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Fuel Efficiency and Growing Concern for the Environment Impacting Consumers' Future Auto Buying Decisions

April 20, 2010 at 8:02 AM EDT
Gas-alternative cars are not a passing fad, according to consumers - most drivers expect to own one during their lifetimes

MCLEAN, Va., Apr 20, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) --Just in time for Earth Day on April 22, a new survey by Capital One Auto Finance ( finds that when it comes to Americans' auto preferences, bigger may not always be better and fuel efficiency is in the driver's seat. The survey, which examined drivers' views about fuel efficiency and alternative motor vehicles, found that over half of respondents (53%) say that their next car will be more fuel efficient than their current vehicle and 55 percent would be very likely or somewhat likely to give up a larger vehicle for a more fuel efficient model when they buy their next car.

The study also explored alternative motor vehicles, or vehicles that run on a fuel other than "traditional" petroleum, such as electric vehicles or gas-electric hybrids. While the overwhelming majority of those surveyed (96%) do not currently own an alternative motor vehicle and two-thirds (76%) have never driven or test-driven one of these types of cars, nearly 80 percent (78%) believe they are here to stay and are not just a passing fad.

"Drivers' preferences and features that were once 'must haves' seem to be shifting somewhat, as consumers try to balance their needs with a desire to do their part to help the environment and save money on fuel," said Sanjiv Yajnik, President of Capital One Auto Finance. "While consumers are showing significant interest in gas-alternative models, our survey suggests that pricing is holding many buyers back from purchasing one," Yajnik added.

Alternative Motor Vehicles- Fad or Future?

Just over one-third of the respondents (34%) said it is somewhat or very likely that their next car purchase will be an alternative motor vehicle and most drivers (54%) surveyed think they will own an alternative motor vehicle in their lifetime. Forty-two percent of survey respondents predict that in ten years, 25-50 percent of cars on the road will be gas-alternative models, while nearly a quarter (23%) believe that over 50 percent of cars on the road will be alternative cars by the year 2020. In the near term, however, consumers say that pricing is the primary factor holding them back from purchasing an alternative motor vehicle.

"We are definitely seeing growing consumer interest in hybrid cars. Not long ago the environmental advantages of hybrids were the primary reasons customers gave for shopping for alternative vehicles. Today, the "green" advantages of hybrids, coupled with continued high gas prices are causing more customers than ever to consider alternative fuel options," said Bob Tomes, President, Bob Tomes Ford Lincoln Mercury of McKinney, TX. "More and more of our customers are focused on fuel-efficient transportation, and hybrids are really seen as the ultimate in fuel efficiency."

Understanding New Technologies and Pricing

With new technologies emerging, the study also found that consumers may not be doing enough research on alternative vehicles and may be unaware of valuable tools to consider when purchasing a new car. The government is currently offering a tax rebate for the purchase of some alternative motor vehicles, yet 41 percent of consumers surveyed did not know about this rebate program. Of those who said they were likely to purchase an alternative motor vehicle, nearly three-quarters (71%) have not calculated the savings in gas over a traditional vehicle. On a positive note, most respondents did know that you can go online to compare financing options and apply for a loan for a new vehicle. However many younger adults lacked this knowledge; 44 percent of young adults ages 18-24 do not know that you can go online to compare financing options and almost one-third (30%) don't know that you can go online to apply for a loan for a new vehicle.

"When considering the purchase of any car, whether it's a traditional vehicle or one of the newer alternatives, it really goes back to the basics of doing your homework- do your research, shop around for the best deal and make sure you have all of the necessary information to select the best car for you," said Yajnik. "Buying a car is a big decision and we encourage all drivers to stay as up to date and informed as possible so they can select the best option."

Helping Consumers Navigate the Car Buying Process

Capital One Auto Finance developed the following tips to help drivers manage the car-buying process:

  • Research different models. It's important for car buyers to do their homework and learn more about the features of different models, especially if considering an alternative motor vehicle. Drivers may also want to compare fuel costs for different types of vehicles. For those who would like to save money on gas and are considering trading in a gas guzzler for a more fuel efficient car, offers a calculator that shows how long will it take before you pay off the balance of a vehicle purchase and begin saving money. Visit Learn about vehicle pricing. Research new and used car prices (the Internet can be a great resource). Know what you can afford and use those target numbers as a reference point for your pricing information.
  • Research and compare different financing options. There is a range of auto financing options available, including dealer financing, loans from banks and credit unions, and pre-approved no-obligation online loans. Researching your options and finding the lowest rate that you qualify for can save you a substantial amount of money over the life of your loan. It's also critical that first-time buyers match the length of their loan to the planned length of ownership so that they do not become "upside down."
  • Treat the car-buying process as two separate negotiations. Determining the: 1) vehicle price, and 2) financing are two separate transactions, and you should negotiate each separately. This strategy will often help you save money. (If you happen to have a trade-in, consider it a third part of the negotiation.)
  • Make sure you are comfortable with the contract. If it's not the price or deal you want, be ready to walk away.

Financial Education Help

Capital One Auto Finance offers car buyers a range of information and tools to educate themselves, including a free, easy-to-understand consumer auto buying guide available at The guide's topics range from budgeting, to learning about vehicle research and shopping, to understanding financing and payment terms.

Survey Methodology

The findings reported in this release are from a telephone survey conducted by the opinion research firm, Braun Research of Princeton NJ. Braun Research completed 802 interviews among an audience of adults 18+ in the U.S. The interviews were conducted between March 22nd, 2010 and March 25, 2010. All interviews were conducted by telephone. The margin of error is ± 3.46 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Interviews were monitored at random.

Sampling for this study was conducted using a national RDD sample of Adults 18+ drawn from SSI. All interviews were conducted using a computer assisted telephone interviewing system. Statistical weights were designed from the United States Census Bureau statistics.

About Capital One

Capital One Financial Corporation ( is a financial holding company whose subsidiaries, which include Capital One, N.A. and Capital One Bank (USA), N. A., had $115.8 billion in deposits and $212.0 billion in total managed assets outstanding as of December 31, 2009. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Capital One offers a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients. Capital One, N.A. has approximately 1,000 branch locations primarily in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. A Fortune 500 company, Capital One trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "COF" and is included in the S&P 100 index.

SOURCE: Capital One Financial Corporation

Capital One Financial Corporation
Pam Girardo, 703-720-2351