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.