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Auto industry focused on hybrids, survey says

R&D spending for hybrid and alternative fuel car technology to increase as automakers rush to give consumers what they want, according to KPMG research.

Styling innovations like this glass roof available for Ford Motor's 2009 V-6 and GT Mustang may not be the focus in coming years as automakers look to provide energy efficiency not looks, according to one survey. Ford

Biodiesel technology is low on the list of priorities for auto industry research, according to a global survey of 200 senior auto executives conducted by KPMG that was released Thursday.

When asked to rate which were the most important alternative fuel technologies to the auto industry over the next five years, hybrid systems were ranked first followed by battery electric power, fuel cell electric power, and biodiesel, respectively.

Fuel efficiency was ranked as the feature auto executives believed makes the biggest impact on customers' purchasing decisions, while "environmental friendliness" was second followed by safety innovation in third.

A car's style and looks came in last on the list of factors auto executives thought customers looked at these days when deciding which car to buy. They're likely right. The information follows news that Ford Motor announced in December it saw record sales for its hybrid cars in 2009 compared to hybrid car sales in other years.

"Automotive manufacturers are in the challenging position of being asked to compete on both technology and cost. With global consumers still feeling the pinch of the recession, those OEMs who can deliver on this equation will be in the driver's seat," Gary Silberg, national automotive industry leader for KPMG, said in a statement.

The survey was conducted September through November 2009.