Friday, June 4, 2010

Harris Green Car Tech Survey Is Questionable

Check Boxes

It�"s tricky business trying to predict how big the market for hybrids, electric cars and other alternative auto technologies will become. That becomes abundantly clear when looking at Harris Interactive�"s recent poll of 12,225 U.S. adults ages 18 and over. The market research firm says 4 percent of consumers are extremely likely or very like to buy a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, or a fuel cell car. Yet, only 2 percent are equally likely to buy a pure electric car.

The question about likelihood to purchase assumed a certain amount of additional cost for each of the technologies. For example, conventional hybrids were assumed to carry a $3,500 premium; plug-in hybrids and EVs at $4,000; and fuel cell cars at $5,000.

Cheaper is Better?

It�"s not surprising that survey respondents are not keen on spending thousands of dollars more on abstract technology concepts�removed from the specific vehicle that use those technologies. And if you offer similarly abstract technology choices for $1,000 (clean diesel); $500 (start-stop system), or $250 (eco-drive assistant), consumers are likely to go for those cheaper hypothetical options. Hence, the top-level finding of the Harris survey: �SOwners choose lower cost technological solutions over higher priced alternative fuels.⬝

But are we any closer to understanding how fast hybrids will climb from the current 2.5 percent of the market? Do we have a better handle on why Ford thinks that somewhere between 10 and 25 percent of the market will be hybrid or plug-in by 2020�with 75 percent of those vehicles as conventional hybrids? What about Nissan�"s contention that 10 percent of its sales will be electric cars by 2020? Wouldn�"t it be more useful to ask about specific vehicles with specific price tags�like Ford Fiesta vs. Toyota Prius vs. Nissan Leaf vs. Chevy Volt?

Nonetheless, David Pulaski, Vice President of Harris Interactive Automotive and Transportation Research, does make critical points:

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