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Consumer Reports: Gas prices having big impact

More than a third want to switch to a more fuel efficient car, according to survey

May 24, 2006; Posted: 1:02 p.m. EDT (1702 GMT)


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NEW YORK ( - More than a third of American drivers say they are considering getting rid of their current vehicle in favor of something more fuel efficient, according to a national survey by Consumer Reports magazine.

Of those who say they might replace their current vehicle, half say they are considering a gas-electric hybrid vehicle, according to the survey. Currently, hybrid vehicles represent just one percent of the new car market.

"High gas prices are not just an inconvenience anymore," said Robert Gentile, director of Consumer Reports' Auto Price Services. "They are forcing people to reconsider what and how they drive, even the way they live their lives."

Only eight percent say they are considering a diesel vehicle. Diesel vehicles get better fuel mileage than gasoline-powered vehicles and don't have as much added cost as hybrid vehicles. They are unavailable in some states, though, because of their relatively dirty emissions.

Fifty-five percent of those who are considering replacing their vehicle are planning to get a small car. About 20 percent are considering a family sedan or small SUV. Fewer than five percent are considering a luxury sedan or large SUV, according to the Consumer Reports survey.

Fuel efficiency was a very important consideration for all of those considering a hybrid vehicle, but for most it wasn't all about financial savings. A desire to reduce U.S. oil consumption was important for 70 percent of them and the vehicle's "environmental friendliness" was important for 64 percent.

For those not considering a hybrid vehicle, the relatively high purchase price was the most often-cited reason. Sixty-nine percent gave that as a reason for not considering a hybrid vehicle. Concerns about maintenance costs kept away 67 percent of those consumers and reliability was a concern for 63 percent. A little more than half of those not considering a hybrid named poor performance as a reason.

Most Americans, about seventy percent, according to the survey, do not think $3.00 a gallon is "too expensive" for gasoline. In other words, $3.00 a gallon for gasoline would not cause them to take serious measures to curtail their usage. About half think $4.00 a gallon would be "too expensive."

For the time being, there seems to be a limit to how far consumers will go to save gas. While 42 percent say they will drive less and 38 percent say they will drive more slowly and smoothly to save gas, only 16 percent say they will walk or ride a bicycle more. Only 13 percent say they will carpool more and just 10 percent say they will use public transportation more.

Thirty-eight percent say they will reduce their spending on restaurant meals and other entertainment because of high gas prices.

Consumer Reports surveyed 2,400 people around the country. The survey was not confined to Consumer Reports subscribers.


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