J.D. Power: Hybrids losing popularity to diesels

It looks like consumers are starting to come to the realization that although hybrid vehicles have the potential to provide big increases in fuel efficiency, that improvement is not universal especially if you're not prepared to modify your driving habits. By their nature parallel hybrids are most useful in applications that involve a lot of starting and stopping. This allows the system to recapture kinetic energy during braking and store it in the battery. Applications that get predominantly constant speed driving get little benefit. While many drivers benefit from hybrids, some, like John True, do not.

J.D. Power has released the results of their second annual Alternative Powertrain Study and the number of people considering a hybrid has dipped from fifty-seven percent last year to only fifty percent. They found that hybrid intenders are willing to pay up to $2,396 extra and expect an extra 18.5mpg with a hybrid. While the price differential is possible with tax credits, that mileage improvement is totally unrealistic. During the same time period the number of drivers willing to consider a diesel jumped from twelve to twenty-three percent. Unfortunately those people are likely to be somewhat disappointed as well with expectations of a price premium of $1,491 and 15mpg improvement. Diesel premiums are likely to be $2,000 or more although the 15mpg may be achievable on some vehicles. Now that ultra-low sulfur diesel is becoming available and clean diesels are coming, people are taking a new look at diesel.

[Source: J.D. Power]

J.D. Power and Associates Reports: Consumer Consideration of Hybrid Vehicles Drops as Fuel Efficiency Expectations Among Shoppers Become More Realistic

Toyota, Honda, Ford and Nissan Have the Most Models in the Top 30 of the Automotive Environmental Index

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., July 16 /PRNewswire/ -- As consumers become more realistic about the fuel efficiency capabilities of hybrid vehicles, the percentage of new-vehicle shoppers who are considering a hybrid has declined, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Alternative Powertrain Study(SM) released today.

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Now in its second year, the Alternative Powertrain Study examines the reasons why consumers consider or avoid alternative powertrain vehicles. The study includes the Automotive Environmental Index, which combines U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publicly available information data related to fuel economy, air pollution and greenhouse gases for 2007 model-year vehicles and J.D. Power and Associates' voice of the customer data related to stated fuel economy. Voice of the customer data is also used to help determine the relative importance of these environmental factors.

The study finds that 50 percent of new-vehicle shoppers are considering a hybrid -- down from 57 percent in the 2006 study. While a general decline can be observed across all age groups, in particular younger vehicle shoppers, those 16 to 25 years old, appear less interested in the powertrain technology, with 60 percent considering a hybrid in 2007, down from 73 percent in 2006. The average additional price hybrid considerers are willing to pay for this powertrain is $2,396, with the expectation of receiving an improvement of 18.5 miles per gallon (MPG) over a traditional vehicle of similar size.

"In the 2006 study, we found consumers often overestimated the fuel efficiency of hybrid-electric vehicles, and the decrease in consideration of hybrids in 2007 may be a result of their more realistic understanding of the actual fuel economy capabilities," said Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power and Associates. "While hybrid sales are steadily increasing, they continue to face competition for market share against an increasing offering of other alternative powertrains and fuels options."

The study also finds that consumer consideration for purchasing clean diesel vehicles, which were newly introduced to the market in 2007, is at 23 percent. In 2006, only 12 percent of shoppers considered purchasing diesel vehicles. On average, considerers of this powertrain are willing to pay an additional $1,491 for the clean diesel option and expect an average additional fuel economy of 15 mpg.

"As the automotive industry steadily offers more alternative powertrain/fuel options to consumers, buyer preferences will continue to shift the market in the coming years," said Marshall. "With high fuel prices, perceived dependency on foreign oil and an increased focus on environmental issues all being top of mind among consumers, manufacturers will not only have to continuously make efforts to produce more fuel efficient vehicles, but also to diversify the range of options."

Toyota is the highest-ranking nameplate in the Automotive Environmental Index, followed by Volkswagen and Honda, respectively. Toyota has improved by six rank positions since the 2006 study and has a strong showing with both hybrid and gasoline-powered models. Honda also performs well, with four models in the top 30. Ford and Nissan follow, each with three models. Similar to 2006 results, there are only two luxury models in the top 30; the Lexus GS 450h and RX 400h.

In 2007, the top 30 Automotive Environmental Index includes 10 hybrid models -- up from eight models in 2006:

 Ford Escape Hybrid   Mercury Mariner Hybrid
Honda Accord Hybrid Saturn VUE Green Line
Honda Civic Hybrid Toyota Camry Hybrid
Lexus GS 450h Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Lexus RX 400h Toyota Prius

The remaining models in the Top 30 Automotive Environmental Index are gasoline-powered:

 Chevrolet Aveo Honda Fit  Mazda3  Pontiac Vibe
Chevrolet Aveo5 Hyundai Accent MINI Cooper Toyota Corolla
Ford Focus Hyundai Elantra Nissan Altima Toyota Matrix
Ford Focus
Station Wagon Kia Rio Nissan Sentra Toyota Yaris
Honda Civic Kia Spectra Nissan Versa Volkswagen New

The 2007 Alternative Powertrain Study includes responses from more than 4,000 consumers in May and June 2007 who plan to purchase a new vehicle within the next two years. The voice of the customer components of the Automotive Environmental Index are derived from the 2007 Alternative Powertrain Study and the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Initial Quality Study(SM). Find more detailed findings on new-vehicle fuel efficiency as well as model photos and specs by reading an article or reviewing the green efficiency ratings at JDPower.com.

 Automotive Environmental Index: Top 30 Models

Chevrolet Mercury
* Aveo * Mariner Hybrid
* Aveo5
Ford * Cooper Convertible
* Escape Hybrid
* Focus Nissan
* Focus Station Wagon * Altima
* Sentra
Honda * Versa
* Accord Hybrid
* Civic Pontiac
* Civic Hybrid * Vibe
* Fit
Hyundai * VUE Green Line
* Accent
* Elantra Toyota
* Camry Hybrid
Kia * Corolla
* Rio * Highlander Hybrid
* Spectra * Matrix
* Prius
Lexus * Yaris
* GS 450h
* RX 400h Volkswagen
* New Beetle
* Mazda3

Automotive Environmental Index Nameplate Ranking
(Based on a 1,000-point scale)

Toyota 678
Volkswagen 664
Honda 644
Kia 642
Mazda 636
Hyundai 622
Pontiac 605
Saturn 601
Suzuki 599
Subaru 582
Nissan 572
Mitsubishi 567
Audi 552
Industry Average 549
Lexus 542
Buick 528
BMW 524
Saab 521
Mercury 505
Acura 501
Volvo 497
Isuzu 495
Porsche 487
Ford 485
Chrysler 484
Jaguar 482
Infiniti 460
Mercedes-Benz 456
Dodge 453
Chevrolet 431
Lincoln 428
Jeep 415
Cadillac 370
Land Rover 323
GMC 309

NOTE: HUMMER, MINI and Scion are included in the study but not ranked as their complete model lineup is underrepresented.

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