volt-for-front1How green a car is matters considerably less to American consumers than consumers in China and Japan, according to an international study recently published by Survey Sampling International (SSI).

The study found that China had the highest interest in moving toward alternative energy vehicles – hybrids powered by both gasoline and electricity. Half of those interested in purchasing an alternative energy vehicle said they will definitely select an eco-car for their next automobile purchase.

The percentages of those planning to purchase alternative energy vehicles were far lower in Japan and the U.S. One quarter of those surveyed in Japan said they will definitely buy an alternative energy vehicle. In the U.S. just 14% said they will buy such a vehicle.

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Part of the reason for the higher interest in PHEVs among Chinese consumers could be due in part to China’s taxation policies which encourage saving energy, emission discharge reduction, and environmental protection by enterprises. However, that doesn’t explain the low importance of the green factor for cars among Americans, who’ve scored consistently lower than much of the rest of the industrialized world in terms of their general concern about envirnomental issues such as global warming.

“SSI’s Japan team conducted this study to assess drivers’ awareness of alternative energy cars,” explained JK Leong, SSI APAC Managing Director. “SSI wanted to determine the willingness of people to buy eco-friendly vehicles. We also wanted to see which features are most important to people when shopping for alternative energy vehicles.”

Brand is most important in both China & U.S.
When asked how much importance they would place on various factors when purchasing an eco-car, Chinese said that manufacturer brand name/maker was most important (39.6%) followed by body type (29.5%). U.S. consumers followed this pattern with manufacturer brand name/maker most important (32.6%) followed by body type (21.4%). In contrast, Japanese respondents cited vehicle price after tax reductions and subsidies (30.6%) as their key decision factor followed by manufacturer brand name/maker (23.1%).

The percentages of those planning to purchase alternative energy vehicles were far lower in Japan and the U.S. One quarter of those surveyed in Japan said they will definitely buy an alternative energy vehicle and in the U.S., just 14% said they will buy such a vehicle.

Interest in purchasing an eco-friendly car is generally consistent across age groups within each country but varies widely among countries. Of those in China who are interested in purchasing an alternative energy vehicle, people aged 40-49 years had the most interest (52.6%) and people aged 18-29 years had the least interest (47.4%). In Japan, people in their 60s had the most interest (29.7%) while people in their 30s showed the least interest (18.8%). In the U.S., the trend reversed with people aged 18-29 years showing the most interest (16%) and those aged 30-39, the least (10.9%).

“SSI’s survey will help forecast the future market share of eco-cars in these countries,” said Hiroyuki Kakizume, SSI Managing Director Japan.

Other study insights include which eco-cars are the most popular. The majority of Japanese drivers who have an interest in purchasing an eco-car say the most desirable vehicle is the Toyota electric minivan. Toyota was also the most popular vehicle among U.S. consumers, with the most desirable eco-car being the Toyota electric sedan.

The majority of Chinese consumers who have an interest in purchasing an alternative energy vehicle prefer the Audi electric sedan.

SSI conducted the online study October 1-10, 2009, of 1,000 people per country in China, Japan, and the U.S. regarding alternative energy vehicles.

Survey Sampling International is a global provider of sampling solutions for survey research. It serves more than 1,800 clients and has 17 offices in 15 countries.

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