Once upon a time, car-buyers looked for new cars based on the size of the trunk, the appointment of the interior and how comfortable the seats were.  Gas mileage, while an influencing factor, was way down the list. 

That’s changed, according to a Ford-sponsored study into the car-buying decisions of Miami residents. 

According to Ford’s study, 32 percent of consumers questioned said they would consider purchasing or leasing a smaller car as their primary vehicle in order to get better gas mileage and fuel efficiency. 

In addition, 58 percent of all residents questioned in the survey said they were interested in purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle once gasoline reached the $5 per gallon mark. 

Perhaps more shocking however, is the number of respondents in the survey -- more than half -- who did not know the difference between a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or pure electric vehicle. 

Ford’s study helps to reiterate the results of a recent national survey by Maritz Research, which concluded that fuel economy has become the number one purchase consideration for buyers of sub-compact and compact cars during 2011, no doubt driven by increasing gas prices and shrinking disposable income.

Gas pump

Gas pump

For mid-size cars, the Maritz study says fuel economy is now the fifth most important consideration for new car-buyers, up from 12th most important in 2001.

Even SUV buyers are shopping for fuel efficient cars, placing gas mileage at 5th on their list of buying priorities compared with 16th place ten years ago, while buyers of sports car and high performance cars are listing fuel economy among their top ten considerations for the first time ever. 

Both reports combine to illustrate how very important gas mileage and fuel economy is for new car buyers today, although we should reiterate that one of the reports -- the Miami study -- was commissioned by Ford. Just like any other automaker-commissioned study, these results should be treated with the usual caveats. 

That said, sales of Ford’s gas-sipping 2011 Fiesta and 2011 Focus are reportedly up by 34 percent through September versus the same period a year ago, further adding credence to Ford’s study. Combine this with proof that car buyers are moving from cars with large engines to smaller four-cylinder-engined cars, and there's no doubting the drive towards fuel efficiency is driving the new and used car market. 


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