Survey: Better fuel economy, not lower price, is what more people want from their next car

August 28, 2019

Almost three in four SUV and pickup truck owners say they want a more fuel-efficient vehicle next time around, and almost nine out of 10 adults say automakers should improve fuel economy in their vehicles, according to a new survey.

The survey, which was conducted by Consumer Reports and published this week, asked 1,078 adults what their priorities were for a new- or used-car purchase. 

Fuel economy topped the list for many owners when asked for areas where automakers could improve. According to the survey, 37 percent of respondents said fuel economy gains were important, 26 percent said maintenance costs, and 23 percent said purchase price.

Drivers with big, thirsty vehicles were most interested in improved fuel economy; 53 percent of respondents who own vehicles that manage 20 mpg combined or less said better fuel economy would be important.

Four out of five respondents said increasing the average fuel economy among new cars from 25 mpg to 40 mpg by 2025 is a "worthwhile goal." That flies in the face of proposed regulations from President Donald Trump's administration that would freeze fuel economy standards at current levels through 2025, effectively rolling back Obama-era regulations that aimed for more fuel-efficient vehicles through year-over-year increases.

“Consumers should be offered fuel-efficient choices for all types of vehicles,” Shannon Baker-Branstetter, manager of cars and environmental policy for Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “Progress has already been made in fuel economy technology and deployment for cars and crossovers. These survey results should tell automakers and regulators that truck and SUV owners want improved fuel economy, not a rollback of current efforts.”

Fuel economy appears to be a bipartisan issue, too. Among all respondents, 88 percent of all adults agreed that automakers should improve fuel economy for all vehicle types; 85 percent who identified as Republicans agreed, 86 percent of Independents agreed, and 90 percent of Democrats agreed.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said federal regulators should continue to increase fuel-economy standards and enforce them. Only about one-third of respondents, 34 percent, agreed that automakers were interested in lowering fuel costs for new-car owners.

More than three out of five respondents said they would pay more for a more fuel-efficient vehicle if they could recoup the cost of that technology at the pump within five years.

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