JD Power on high gas prices and auto consumers

It seems like all summer as we watched gas prices rise, we also saw countless reports on how American auto consumers were moving towards more fuel-efficient vehicles. J.D. Power and Associates has another report to add to the list called the 2006 Escaped Shopper Study with a few more insights.
Their study says that for new vehicle shoppers, gas mileage is increasingly being cited as a reason to not purchase a particular vehicle or model. It's at 17 percent, the third most cited reason, up from 13 percent in 2002. The first two reasons in order are "total price too high" and "total monthly payment too high."

Jeff Zupancic, director of retail research at J.D. Power, says that shoppers who reject one type of vehicle will typically purchase a smaller vehicle that is similar in configuration. As an example he states that about 50 percent of auto consumers who would have considered a compact sport utility vehicle with an average fuel economy of 18 mpg end up purchasing a compact crossover which on average will get 24 mpg.

One particularly interesting note from the study reveals that premium vehicle shoppers are just as likely to reject a car because of high cost. J.D. Power's press release doesn't extrapolate as to whether the same is true between premium consumers and the rest of us when it comes to rejecting a vehicle for low gas mileage. Though, one might imagine there is a correlation between the two.

Zupancic offers a bit of advice for the automakers and says that, "In the long term, vehicle models that offer a choice of engines, such as fuel efficient four-cylinders for those more sensitive to fuel prices, as well as more powerful six-cylinder engines for those seeking power, will have a distinct advantage in the market place."

One thing to keep in mind is that the study was conducted in May and July when gas prices were on the upswing, and as they say, what was true then, may not hold firm now. Although, now that the seed of high fuel prices has been planted in consumers' minds, we may very well see a continued concern for high mileage vehicles.

[Source: J.D. Power and Associates]

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