Consumer Reports: Large majority favor stronger fuel economy standards

In advance of eagerly awaited details regarding proposed Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, Consumer Reports has released results of a new survey, and – no surprise here – 93 percent of respondents "support increased fuel efficiency." Further revelations include 77 percent in favor of car manufacturers producing more fuel-efficient vehicles, and 80 percent agreeing with fuel economy standards requiring fleet averages to top 55 miles per gallon by 2025. Mark Cooper, Director of Research at the Consumer Federation of America, said in a statement:

These results reflect the strongest support for higher fuel economy standards and willingness to adopt new fuel savings technologies we have seen to date.

If there's anything truly interesting to be gleaned from the results, it's that 56 percent of those surveyed claim to be considering a hybrid or EV, with fuel costs cited as a primary motivation. Correspondingly, 81 percent of consumers indicate that they would be willing to pay extra for a vehicle if it was cheaper to operate.

And these weren't just readers of Consumer Reports who were being polled. The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted telephone interviews with 1,008 people over the age of 18 who were chosen as a "nationally representative probability sample."

While automakers have long decried Americans' willingness to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to fuel economy, if this survey is indeed reflective of consumer trends, that could be changing. To read the full press release, continue past the jump.
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Consumer Reports Poll: Large Majority of Consumers Support Stronger Fuel Economy Standards to Save Money, Lower Fuel Costs

Over Three-Fourths Say Government Should Increase, Enforce Higher Standards

An overwhelming majority of consumers believe that fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks should be improved, according to a new poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Nearly all respondents (93 percent) support increased fuel efficiency, while 77 percent agree that car manufacturers should produce more fuel-efficient vehicles and the government should increase standards and enforce them.

Over half (56 percent) of respondents said they were considering hybrid or electric cars for their next vehicle. If availability improves over the next 15 years, consumers are even more likely (72%) to consider them.

One of the driving forces behind the growing support for alternative fuel vehicles and increased fuel efficiency standards? The cost of gasoline.

"Eighty-nine percent of consumers who are considering these hybrid and electric models cited lower fuels costs as one of their motivations for making the transition," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center. "This survey demonstrates there is strong support in the consumer market for more efficient vehicles that help you keep your costs down at the gas pump."

And the poll findings strongly suggest that consumers are willing to pay more for a fuel-efficient vehicle if it means they will save money on gas over the long term. In fact, 81 percent of consumers responded that they were willing to pay extra if it would lower their operating costs.

Consumers who have at least one car indicate that the price of gasoline (79%) is their number one concern, followed closely by America's reliance on foreign oil (72%).

In addition, 80 percent agreed that fuel economy standards should require auto manufacturers to increase the overall fleet average to at least 55 miles per gallon by 2025, showing strong support for the target fuel economy or CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards recently announced by the White House.

Champion said, "Moving to a 54.5 mpg average by 2025 would save consumers thousands in fuel costs over the life of the vehicle. This survey makes it clear that there will be customer demand for these efficient vehicles as auto manufacturers continue to innovate to meet these standards."

This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are expected to unveil details of the proposed CAFE standards and issue a notice of proposed rulemaking.

Mark Cooper, Director of Research at the Consumer Federation of America, commented on the CR survey results: "These results reflect the strongest support for higher fuel economy standards and willingess to adopt new fuel savings technologies we have seen to date. With the average annual household spending on gasoline headed for a record $2,900 this year, there should be little surprise at this strong support and little doubt that the goal of 54.5 miles per gallon is achievable."

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. 1,008 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+. Interviewing took place over October 28- October 31, 2011. The margin of error is +/- 3.1% points at a 95% confidence level.

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