U.S. gas prices have now hit six-year lows, and many analysts believe that cheap gasoline will hurt sales of fuel-efficient cars.
Paying less for gas removes much of the financial incentive of switching to a more-efficient car, encouraging consumers to turn back to gas guzzlers--or so goes the narrative.
However, that may not be the case this time around. At least, thus far.
Fuel economy remains the most important criteria for consumers when purchasing a new car, according to the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Avoider Study (via The Car Connection).
2014 Toyota Prius V
The research firm arrived at that conclusion after surveying 30,000 owners who registered a new vehicle during April and May 2014. They were asked what most motivated them to buy their vehicles.
Out of that sample, 14 percent of respondents cited fuel economy as their top concern--more than any of the other categories.
In addition, 16 percent listed poor fuel economy as the top reason for not buying a certain vehicle.
Bad gas mileage wasn't as much of a turn-off as unattractive exterior styling--which drove away 30 percent of buyers--but it came close behind cost and interior design, both of which garnered 17 percent of the negative vote.
J.D. Power believes the consistent emphasis on fuel economy is a sign consumers know that gas prices won't stay low forever.
"Clearly, consumers are considering the total cost of ownership," when choosing a new car, J.D. Power's Arianne Walker said in a statement.
2014 Jeep Cherokee
However, they may not be exercising quite as much prudence as the study suggests.
Owners were surveyed in early 2014 when gas prices were higher, which may have increased their awareness of fuel economy.
It's also worth noting that crossover and SUV sales surged in 2014--overtaking cars for the first time ever.
Hybrid sales, meanwhile, stayed flat.
Yet the overall efficiency of new cars and trucks is still increasing.
Regardless of whether the apparent consumer interest in fuel economy is here to stay, stricter Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards will ensure that efficiency approves across the board between now and 2025.