Are drivers really less interested in fuel efficiency?

Is it possible that car drivers care less about fuel efficiency these days, despite the relatively high prices for gasoline/petroleum in these recession-blighted times? America’s Consumerreports.org suggests it is. On the results of their latest survey into car brand perceptions, they write:

The only significant change over last year is that people who listed “environmentally friendly/green” as one of their top three priorities is down eight percentage points. In a troubled economy, with gas prices relatively low, green in the wallet trumps environmental concerns for many.

But this just doesn’t sound like a true reflection of buying motivations – just look at the previous post about expenditure on fuel, and data on car sales as opposed to trucks and SUVs.

Anyway, Morgan Downey has already written what we were thinking: it may be the wording of the question is all wrong. After all, what does “environmentally friendly/green” really mean?

Consumerreports.org doesn’t publish the full wording of the survey, but one can imagine that if this was the phrasing that was used – particularly without reference to fuel efficiency, many respondents, conscious of tough economic times, would automatically reject notions of being green. We saw in a Pew survey last year how much levels of concern for the environment seemed to slide in preference for jobs and money, and a World Bank paper explored how people tend to rank their worries. A question on fuel efficiency might have yielded a different response.

Related links:

Bad signs for oil demand in personal consumption data, so far (FT Energy Souce, 20/01/10)

Energy Source is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

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