J.D. Power: Consumers Express Desire for Advancements in Alternative Powertrain Technology - Duh!


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Small Cars and Hybrids Lead the Automotive Environmental Index Top 30

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., July 15 -- While most automotive manufacturers have shifted production to focus on smaller vehicles, nearly 70 percent of consumers say they want manufacturers to invest more in existing and emerging powertrain technologies, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Alternative Powertrain Study(SM) released today.

Now in its third year, the Alternative Powertrain Study examines the reasons why consumers consider or avoid alternative powertrain vehicles, such as hybrid, flex fuel and clean diesel fuel models. The study includes the Automotive Environmental Index, which combines U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publicly available information related to fuel economy, air pollution and greenhouse gases for 2008 model-year vehicles and J.D. Power and Associates' voice of the customer data related to stated fuel economy. Feedback from verified vehicle owners is also used to help determine the relative importance of these environmental factors.

The study finds that more than 80 percent of consumers believe that the United States is currently faced with an energy crisis. Only 18 percent of these consumers believe this issue can be addressed by focusing on small vehicle production with better fuel economy. Approximately 30 percent of consumers believe that auto manufacturers should continue to produce a comparable vehicle lineup with a focus on hybrid-electric, clean diesel and flexible fuel vehicles, while an additional 39 percent believe manufacturers should focus on developing emerging technologies not currently available in the market, such as fuel cell and electric vehicles.

"Nearly 80 percent of consumers believe that gas prices will continue to rise, which will have a significant effect on the vehicles they will consider," said Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, some consumers still want more than small cars to choose from in the auto market. They still want their SUVs and pickup trucks, except with better fuel economy and more environmentally friendly."

The study also finds that the percentage of consumers who are considering a hybrid-electric vehicle is up from 50 percent in 2007 to 62 percent in 2008. Consideration for flexible fuel (E85) capable vehicles -- which are designed to run on gasoline or a blend of up to 85 percent ethanol -- has decreased slightly from 2007 (47% vs. 43% in 2008), while consideration for clean diesel demonstrated the most notable decline from 23 percent in 2007 to only 16 percent in 2008. The drop in consideration for diesel technology may be attributed to the substantial increase in the relative price of diesel since 2007.

Among the top 30 models in the Automotive Environmental Index, Toyota has the highest number of vehicles (6), followed by Chevrolet, Honda and Nissan with three models each. Additionally, eight models in the Automotive Environmental Index top 30 are hybrid-electric vehicles. They are:

  Ford Escape Hybrid                  Nissan Altima Hybrid
  Honda Civic Hybrid                  Toyota Camry Hybrid
  Lexus RX 400h                       Toyota Highlander Hybrid
  Mercury Mariner Hybrid              Toyota Prius

  The remaining models in the Top 30 Automotive Environmental Index are:

  Chevrolet Aveo     Hyundai Accent     Nissan Sentra    Smart Fortwo Coupe
  Chevrolet Aveo5    Hyundai Elantra    Nissan Versa     Toyota Corolla
  Chevrolet Cobalt   Kia Rio            Pontiac G5       Toyota Matrix
  Ford Focus         Kia Spectra        Pontiac Vibe     Toyota Yaris
  Honda Civic        MINI Cooper        Saturn Astra
  Honda Fit          MINI Cooper S      Smart Fortwo Convertible

"It's also interesting to note that among hybrid vehicles included in the top 30, all but one model receives a consumer-reported miles per gallon rating that is lower than the stated EPA rating," said Marshall. "However, for the 2008 model year, the EPA has implemented a new methodology for estimating mpg, which has resulted in much smaller variances from consumer-reported fuel economy than seen in previous years."

The 2008 Alternative Powertrain Study includes responses from more than 4,000 consumers who plan to purchase a new vehicle within the next two years. The web-based study was fielded in May and June 2008. The voice of the customer components of the Automotive Environmental Index are derived from the 2008 Alternative Powertrain Study and the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Initial Quality Study(SM).

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For more detailed findings on Automotive Environmental Index performance, please visit: CLICK HERE

About J.D. Power and Associates

Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services company operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, performance improvement, training and customer satisfaction. The company's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For more information on car reviews and ratings, car insurance, health insurance, cell phone ratings, and more, please visit JDPower.com. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

About The McGraw-Hill Companies

Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies is a leading global information services provider meeting worldwide needs in the financial services, education and business information markets through leading brands such as Standard & Poor's, McGraw-Hill Education, BusinessWeek and J.D. Power and Associates. The Corporation has more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Sales in 2007 were $6.8 billion. Additional information is available at http://www.mcgraw-hill.com/.

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