Most consumers willing to pay for hybrid cars

J.D. Power and Associates finds that interest in hybrid-electric vehicles has risen in past three years because of gas prices and environmental concerns.

If it seems like many people you know would like to own a hybrid car, J.D. Power and Associates has the data to back up your hunch.

The auto market research firm on Tuesday released results of a survey that found a very high interest in hybrid-electric vehicles--even after the substantial price premium was revealed.

The company performed surveys with consumers before and after telling them of an average $5,000 price difference between hybrids and non-hybrids.

The study found that 72 percent of consumers are "definitely/probably" interested in having hybrid-electric technology for their next vehicle.

In 2005, 58 percent of consumers responded yes to that same question.

After the average price difference was revealed, 46 percent of consumers were still interested in the 2008 survey.

"High consumer interest in hybrid-electric powertrain technology may be reflective of not only rising gas prices but also a heightened effort among consumers to be more environmentally conscious," Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power and Associates, said in a statement.

That research dovetails with bets made by many people in the electric and plug-in hybrid car industry. Namely, that consumers are demanding a product that's not quite yet widespread.

The financial part of a decision to go hybrid is getting clearer as well. A financial analyst earlier this month presented information that showed that purchasing a hybrid-electric car has a lower cost of ownership than a gas-only car when gasoline prices are more than $3.18 a gallon.

Meanwhile, the J.D. Power and Associates study found that consumers are not interested in buying so-called clean diesel vehicles.

The researchers concluded that people still have negative associations with diesel from older diesel technologies that have unpleasant exhaust.

The study also queried people on what sort of new technology features they are looking for.

If price were no object, the survey found that people want blind-spot detection, backup assist, and navigation systems. After prices were revealed, consumers showed the highest increase in backup assists (68 percent), active cornering headlight systems (65 percent), and wireless connectivity systems (53 percent).

"Consumer interest is likely heightened by the fact that more states may prohibit the use of cell phones while driving. Wireless connectivity will potentially become a necessity rather than a luxury as time goes on," Marshall said in a statement.

Updated at 12:30 p.m. PT with more detail from survey on consumer interest in desired features.

 

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