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The 2011 Honda CR-Z was developed with a strong emphasi... The 2011 Honda CR-Z was developed with a strong emphasis on the car's styling (Honda).

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

As children we’re told time and again that storied clich? which urges us to withhold judgment and look beneath the surface to find the true essence and value of something. But do we take it to heart? Those likely to buy electric vehicles certainly don’t.

According to a study by CNW Research, electric vehicle shoppers value distinctive styling in their green machines, even more than improved fuel efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.

The study of 6,000 responses from mass-market vehicle intenders was collected during April and May. It found that of the myriad reasons those surveyed would purchase an electric vehicle, a vehicle’s distinctive styling was the most important. With 52.33% of respondents claiming to value it the most, styling beat out lower emissions (39.68%), higher fuel economy (21.66%) and “makes a statement about me” (36.11%) to present an interesting profile of the typical “green” driver: Someone who bought his or her vehicle primarily because they thought it looked good.

Of course, the styling of a particular vehicle ranks among the most important aspects for consumers of conventional internal combustion engine cars. There is an important difference, however. “While likely EV buyers are looking for cutting edge design, conventional-vehicle buyers want ‘nice’ but not over the top,” said CNW.

Along with the vehicle’s exterior appearance, study respondents valued the styling of the car’s interior as well. “Overall Interior Appearance” was almost 25 points higher for electric vehicle intenders.

Why The Prius Worked 

The results of the CNW study can be seen in the huge success of the Toyota Prius over the past decade. The Prius hit the market with innovative new looks. Buyers shopping for a hybrid ate it up and the small sedan became so closely associated with the word hybrid, that it nearly became a generic term like Kleenex.

Hybrid efforts by other automakers, like Honda and Ford, lagged behind, as their strategy with vehicles like the Honda Civic Hybrid and Ford Escape Hybrid did not include distinctive styling. Looking identical to their gas-powered brethren, with merely a hybrid logo to distinguish the green models, these models did not allow their owners to make much of a statement.

The Prius, by contrast, was a stand-alone model that bears no resemblance to any other Toyota product. After also experimenting with hybridized versions of standard, internal-combustion-engine products, including vehicles from its luxury brand Lexus, Toyota recently launched its first stand-alone hybrid Lexus with the 2010 HS 250h.

According to CNW, styling also proved to be a major setback in Honda’s attempt at a performance-minded green vehicle in the Accord Hybrid. Sitting at the top of the Accord line, the Hybrid was the most powerful version of the best-selling sedan. Yet consumers did not bite, in part because the Accord did not have the innovative styling to match its high-tech powertrain. Honda discontinued the Accord Hybrid in 2007 after just three model years.

Stylish Developments

It seems as though the automakers, especially Honda, now have a better idea of what consumers want from a green product. For instance, the 2011 CR-Z, Honda’s new sporty hybrid, was developed with the utmost emphasis on styling, both inside and out.

“We wanted to bring something new to the marketplace and break out from the rest of the hybrid vehicles out there,” said Will Walton, a product-planning manager at Honda.

Walton said that Honda is targeting consumers that place a large amount of their consideration on the looks of a vehicle, so it knew it needed something that would really catch the eye, even before people realized the CR-Z was a hybrid car.

“The design can appeal to those seeking a hybrid or those who just want a stylish car. Design will be a key area of differentiation,” Walton said.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Months Ago
      Look people, life is short trust me when your dead your dead for a long time so why would you want to put that stick in your eye and worry about the green thinking, just do your part every day to keep the earht clean, small little things, dont toss that happy meal bag on the road like some of those welfare people do, dont buy a big bling bling car and drive around all day looking for crack instead of a job ho, and dont waste warter washing that bling bling car everyday also, just do you part in little ways and you will live a life thats not so bunched up with green worry.
      • 5 Months Ago
      IMHO this is another upside down market phenomena. People with small fuel efficient cars don't need more fuel efficiency (not a bad idea but not necessary). People with BIG cars need efficiency, I on the other hand am claustrophobic, I can"t get into a small car. I need a big car. ******************, GM, Detroit, Mercedes, even Rolls -MAKE me a fuel efficient BIG car that I can afford. I won't feel superior - simply grateful
      • 5 Months Ago
      "Stylish" is probably the most ubiquitous, over-used and therefore meaningless word in the English language, especially in the context of marketing/advertising. I see it used to describe nearly everything that somebody is trying to sell, or so it seems that way. Is something "stylish" just because a company described their product that way, or is it actually objectively stylish? Sure, why not - all you have to do is slap that label on something in some ad copy somewhere and -- viola -- it's stylish. Consumers are so easily duped (especially women I think).
      • 5 Months Ago
      "Are you justsome sort of nostalgic motorhead, yearning for the days of huge Hemi horsepower and 8 miles per gallon;" - As a matter of fact, yes, yes I am. What a fine compliment you have paid me too.
      • 5 Months Ago
      This is pretty ridiculous pseudo-journalism and it seems to imply that for generations people have been buying cars for their performance or utility. It's never been that way and the fact that any significant percentage is citing fuel economy as their main concern is a great stride. Further, the study didn't survey people who DID buy hybrids, or even people who were presently considering buying them. Rather, it was a random sampling of people and asked them why they might at some time consider buying a hybrid.
      • 5 Months Ago
      I've long argued that hybrid's wouldn't be popular until they started offering them in cool designs.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Ditinctive styling ?? What a JOKE , todays cars all look like CRAP! over computerized and priced Plastic JUNK , the only ones that have any style are the ones made to look like the old MUSCLE CARS and they are still over computerized and priced PLASTIC JUNK .
      • 5 Months Ago
      The article fails to point out that Ford's and Honda's options (up until recently for Honda) don't come close to the efficiency of the Toyota Prius. To me the Ford hybrids are just plain boring, but also not as efficient as the Prius. If this was all about style, why would people completely overlook more stylish brads like Audo, BMW, etc...
      • 5 Months Ago
      Il take my 97Lincoln any time over these Highbred, s It is pure Luxury And comfortable to drive long distances And gets 25 miles average Mpg on long trips with the Air on full time Loaded really heavy, you won;t do that with one of these little cars, and at 70 mph.and it Didn; t cost me 25,000 dollars, I:ll drive it until the wheels fall off , Todays new cars are way too expensive, and I will not go into debt to buy one.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Supid survey and poorly written article. ************** the nail on the head regarding the "look at me" factor; in the case of the Prius "styling" and "statement about me" should be combined. People buy the car because its "styling" (or lack thereof) "makes a statement." The Prius is not an attractive car.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Do you really believe the smug eco nuts would admit the real reason they bought a hybrid? South Park did a great episode on it.
      • 5 Months Ago
      I bought my 2005 Prius before gas prices went sky high, not to save money but to do my part to use less gas and to support green technology. Style had nothing to do with it. In five years, my Prius has never needed a repair, so I'm mystified by the people here who are arguing that hybrid owners will spend more money on repair bills. Notice that the survey results don't exactly say what the article claims they say. Notice the survey did not ask current hybrid owners why we bought our cars. It asked people who were thinking about buying a hybrid what was important to them in a car. That's not at all the same thing. Many of those people may not buy a hybrid at all, but choose a different car. And those of us who bought our hybrids early could have had very different reasons from those who are just considering a hybrid now. As for Jay, who thinks we women are more likely to buy a car based on style: do you have research backing that up? Studies I've seen say exactly the opposite. It's primarily men who buy slick sports cars, for instance. Research says women are more likely to look at practicality in a car.
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