It seems like it was just a few years ago that car manufacturers used to laugh at us when we'd ask why a new model didn't get any better fuel economy than its outgoing predecessor. "Car buyers don't care about fuel economy," was the refrain, "They certainly won't pay for it."

A few years of three- and four-dollar-per-gallon gas has apparently changed that attitude. According to a new study by Consumer Reports, 37 percent of respondents said fuel economy was now their leading consideration in car shopping, topping all others by a landslide. Quality was the second-most-important factor at 17 percent, while safety was mentioned by 16 percent, and value by 14 percent of shoppers. Two-thirds of respondents said they expected their next new vehicle to beat their current one on fuel economy. And yes, it is the economy, stupid, as 90 percent of those surveyed said high gas prices were the reason why they wanted a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

None of this is too surprising, given what has been going on both in the auto industry and in the larger economy since the economic meltdown of 2008. But we still kind of wonder how performance managed to rate number one with just six percent of those surveyed? Is that it then, there are six times as many tee-totalers than auto enthusiasts out there in the world?

CR says that it called 2,009 people across the country to get its results, obtaining 1,702 responses from adult car owners. Scroll down to read the full press release.
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CONSUMER REPORTS SURVEY: AMERICANS SAY FUEL ECONOMY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT CAR BUYING FACTOR

Nearly three-quarters of drivers would consider an alternative fuel vehicle for their next car

YONKERS, NY - With fuel prices at near record levels, consumers are driving less and contemplating a move to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, according to recent survey by Consumer Reports.

The survey found that 37 percent said their leading consideration when shopping for their next car will be fuel economy. A distant second was quality (17 percent) followed by safety (16 percent), value (14 percent) and performance (6 percent).

"These results make it clear that high fuel prices are continuing to impact driver behavior and influencing future purchase considerations," said Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports deputy auto editor. "While quality, safety and value are still important, this may be foreshadowing a market shift by folks seeking relief at the pump."

Some two-thirds of owners surveyed said they expected their next vehicle to get better fuel mileage than the one they're driving now. While gasoline costs (90 percent) were the number one reason cited for wanting a more fuel-efficient vehicle, more than half of respondents also had other reasons, including a desire to be more environmentally friendly (62 percent) and concern about dependence on foreign oil (56 percent).

Women disproportionately said they were motivated by the environmental benefit of better fuel economy (65 percent vs. 58 percent of men), more concerned about dependence on foreign oil (63 percent vs. 49 percent of men), and impacted by changes on the home front (38 percent vs. 31 percent).

For more information regarding Consumer Reports' fuel economy survey, helpful fuel economy tips and advice on selecting the most fuel-efficient car for your needs visitwww.ConsumerReports.org/fuel.

The survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, found that car owners were open to different ways of saving at the pump, from downsizing to looking at hybrids, electric cars, or models with diesel engines. In all, nearly three quarters (73 percent) of participants said they would consider some type of alternatively fueled vehicle, with flex-fuel (which can run on E85 ethanol) and hybrid models leading the way. Younger buyers were more likely to consider an alternatively-fuel or purely electric vehicle than drivers over the age of 55.

Of those who said they plan to move to a different type, owners of large SUVs were the most open to downsizing, frequently planning to move to a smaller SUV. Small cars were the leading category targeted by survey respondents for their next vehicle, followed by larger sedans and midsized SUVs. Further illuminating a future market shift, larger sedans (18 percent) and minivans (7 percent) are on fewer participants' radar relative to their current model.

With the federal government expected to finalize new fuel efficiency standards later this year that would require manufacturer's average fuel economy to reach 54.5 miles-per-gallon by 2025, some 90 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statements "Auto manufacturers should offer a greater variety of cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles in the near future." Almost 80 percent felt the same about the statements "Fuel economy standards should require auto manufacturers to increase the overall fleet average to at least 55 miles per gallon," (79).

"When gas prices are high, it's always tempting to rush to trade-in for a more fuel-efficient car to save at the pump. But our research has shown that you're often better off financially to stick it out with the vehicle you have if it's less than three years old, because a new vehicle will cost you more in depreciation than you would save on gas" said Bartlett. The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted the random, nationwide telephone survey in two waves, April 5-7 and April 12-15, 2012, contacting 2,009 adults. The Center interviewed 1,702 adults in households that had at least one car.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 100 Comments
      Bob
      • 2 Years Ago
      People are NOT this practical. If they were we wouldn't see so many Douchbag machines running around with assclowns in them who think chicks want to sleep with them. Sadly these chicks DO sleep with them because they have daddy issues and thus society descends into a moral-less abyss like we see today. Thank ls ladies. Set some standards will ya?
      Joseph
      • 2 Years Ago
      I really think people say "How much can I spend?" and go from there. So cost is #1.
        suthrn2nr
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joseph
        Yea, but that is a given limitation, where fuel consumption is not. Nobody in the market for a car will have a range of Civic to S-Class to Zonda R as their list of options. I know what you are trying to say, that first you choose the type of vehicle and budget that best fits your needs, but thats obvious and manufacturers already know that. But what they want to know is once you know you want a Mid-size sedan, for example, and you look at all the competitors, what influences your decision the most? Is it safety, or MPG, or handling, or style, or interior space, luxury, etc.?
      FRENZIED
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just got a Prius C for my wife. She was all about the gas milage. The little car is actually fun to drive and it picks up speed fairly well for only having 99hp output. I'm impressed... and the controls actually make sense! I didn't have to read the owners manual to start the thing as with the regular Prius, which I hate (my mother-in-law owns one).
      Awhattup
      • 2 Years Ago
      I traded in my previous car for better fuel economy. I used to get low 20MPG now is 30+ all the time. so.. I'm saving a lot of money there. I'd like to have a fun car on the side though... Everyone wants cars but in the most cases... they buy it because they need it. Performance is a spice not a necessity. If I was to design a car to sell in the market... I'd start with something that everyone needs.. not wants.
        Danrar
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Awhattup
        Or get a Mazda 3 and get both. Okay maybe it's not as fun as some stuff.
        suthrn2nr
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Awhattup
        im curious as to what cars you had before and after.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Awhattup
        [blocked]
      TrueDat
      • 2 Years Ago
      there is clearly a difference between what people say, and what people do..
      Rasky
      • 2 Years Ago
      Funny, I recall filling a survey out like that several years ago and it was pretty much the exact opposite what CR lists. While better fuel economy is welcome, performance, styling, and quality are my top 3. I would think that applies to pretty much any car enthusiast. Of course we are just a small percentage that makes up those surveys.
      BG
      • 2 Years Ago
      Consumer Reports readers might say gas economy is their main priority. But I think for most ordinary drivers, being accepted by their social group, neighbors ,and coworkers is most important factor that influences their car choice. "What would look appropriate in my driveway?" .
      trzjax
      • 2 Years Ago
      ~20mpg city is now the minimum I'd go. I hope the new Vette will be that. I still want (and will buy) a high-performance car, but I don't want to spend $100/week on gas no more. At first I was "oh well, it's worth it" cause I can afford it just fine and it doesn't make me cut spending on other things, but after a year or two I find that growing tiresome and you realize it's just stupid to pay that much for gas. So I do welcome smaller displacement+turbo news for most new cars (M3, S5, AMG)... I hope the new Vette will be more efficient too. I love NA V8s (just recently sold V8 CLK), but I could forgo the SOUND for extra mileage. I want to drive as much as I'm used to, but I really hate having to spend $100 at the pump every goddamn week.
      goa
      • 2 Years Ago
      If that is true, every shopper would drive home with a Volt, Prius or Leaf.
        suthrn2nr
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goa
        except all the misleading HWY MPG marketing is making people think that cars will average "40MPG" because the advertising completely ignores CITY MPG. The new Mazda CX-5 is rated at 35mpg HWY, which is great, but unless you drive 90% of the time at steady 60mph to 70mph, your actual average consumption will be nowhere near 35MPG. A freind recently told me he is going to ditch his 04 Civic hybrid in which he calculates his average at 40MPG, for a Sonata because he told me "it gets 40MPG". I had to explain to him that is only the HWY number and show him that on Fuelly.com the Sonanta gets only around 30mpg AVERAGE.
          John Ward
          • 2 Years Ago
          @suthrn2nr
          not to mention his hybrid will do much better in the city.
        Sean Conrad
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goa
        That's not true. This report could mean that economy is the most important factor after determining what segment you pick. If you are like my dad and use a truck for gardening, you're still going to get a pickup truck even though a Rio or Fit would get better MPG. If you're a deranged soccer mom and think you need a large SUV to ferry your one and only child around, you're going to pick the large SUV with the best MPG.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Sean Conrad
          [blocked]
        John Ward
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goa
        I think it's misleading. The first choice is practicality. Once you decide you need (or just want) an SUV or Crossover instead of a two seater, then MPG comes into play.
        Big Rocket
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goa
        @goa: The Volt is severely overpriced, even with the tax credit. The Leaf is compromised by range anxiety. But the Prius is selling well, which seems to indicate the survey results have an element of truth in them.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Big Rocket
          [blocked]
      Stinkyboy
      • 2 Years Ago
      anyone buying a V8 is not interested in fuel economy.
        suthrn2nr
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Stinkyboy
        unless you own a business which needs high torque trucks but you still want to minimize fuel consumption expense.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @suthrn2nr
          [blocked]
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        • 2 Years Ago
        [blocked]
        ishmaelcrowley
        • 2 Years Ago
        Judging by the thumbs down reply to your post, most autoblog readers want gas and other taxes to increase so as to make driving unaffordable for many. That's very curious.
          John Ward
          • 2 Years Ago
          @ishmaelcrowley
          Probably being downvoted because he's complaining about gas prices being high because of UK taxes on an article that has nothing to do with that. There are a small selection of people who do like to see high gas prices as it drives innovation in alternatives.
      yyz
      • 2 Years Ago
      Fuel economy was #1 on our list when we picked up our Mazda CX-5 last week. The CX-5 is a wee bit underpowered, but that 35 MPG highway was awfully alluring. Downshifting to go up a hill is a small price to pay to get an extra 10-12 MPG over our 2003 Mazda MPV.
        CEC
        • 2 Years Ago
        @yyz
        No FE wasn't your #1, because if it was you would have bought a Volt, Leaf, or Prius, all of these get better FE then the CX-5. By the way it looks your number #1 was, "I/We need a 5 seater CUV."
          • 2 Years Ago
          @CEC
          [blocked]
          John Ward
          • 2 Years Ago
          @CEC
          Ok. After deciding that they need to seat 5 people, then they decided fuel economy was the nest most important thin. I wish my lincoln mkx got more than 16mpg (terrible).
        suthrn2nr
        • 2 Years Ago
        @yyz
        although i'm sure you will get 35mpg when steadily driving at 65mph, I hope you realize that you will average no where near 35mpg unless you drive a vast majority of your miles at steady highway speeds.
          suthrn2nr
          • 2 Years Ago
          @suthrn2nr
          John, thank you for having common sense when talking abt MPG which seems to lack a lot here on AB comments. If you drive 80% HWY then, yea, HWY rating is more important. But for the average American, City /HWY is pretty evenly split in terms of driving. My friend from NYC gets averages
          John Ward
          • 2 Years Ago
          @suthrn2nr
          I drive about 80% highway. My car is rated 16 city and 25 highway and 19 average. I get 23-24mpg usually. Not too bad. If you are going to do a ton of city driving then a hybrid is going to save you.
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