Fuel economy, at least temporarily, has become the single most important factor to new-car buyers.
I say “temporarily” because we all know it won’t last.
Americans have a tendency to overreact to things. Remember in 2008, when gas prices jumped and folks traded in their SUVs en masse for more fuel efficient rides? Remember, later that year, when prices dipped below $2/gallon and many of those same buyers flocked back to their big rigs?
Now it’s 2012, and prices are hovering near $4 again. No surprise that fuel economy is an important factor for buyers, but *the* most important? This world has gone crazy.
I’m so surprised because fuel economy, according to a Consumer Reports study, is far more important to buyers than quality, safety or performance. Apparently, if an unintended acceleration problem arises and the airbags don’t go off when the car hits the guard rail, everything is okay as long as the car gets over 30 mpg.
“These results make it clear that high fuel prices are continuing to impact driver behavior and influencing future purchase considerations,” said Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports’ deputy auto editor. “While quality, safety and value are still important, this may be foreshadowing a market shift by folks seeking relief at the pump.”
Well, foreshadowing a market shift until prices either drop or people get used to current levels, that is. In the U.S., people tend to forget the past easily and get really freaked out about the present. Those freak-outs often lead to spur-of-the-moment purchases, rationalized by an urgent need to create change. Hence, I believe, the current popularity of fuel economy.
It won’t be long before the next CR study comes out, hailing safety or quality as the number one influencing factor in new-car purchases, because, sooner or later, there will be an event that makes people think that’s what they need.
Easy question today: What is the number one factor you consider when buying a new car: fuel economy, safety, quality, performance or something else?