Less Than Half Of Shoppers Will Pay More For Green Cars

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2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

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It's a refrain we've often heard here at Green Car Reports and elsewhere: environmentally friendly technology and products are great, but consumers won't adopt them until they're competitively priced.

Now, research firm GfK has conducted a study to prove (or disprove) that hypothesis, and the results are...interesting.

GfK's latest Green Gauge survey asked consumers across America to answer questions about their shopping habits. Here are the major takeaways:

  • A whopping 93% of those surveyed said that within the past year, they've done something to conserve energy at home. (Respondents weren't asked what they did, however, so it's unclear whether they achieved conservation through, say, purchases of more energy-efficient appliances or through actions, like adjusting thermostats a few degrees hotter in summer.)
  • Also within the past year, 77% have done something to conserve water.
  • Over the past 12 months, 73% of respondents purchased a product made from organic materials. Though GfK didn't ask what those products were, the firm notes that food (for both humans and pets) as well as cleaning supplies and apparel have seen huge growth in green product sales over the past five years.
  • What tools are consumers using to go green? Many say that smartphones have been hugely useful. On average, 29% have used apps to do things like monitor household energy consumption or track public transportation. (We'll see if that number drops now that transit-free Apple Maps has become the default mapping app for handsets using iOS 6.)
  • But the stop-and-start U.S. economy is taking a toll on consumers' willingness to go green. In 2008, before we'd hit bottom in the Great Recession, 70% of GfK's survey participants said they'd pay more for energy-efficient lightbulbs. Today, that figure stands at 60%.
  • On the auto front, it's worse. In 2008, an impressive 62% of respondents said they'd be willing to pay more for a vehicle that's more environmentally friendly. Today, that figure has dropped 13 points to 49%.

What's especially disconcerting about that last statistic is that today's auto shoppers have many, many more eco-friendly options than they did four years ago, from hybrids to electric cars to fuel-efficient conventional vehicles. That suggests that today's green-car manufacturers are going to have a tough time selling those new models. And like a nasty Catch-22, the prices of those vehicles won't truly go down until sales pick up and economies of scale kick in.

Thankfully for eco-friendly car fans, there is some cause to be optimistic. Fuel-efficiency remains a major concern among shoppers -- and it'll likely continue to be so, as long as fuel prices stay high.

Then, too, there's Toyota's new (thought admittedly vague) plan to roll out quite a few hybrids over the next few years. If anyone can jump-start the green car market, it's probably the world's largest automaker.

Would you pay more for an eco-friendly ride? How much more? Drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.

[via MediaPost]


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Comments (7)
  1. Really a misguided and loaded question anyway. If you buy the smaller SUV it is both less expensive and more eco-friendly.

    This almost seems like "push polling" trying to get people to assume that eco means more expensive. This is not necessarily the case.

    Also, the guy running apps on his iPad is using a small fraction of the energy it would take to do the same on his desktop computer. He doesn't even know he is being eco-friendly, to him it is just better.

  2. Oh, and hopefully the worded the question carefully about energy efficient light bulbs. In most cases you don't PAY more for them, you PAY less. Less if you include both the electricity and but bulb price. Saying otherwise is a dis-serve to everyone.

  3. depends on the bulb and usage. It is hard to justfy a $29 light bulb (LED, 4W) over a $0.89 40W bulb if only used 2-3 hrs per day...

    However, with other features such as less frequent changing, vibration resistance (as in the case of garage opener), then it suddenly makes FAR MORE sense to go "green"...

  4. I am with you on this one. But if you haven't checked the prices on LED's lately, look again. Locally the Philips bulbs are $15 for a 60 watt equivalent.

    But a $1 CFL is certainly a better deal than a $0.25 incandescent.

    I met too many people that have assumed that the huge savings on CFLs operating cost are BS, until after they have switched over and seen improvements on their electric bill.

  5. I know that LED are much cheaper now. In fact, Costco currently has a 3-pack LED bulbs for $15.

    I believe lighting is one of the major use of electricity in average home beside A/C and EV charging. Using correct bulb for the right location can save a lot of electricity.

    I install CFL in locations where long duration of light demand is high such as kitchen and family room. I install LED in location where "dimmer" is needed or frequent on/off and fairly low light requirement and hard replacement such as garage door opener light and outside lighting...

    I still use the old fashion light bulbs in closet or bathroom where the duration is low and light demand is high.

    I just need to train my family NOT to turn on/off my CFLs all the time.

  6. I currently use both CFL and LED bulbs in my home and I am very slowly switching out the CFL bulbs for LED as they fail. I believe that energy efficiency is going to become more and more important in controlling home utility cost can be reduced significantly with improved appliances such as electric driers and refrigerators and LED backlight flat panel Televisions which use much less electricity. I see a day when both conservation to save energy and Solar electric panels to generate some addition power will hopefully lead to a much greener more energy independent economy for the USA. If we don't do it then some one else will and I would rather see jobs stay here in the USA then go to China

  7. Locally our Costco had 60 watt equivalent LED bulbs for around $6.

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