Fuel Economy Driving Sales

Study: 42% of Consumers Say Fuel Economy Is Key in New Vehicle Purchase Decision

06/21/2011

DEARBORN, Mich. —

  • 42 percent of all consumers surveyed in a 2011 Maritz Research study say fuel economy is an “extremely important” new vehicle purchase driver – up 13.5 percent versus a decade ago; Millennials rank its importance even higher and rate it most often as having the “greatest impact” on future vehicle purchases
  • Fuel economy as a reason to purchase has jumped in importance across nearly all vehicle segments since 2001, becoming even more important for small vehicles
  • 12 Ford and Lincoln vehicles lead their sales segments in fuel economy, and four models deliver 40 mpg or better – a claim no other full-line automaker can match

More than 40 percent of consumers view fuel economy as “extremely important” when considering a new vehicle purchase today, a new study finds.

What’s more, one third of consumers say fuel economy will have the “greatest impact” on their next vehicle purchase, and younger buyers place an even higher priority on miles per gallon.

“Customers are telling us clean and green vehicles matter most because they are good for people’s wallets and good for our planet,” said Mark Fields, Ford president of The Americas. “We hear what they are saying, and that is why Ford is absolutely committed to giving our customers vehicles with top fuel efficiency.”

The annual New Vehicle Customer Study has been conducted since the 1970s by Maritz Research, reaching approximately 200,000 consumers a year. The latest study, conducted in the first quarter, shows:

  • 42 percent of people surveyed say fuel economy is “extremely important” in their decision to purchase new 2011 models – a 13.5 percent increase versus 10 years ago
  • 37 percent indicated they expect fuel economy will have the “greatest impact” on their next new vehicle purchase
  • Millennials place an even greater importance on fuel economy, with 46 percent saying fuel economy is “extremely important” in the new vehicle purchase decision – the greatest percentage among all age groups. Also, 41 percent say fuel economy will be the top factor in their next vehicle purchase

In addition, while buyers of small vehicles are most likely to put fuel economy toward the top of their list of purchase considerations, fuel economy has jumped in importance in nearly all vehicle segments since 2001, the survey finds. Specifically:

  • Fuel economy as a purchase reason for B-cars became the top consideration in 2011 (21 percent), up from fourth in 2001 (14 percent)
  • Fuel economy as a purchase reason for C-cars nearly tripled in importance from 2001 (7 percent) to 2011 (19 percent), going from fifth to first
  • After ranking 16th in 2001, fuel economy was listed in the top five most important purchase reasons for small utility vehicles in 2011
  • Fuel economy was listed in the top 10 most important purchase reasons for sports car buyers for the first time in 2011
  • Fuel economy as a top purchase reason for medium utility vehicles jumped 14 spots from 2001 to 2011
  • Fuel economy as a top purchase reason for C/D-cars ranked fifth in 2011 after ranking 12th in 2001

The Maritz Research survey results also track with Ford’s 2011 research and sales trends.

Consumer perceptions of Ford delivering “good gas mileage” grew 57 percent from late 2008 to the end of the first quarter of 2011, according to Ford’s latest brand health study.

Plus, Ford’s small vehicle sales have been hitting record levels in the U.S.

Ford’s two all-new small cars combined had sales of 29,423 in May, up 74 percent versus a year ago. It was Ford’s largest small car month since May 2008, with Fiesta sales at 7,120 and Focus sales at 22,303, up 32 percent versus a year ago.

“Since December, we have seen industry-wide small car purchases increase from 19 percent to 24 percent,” said George Pipas, Ford sales analyst. “It drives home the point that consumers are looking at more fuel-efficient choices.”

That applies to larger vehicles, too. Eighty percent of customers buying Ford’s hot-selling Fusion midsize sedan in May chose the four-cylinder engine over the V6 – up from 50 percent when the vehicle debuted in 2006. Also in May, for the first time in decades more than 55 percent of Ford F150s sold were equipped with V6 rather than V8 engines.

Ford Motor Company has 12 vehicles leading their sales segments with best-in-class fuel economy and four models that deliver 40 mpg or more – a claim no other full-line automaker can match.

Consumer habits shape decisions

For some, the idea of more ethical consumption is driving the desire for higher-mpg vehicles.

“Consumers are taking a logical approach to making their lives better,” said Sheryl Connelly, manager of Ford Global Trends and Futuring. “Choosing a car that lessens their impact on the environment as well as their wallets can really create peace of mind.”

Additionally, Ford’s family of electrified vehicles – including the Ford Transit Connect Electric, Focus Electric as well as the C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid coming next year – offers plenty of choice for customers who want a vehicle that supports their ethical beliefs while also delivering quality, style and innovation.

Meeting customer desires

Ford invested billions beginning in 2006 in researching and developing new fuel-efficient engines, transmissions and electrified vehicles, working to make fuel economy affordable for millions of people. Today, Ford’s fuel economy standouts include:

  • Ford Fiesta: With the six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission, Fiesta is EPA-certified at 40 mpg highway and 29 mpg city, and delivers class-leading fuel economy
  • All-new Ford Focus: Delivers 40 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg  in the city through its advanced six-speed automatic transmission
  • All-new Ford Explorer V6: Fuel economy ratings are EPA-certified at 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, a 25 percent improvement over the previous V6 model
  • Ford Mustang V6: Its high-revving 305-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission deliver best-in-class highway fuel economy of 31 mpg; Mustang V6 is the first car in history to deliver the combination of 305 horsepower and more than 30 mpg

New technology saves fuel

In 2010, Ford launched nine new engines and six new six-speed transmissions, and the company is on track to deliver fuel-saving six-speed transmissions across all of Ford and Lincoln brand vehicles by the end of 2012.

Ford also is expanding its industry-leading range of fuel-efficient powertrains in North America with the addition of a new 1.0-liter EcoBoost™ three-cylinder – the smallest engine Ford has ever built – and an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission.

Many of Ford’s new powertrains include fuel-saving technologies such as:

  • Twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT), which enables the engine to operate at peak efficiency by continually adjusting the precise moment the intake and exhaust valves open
  • Gasoline direct injection (GDI), which improves efficiency by raising the compression ratio and by using precise amounts of fuel placed directly in the combustion chamber
  • Turbocharging, which uses exhaust gases to pressurize the engine cylinders with a more dense mixture of fuel and air, increasing power
  • EcoBoost, which uses direct injection, turbocharging and variable valve timing to allow four-cylinder engines to deliver the power of V6s and V6s to deliver the power of V8s. EcoBoost engines save fuel in part because they burn less fuel, and because they weigh less than the larger-displacement engines they replace
  • Electric power-assisted steering (EPAS), which eliminates drag on the engine by replacing the hydraulic pump with an electric motor. EPAS, available on Ford Mustang, F-150, Fiesta, the new Focus and other vehicles, improves fuel economy by approximately 4 percent

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