foreign oil. But few are willing to pay more for a fuel-efficient or environmentally friendly car.” While nearly 80 percent of the survey’s respondents said they would “strongly support” or “somewhat support” a national goal of reducing oil consumption (and more than 70 percent said they would support government funding for measures to reach it), an overwhelming  94 percent named a high purchase price as a deterrent to choosing an “environmentally friendly or green” vehicle.

Still, automakers are taking a longer view and bringing a fleet of fuel-efficient autos to the market. Notably, many of the new models will attain impressive mpg numbers without resorting to relatively expensive hybrid and diesel technologies, which should be music to the years of downturn-bashed buyers. The advances are so rapid that the old eyebrow-raising benchmark of 30 mpg (highway) is giving way to a slew of non-hybrid gasoline-powered cars that reach 40 mpg (highway). Among them are Chevrolet’s Cruze Eco and Ford’s Fiesta SFE. Upstart Korean automaker Hyundai claims that all its Elantra models hit the big 4-0, and the automaker will introduce its high-mpg Veloster hatchback at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.

And those gas prices are rising. Not many experts agree with former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister’s prediction that gas prices in the United States could hit $5 per gallon by 2012, but most all agree that prices will continue to increase in the face of increasing worldwide demand for oil.

--Reed McManus

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