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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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      • 4 Months Ago
      Cvdunbar: You realize I hope that you just made a very nasty remark about people on welfare and looked to make a negative stereotype for them. Also according to you, I should spend less money on an old car which in the long run will cost more money and because it's older, it'll also cause more pollution? Of course there is no need for a hummer to ride down the street. But people really should invest money into a low emissions vehicle and why not ride a bike to the deli instead of taking a car. Who in their right minds washes their car every day? THey must have something better to do with their time/lives.
      • 4 Months Ago
      No, green car buyers are not shallow, although CNW Research may be. America needs green cars regardless of what they look like. "Oil is cheap because we steal it from future generations to burn it today."
      • 4 Months Ago
      • 4 Months Ago
      Actually, I thought the Prius looked like a speed bump, when it came to style. Actually, the price and the choice of what Ford+ decided to make hybrids are what turned me off getting a hybrid ... I mean, a hybrid SUV? I'd do better getting a Smart Car. As it is, I bought a Ford Escort wagon in 1999, when gas was $1.20 a gallon, and, after running that forever, I bought a Ford Focus in 2007.
      • 4 Months Ago
      This story was a waste of time. Stop reading while you're ahead !! The survey is useless too... people aren't going to say they're smug when they are.
      • 4 Months Ago
      Did this guy mention how much the oil companies paid him, and who is CNW research. Our Prius gets 49 miles to the gallon, we drive about 350 miles a week, you figure out why we bought it.
      • 4 Months Ago
      I disagree with the conclusions. The first generation (beginning in 1999) Honda Insight had distinct styling and better mileage than the Prius and it didn't sell well. There are many factors that go into determining why people buy Hybrids such as performance, interior room, product reviews, company reputation etc. It is clearly neither just styling nor just mileage.
      • 4 Months Ago
      Michael Zak, you're a Moron. If style was the reason, there's at least 50 other models more stylish. Your bosses are bigger morons for letting you publish this garbage. Paul Baumgardner
      • 4 Months Ago
      "...Whoever wrote this article is an idiot! The only reason I purchased a Prius was for fuel economy and environmental reasons as is the case with most people I known that purchased one...." Ever do a material and energy balance on the costs (financial and environmental) of producing a hybrid complete with lithium batteries? No, probably not. That's the problem with most emoting enviro whackos on the left. All feeling. NO THINKING! Least of all, no ability to compute!
      • 4 Months Ago
      I'll still take a 68 Olds 442.
      • 4 Months Ago
      Man what you talking about the prius goes 0-60 in 9.5 seconds
      • 4 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.
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