gas pumpA new report released by the Polk Center for Automotive Studies indicates that consumers are reevaluating their personal transportation practices. With gas pricing inching higher and higher, just about everyone is looking for better fuel economy. The Polk study found that this is true, at least in the 500 people they surveyed. We have included the full text from the press release at the jump. Basically, fuel prices are forcing people to reduce the amount that they drive and to evaluate what and when they buy their next car. Some would probably say this is common sense, but having the research to back it up is nice. Thanks to Rangachari Anand for the tip. One could guess that as gas prices continue to increase consumers will be even more sensitive to what vehicles they drive.

Consumers say they have had enough, vehicle purchase choices to change

    At current gas price levels:
    *  55 percent of respondents will change the type of vehicle they drive
       when they buy.
    *  59 percent will drive less.
    *  40 percent of respondents will delay their next vehicle purchase.

    SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Aug. 22 /PRNewswire/ ? Consumers are telling auto
manufacturers they want fuel-efficient vehicles; they are reducing how much
they drive and they will factor the price of gas into decisions concerning
both the timing and type of vehicles they purchase, according to results from
a public opinion poll and forthcoming study by the Polk Center for Automotive
Studies.
    ?These consumer attitudes are well supported by Polk?s registration
information,? said Lonnie Miller, director of industry analysis for the Polk
Center for Automotive Studies.  ?As expected, sales are down in the major gas-
guzzling segments:  traditional large cars and full-size sport utility
vehicles.  In May of this year, new retail registrations of these vehicles are
down 27 percent from a year ago.?
    Between news accounts and driver reaction to prices paid at the pump, the
effect of increased gas prices is inescapable.  Virtually all respondents (99
percent) nationwide have noticed the price of gas rise over the past 12
months.  Consumer awareness of gas prices is high.  Eighty-eight percent of
respondents believe dependence on foreign oil has increased dramatically in
the past five years.
    Consumers recognize that they have choices when facing increasing fuel
expenses.  The easiest choice, driving less, is a potential solution for 59
percent of respondents.  Hybrid cars, with both gas and electric engines, are
appealing to many people.  The majority of respondents in the study (84
percent) said they would consider buying or leasing a hybrid car or truck.
Consumers in the Western region felt strongest on this issue, with 88 percent
saying they would consider a hybrid, whereas only 74 percent of
Northeasterners agreed.
    Switching to a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle is the obvious choice
for many.  ?According to Polk?s consumer loyalty information, we see that
loyalty among owners of large cars and full-size SUVs has dropped more than
that of any other vehicle segment over the past year,? said Miller.  ?More
consumers are opting out of these gas guzzlers for compact SUVs and midsize
cars.?
    Even midsize SUV owners are ?downsizing? their vehicles.  Defection rates
from this segment to compact SUVs are 42 percent higher than those to the
full-size SUVs.

   Regional Intentions
    While rising fuel prices impact consumers nationwide, the study also notes
regional and income trends.
    ?Certain parts of the population will feel the effects of skyrocketing
fuel prices more than others,? said Jeff Martini, vice president, Polk Center
for Automotive Studies.  ?These groups are more likely to take action as a
result.?
    More respondents in the Western region (61 percent) reported that fuel
prices will affect their next vehicle choice, whereas Midwesterners are most
likely to delay their next vehicle purchase.  Regarding vehicle choice and
purchase timing, Northeasterners were consistently least likely to change
their behavior.
    Not surprisingly, income level also makes a difference in how consumers
respond to rising fuel costs.
    ?Lower income households will bear more than their share of the rising
prices? impact.  Seventy-six percent of lower income respondents reported that
they will drive less compared to 49 percent of higher income households,? said
Martini.
    Respondents with lower incomes were about 50 percent more likely to be
actively looking to change their vehicle to a more fuel-efficient model than
their higher income counterparts.  They were also nearly 40 percent more
likely to delay their next vehicle purchase if gas prices continue to rise.

    About the Study
    A total of 500 vehicle owners, age 21 and older from across the U.S.,
participated in this study and provided views on this discussion.

    About The Polk Center for Automotive Studies
    The Polk Center for Automotive Studies is a division of R. L. Polk & Co.
that provides unique, comprehensive analyses and insight based on national or
local public opinion polling and empirical Polk data.  Findings from the Polk
Center for Automotive Studies will provide the automotive industry and media
with a deeper understanding of relevant and timely social, economic and
marketplace issues affecting the automotive industry.

    About R. L. Polk & Co.
    R. L. Polk & Co. is the premier provider of automotive information and
marketing solutions.  Polk collects and interprets global data, and provides
extensive automotive business expertise to help customers understand their
market position, identify trends, build brand loyalty, conquest new business
and gain a competitive advantage.  Polk helps automotive manufacturers and
dealers, automotive aftermarket companies, finance and insurance companies,
advertising agencies, consulting organizations, government agencies and market
research firms make good business decisions.  A privately held global firm,
Polk is based in Southfield, Mich. with operations in Australia, Canada,
China, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and
the United States.  For more information, please visit http://www.polk.com .


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