Circuit City Poll: 71% Say GPS Can Save Time, Lower Fuel Costs

Right now, predicting how consumers will react to skyrocketing gas prices--or how high those prices will go--is anybody's guess. But Circuit City has one clue: A recent poll by the electronics retailer found that a whopping 71% of drivers believe that a global positioning system can help them save time and lower fuel costs.

A GPS navigation system uses signals from a network of satellites to identify its precise location. GPS units have built-in maps that include nationwide city and street information, and millions of landmarks and points of interest, such as motels and gas stations.

Circuit City is betting that GPS units--with brand names like Garmin, Tom Tom, Magellan, Mio, Pioneer and Eclipse, and which range in price from $250 to $1,000 for in-dash units--will be one way that consumers try to protect themselves from rising prices.

More than 3,000 people responded to Circuit City's survey, which was conducted in April by independent research firm Decision Analyst, Inc. The retailer publicized the results via press release.

Of course, there's also a school of thought that drivers are just so beat up by price increases that they aren't doing much to combat them. While gas continues to sell at a record high--$3.114 a gallon late last week, according to the American Automobile Association--there's plenty of evidence that consumers are just past caring.

By some measures, consumers seem resigned rather than proactive. "When prices first spiked after Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, people went online to find the cheapest gas stations in the area, at sites like GasBuddy.com and FuelEconomy.gov," reports Hitwise, which tracks online searches. "Now it seems inevitable--saving a dollar or two doesn't seem worth the cost of driving a few extra miles."

The volume of online searches for "gas prices" and "hybrid cars" plunged in comparison to the post-Hurricane Katrina period, according to Hitwise. For the week ending May 12, searches for gas prices were 92% lower than in the week ending Sept. 3, 2005, and searches for hybrid cars were down 82%.

Nor are consumers optimistic that prices will get lower. A survey last week found that drivers anticipate that gas prices will jump to $3.32 a gallon by Father's Day, according to BIGresearch.

To make up the difference in their budgets, 22% of those polled said they would buy more store brand/generic products, 16.8% said they would do more comparative shopping online, 37.9% said they would be shop closer to home, and 40.2% said they would take fewer shopping trips.

Ironically, one thing they won't be doing is driving less on vacation. AAA estimates that 38.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend--a 1.7% increase from last year, spending an average of $594 per family.

Of those, about 32.1 million travelers (84% of all holiday travelers) expect to go by motor vehicle, a 1.8% increase from the 31.5 million who drove a year ago.

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