Almost three-quarters of U.S. consumers are interested in having hybrid technology in their next vehicle, but the added cost seems to be too high for many, a study shows.
In J.D. Power and Associates 2008 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study, 72 percent of consumers surveyed said they were interested in the technology before they learned how much it costs placing it fifth among the technologies ranked.
When they were told the $5,000 price, though, that number dropped to 46 percent and the technology fell to eighth place.
The annual survey showed that Americans continue to be most interested in such optional safety technologies as blind-spot detection, backup assistance and active-cornering headlights.
But entertainment and information features are gaining ground. Mike Marshall, the studys director, said the main reason is that young consumers are entering the market.
Up until last year, safety features dominated, he said. There is a general difference in terms of what the young consumers say 30 and down what theyve been exposed to, what they expect.
Marshall also pointed to a quicker inclusion of advanced features in down-market vehicles. The rate at which theyre brought down-segment is much, much quicker, he said.
That hints at another trend: Interest in many technologies is driven in part byavailability.
Clean diesel, for example, didnt garner much interest. But Marshall thinks thats largely because the technology isnt widely available in the United States, and Americans have not had a chance to learn about its benefits.
Theres a good chunk of the car-buying population that has these latent misconceptions about what diesel is, he said. There are these thoughts of diesel being dirty, diesel being noisy.
He said he expects that perception to change this year as Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz start selling clean diesel systems in the United States.
Said Marshall: The mere fact that theyll be in the marketplace is going to raise the awareness level of clean diesel, and I think that will begin to crack some of these wrong perceptions of what diesel is today.
The study shows a few key price points at which consumer interest changes. When the average price of a feature is revealed to be below $500, it usually rises on the list relative to other technologies.
Wireless connectivity, for example, jumps from 16th place to third after its $200 average price is revealed.
Features priced between $500 and $1,000 tended to hold their place on the list when their prices were revealed, while those priced above $1,000 tended to sink.
Other technologies, such as backup assist, have risen. One of the perennial top-ranked features, run-flat tires, wasnt included in the survey this year. This was the first time in the last four years that hybrid powertrains and clean diesel were included in the full survey.
The study surveyed more than 19,000 U.S. customers.