Luxury SUV and non-luxury car shoppers are the most inclined to consider alternative fuel vehicles. Not surprisingly, consumers looking for trucks are the least likely, according to a 2013 study from Phoenix Marketing International (PMI). Fuel-efficient "clean diesel" luxury SUVs from German automakers are warming up luxury SUV shoppers to alt-fuel powertrains like electric, hybrid, hydrogen or natural gas – but those options haven't been enough yet for truck shoppers.

PMI collected data for analysis in January, July and October of 2013, and asked consumers about their willingness to consider an AFV on their next purchase or lease. The study asked, among other things, how consumers are responding to advertisements. Consumers have been generally responding positively to ads that promote hybrid or alternative fuel offerings, says Phoenix senior analyst Kevin Severance.

About half of the automotive consumers in the study weren't strongly for or against AFVs. Luxury SUV consumers and non-luxury car consumers were "very" or "extremely" likely to consider an AFV purchase, at 35.8 percent and 35.7 percent, respectively. Most hybrid and EV offerings are in the non-luxury car category, so that was sort of a no-brainer. What about luxury SUV shoppers? We suspect they will be quite interested in upcoming luxury EVs like the Cadillac ELR, the BMW i3 or i8 and the Tesla Model X.

"It's difficult to say whether consumers who are looking for a technologically innovative luxury SUV would be willing to consider a technologically innovative luxury car."

Severance told AutoblogGreen in an email that, "We know that luxury SUV consumers tend to appreciate the extra perceived safety and comfort that often comes with larger vehicles, and luxury consumers in general (read: those in higher income bands) tend to be attracted by innovative technology. It's difficult to say whether consumers who are looking for a technologically innovative luxury SUV would also be willing to consider a technologically innovative luxury car like the ones you mentioned, which would certainly lack the size and associated utility of a luxury SUV."

Diesel vehicles weren't included in the study, since its definition of AFVs focused primarily on non-petroleum vehicles. Diesel vehicles have played a transitional role for consumers in attracting interest from prospective luxury vehicle consumers, Severance said. Severance wrote that "stressing the type of performance from which diesel vehicles often benefit (added torque, better fuel economy, etc.), in addition to stressing the innovation associated with the technologies, could be an effective strategy."

Reaching truck shoppers is a much bigger job, according to the study. Diesel trucks, fuel-efficient gasoline pickups, and natural gas-powered pickups haven't been enough to gain more interest yet from consumers of trucks. Phoenix has seen it work best when fuel economy is paired with performance. A good example of this has been the recent ad campaign with actor Denis Leary telling viewers that the 2013 Ford F-150 offers the "best combination of torque and fuel economy." Read more in the press release below.
Phoenix's 2013 Research Shows Best Targets for Alternative Fuel Vehicles are Luxury SUV and Non-Luxury Car Consumers

Truck Consumers are the Least Likely to Join the Hybrid/Electric Movement

Phoenix Marketing International's Automotive Practice has released findings from its 2013 research regarding purchase consideration of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). Throughout the year, the Automotive Practice collects data from consumers who were recently or are currently in the market for a new vehicle, and asks them about their willingness to consider an AFV on their next purchase or lease. Data for this analysis were collected in January, July, and October of 2013. Phoenix data show that consumers in the market for luxury SUVs and non-luxury cars are the most prone to consider an AFV. For the study in question, AFV refers to vehicles powered by electricity, hybrid system, hydrogen fuel cell, or natural gas.

PMI's Automotive Practice is well-versed in brand health and advertising effectiveness tracking for familiar marques across the industry. Insights they draw from the firm's continuously running syndicated audit provide competitive intelligence on trends in branded communications and consumer perceptions. Phoenix Analyst Kevin Severance notes, "We've seen a generally positive response to ads that promote hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle offerings. Just mentioning the availability of a hybrid tends to get consumers' attention as it serves as a proxy for other concerns like fuel economy and innovation. Seeing the positive response to advertising with the hybrid/electric message, we also wanted to measure the willingness to follow through on that response and actually consider purchasing an AFV."

In 2013, Phoenix finds that about half of all automotive consumers aren't strongly for or against the AFV movement, i.e. their likelihood of considering one for purchase is neutral, so the important differences lie in the extremes. Luxury SUV consumers and non-luxury car consumers came in with the highest percentages of those inclined ("very" or "extremely" likely) toward AFV purchase consideration at 35.8, respectively. What's not surprising are the results for non-luxury car, given that most hybrid and electric vehicle offerings are available in that category, but why luxury SUV consumers? Severance comments, "Diesel powered models, many from the German brands, have been around for at least a few years, so consumers in the luxury SUV category have had a chance to warm to the concept of vehicles running on something other than conventional gasoline. Couple that with the notion that AFVs partially embody the latest in automotive technology, which our research has shown, and there is a winning combination in the minds of luxury SUV consumers. Perhaps Tesla was right to go after the entirety of the luxury market with the development of Model X after its Roadster and Model S."

The same cannot be said for consumers of trucks, who have also had plenty of time to warm to the idea of alternative fuel with diesel offerings in that category. Phoenix data show they are the most averse to considering an AFV with 19.8, which is statistically lower than consumers in all other categories except non-luxury SUV.

Phoenix will continue to track AFV purchase consideration by collecting data in the first month of ever quarter beginning January 2014.

Phoenix measures advertising performance across five vehicle categories (non-luxury car, non-luxury CUV/SUV, truck, luxury car, and luxury CUV/SUV) and tracks the brand health of leading automotive companies in two segments (luxury and non-luxury). Data are collected monthly from 1800+ U.S. consumers who have recently purchased or are currently in the market for a new vehicle. Brands tracked for advertising and brand data include Acura, Audi, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, GMC, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercedes, Mini, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Ram, Range Rover, Saab, Scion, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 24 Comments
      raktmn
      • 1 Year Ago
      Another upcoming larger plug-in to watch will be the Mitsubishi Outback PHEV with all-wheel drive. That is going to appeal to a lot of folks in the snow belt, and folks who need more space in their plugin's. One of the problems with polls is that until people see lots of these things driving around, and have friends they trust who own them and say they are good, they aren't going to want one. For all of our "fierce individualism" that gets talked about, we still operate on a clan mentality. Right now, there isn't anywhere near enough EV/PHEV production capacity to worry about even 1% of consumers, much less worry about universal acceptance. That will solve for itself just through making more plug in vehicles in more classes of vehicles, improving the next generation of EV's, and getting some time in the market.
      SteveG
      • 1 Year Ago
      You don't get truck buyers with MPG, you get them with features. Here for free I will give away how you sell hybrid/electric trucks, read closely: Make it very simple to use the vehicle as a generator/power source for 110v and 220v tools. Show this off left and right and contractors and builders will line up to buy it.
        Joeviocoe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SteveG
        there is a stigma that needs to be washed away. Tesla is helping by showing them that an EV can whip their a$$3$ on the race track.... now we need an off-roading, testosterone fueled PHEV that can keep up with the F150 crowd.
        raktmn
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SteveG
        That is a good idea, but contractors and builders also buy Work Truck trim levels because price is such a huge consideration for them. Features targetted at contractors and builders need to come with significant price reductions off of current PHEV prices, all while maintaining the carrying capacity of a gas vehicle. The new small diesel engines in trucks will show how much truck buyers really want to pay more to save fuel. I think that is a market that really hasn't had a chance to be honestly market tested yet.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 1 Year Ago
      A luxury car buyer can afford the premium for an electric powertrain. Pretty simple.
        Joeviocoe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        In hindsight... completely obvious. But so many automakers (startups and global ones) seemed to have missed this idea for over a decade. Not until Fisker and Tesla showed up, and demonstrated that you need to enter from the high ground.
        archos
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        And yet is non-luxury car buyers with the highest interest. Seems like a pretty open market with no leader right now.
      Abhinav
      • 1 Year Ago
      Maybe because more than half of the people who I know who drive trucks (alot of people) think that driving a truck is some vain expression of "being a man". It doesn't hurt that these people think that anything that is seen as "green" is somehow a bad thing. just the other day, one of my friends got mad that the restaurant we were at used biodegradable plastic..... What I'm trying to say is, truck buyers will hate EV's and hybrids till the day they die (alot of truck buyers at least). Ignorance is bliss.
      jeff
      • 1 Year Ago
      The truck will probably not be successfully converted to battery only power in the next 20 years. It just makes no sense... However I think the potential for a hybrid with an inline assist motor just might work extremely well. Trucks need low end torque and the electric motor can supply that effortlessly. It would definitely improve the city driving MPG on trucks. This is where they are most inefficient due to weight. There are not really many SUV's left any more. A true SUV has locking hub 4x4 off-road capability. Most modern SUV' are really just SUV styled minivans that men will drive. Some people call them crossovers. They will easily be converted to electric drive.... I personally think that a Tesla Model X would be an almost ideal vehicle for me...
        Joeviocoe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jeff
        -- "in the next 20 years". Nobody knows what the automotive market will be like in 5 years. Don't kid yourself. In 20 years... a human being driving a car might be considered a dangerous and unpopular thing.
      Dave
      • 1 Year Ago
      Contractors often do a lot of miles during the day. They have to go wherever the work takes them. Often, more than one work site per day. Then, they tend to make a few trips to pick up supplies. And, around these parts, they often have to drive hundreds of miles, with the heat blasting, plowing snow from roads and parking lots. Of course, there are some trucks with fixed routes. But if you're paying lots of money for a capable vehicle that earns you money, you're not likely to accept any significant compromises. Most likely, diesel, natural gas, and hydrogen will be the alternatives for trucks that do serious work.
      danfred411
      • 1 Year Ago
      Pickup drivers are not environmentally aware? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.
      Spec
      • 1 Year Ago
      Isn't an SUV a truck? Yes, they are . . . that's how they are able to avoid certain restrictions.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        Mmm.. tax loopholes for large SUVs... thanks, Jimmy Carter!
          EZEE2
          • 1 Year Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Carter did the tax thingy for large suv's? Why? Was it some gift to farmers or some such?
      EZEE2
      • 1 Year Ago
      For pure EV, just make sure it can tow and has a usable range. Not all, but many people actually use their trucks as trucks. Me included. It can be a curse, as there are many people I don't hear from much...but then....'oh hai....2EZ? Uhm....I need to go to Home Depot....and....' Or worse, 'uhm hai, disgruntled goat..." (It's EZEE) "yea...hahaha, kidding....uhm, I am moving, and I was wondering...." And of course, they not just borrow the truck, they borrow me as well. And do they always have prerequisite beer? No. B*stards.
      archos
      • 1 Year Ago
      "It's difficult to say whether consumers who are looking for a technologically innovative luxury SUV would also be willing to consider a technologically innovative luxury car" And all this time I thought the Model S was a technologically innovative luxury car.
        thecommentator2013
        • 1 Year Ago
        @archos
        It's not really innovative. What's innovative is that they finally got rid of all those buttons in the car, fitted in a nice big screen (it's about frikkin' time anyway!!) and that they tied up a bunch of Panasonic-Batteries as energy source for a car that actually really looks good. You want innovation? Look at VOLTEC.
      Technoir
      • 1 Year Ago
      Promising for the Model X
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