More Electricity In U.S. Autos; Consumers Still Wary

ecoelectricKia Motors is bringing a version of Kia Soul to compete against the Nissan Leaf. The company says the all-electric Soul will hit the market next year. The car is going to be a global vehicle, per the automaker, which says it will have a target range of 120 miles. Hyundai is also mulling bringing a hybrid to the U.S. market. Currently, Kia has one alternative powertrain vehicle, the Optima Hybrid.  

Hyundai's version, built off the same platform, is the Sonata Hybrid. Green Car Reports points out that a decade ago there were only three hybrid models in the U.S. market. Now there are 35. And there are over a dozen models, including the Scion EV, Fiat 500e, Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus electric, Chevy Volt, Smart ED, Coda, and Prius EV says buyers are resisting. The company has done a survey finding that for diesels, hybrids, electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids, the cost on the front obscures the benefits on the back side in terms of consumer perception of value. 



Until the cost issues are addressed consumers won't budge, the survey suggests. The study found that pecuniary concerns suppress purchase consideration. Fuel economy leads, followed by the cost of gasoline next and then the tax credit you get on purchase as third most important purchase considerations. 

Still, that means little, since the consideration barrier is the price premium of one of these cars over a traditional-gasoline-powered vehicle. Fifty-three percent of the people AutoTrader polled said they would pay a premium for diesels. Then it's 51% for hybrids, and 41% for EVs. Only 39% of consumers said they would go with a plug-in hybrid.

Several automakers have brought diesels to the U.S., particularly the Germans. The challenges are many -- one of which is that we aren't Europe, where gasoline costs an arm and a leg. On this side of the pond the cost differential favors gasoline. AutoTrader says the serious issue perception that diesel engines are noisy and no better for the environment than gasoline won't go away easily. 

“Diesels have come a long way since they were first introduced in the U.S., but that perception of the clunky car with black soot coming out the tailpipe persists,” said Brian Moody, site editor at “Automakers who are investing in clean diesel technology need to ensure that they are clearly explaining and promoting how diesel technology has changed.” 

Toyota is the awareness and consideration leader for hybrids, notes AutoTrader -- no surprise at all, given the size of its hybrid portfolio, the power of the Prius sub-brand, and media commitment, and longevity in the market. The fairly distant pack comprises Honda, Ford, Lexus, Chevrolet, Nissan and Volkswagen. Forty-eight percent said Toyota "leads the space." Honda came in second with 28% and then Ford at 25%.

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