The Michigan arm of the Automobile Association of America, in a survey of members this year, found gas mileage to be the single most important factor that will determine what kind of car AAA members will buy. After gas mileage came make and model, safety features, performance, seating capacity and technology features.
Members also appeared to be at odds with the state's automakers, who have opposed government mandates on fuel efficiency. Sixty-one percent said lawmakers should require better fuel efficiency for new cars, trucks and SUVs; 56% said they should increase funding for alternative-fuels research; 52% said to open up oil fields.
Thirty percent of respondents also said they are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles today. Only 2% said they have purchased a hybrid vehicle.
AAA Michigan predicts that fuel economy will continue to weigh heavily on the minds of consumers as the spring and summer driving seasons approach, with the potential to set new gas price records.
"Unlike other periods of dramatic fuel increases, the latest price spike does not appear to be driven by rising physical demand for gasoline or even tight inventories of available fuel," said Kathy Harrison, vice president and chief public affairs officer for AAA Michigan. "It is instead being propelled higher largely due to unprecedented levels of investment in crude oil and gasoline futures as a hedge against a dollar that is falling against other major currencies."
A spokesperson said the 2008 annual survey is the first in which fuel efficiency topped out as most important buyer consideration. "It's the highest-ranking in several years," she says.