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Five of the top 10 features consumers look for when shopping for their next vehicle are related to infotainment – including USB ports, hands-free calling and portable music adaptors – according to a study from GfK Automotive, a division of GfK Custom Research North America.
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The 2008 Advanced Automotive Features Study also reveals that rising fuel costs – averaging around $4.00 per gallon -?are driving a consumer vehicle “downsizing” mindset:

  • 30% of Americans would change the size and type of vehicle they purchase, and three quarters would have already downsized or considered it when fuel hits $5.25 per gallon.
  • Only 18% indicate that the price of fuel does not affect their vehicle purchase decision.
  • Among luxury vehicle owners, four in ten say they fill up with lower-grade fuel despite the manufacturers’ recommendation to use premium.

Some 38% of US new vehicle intenders say they would sacrifice vehicle performance for better fuel economy. This is up from 2005, when the average price per gallon of fuel was $2.28 and less than one-quarter (23%) were willing to make this tradeoff.

Hybrid gas/electric vehicles have the highest familiarity among vehicles with alternative powertrains, with nearly three-quarters of new vehicle intenders having at least some knowledge of hybrid technology. Almost six in ten Americans would consider a hybrid for their next new vehicle at an added cost of $3,000.

New vehicle intenders also express interest in “add-on” fuel-economy-enhancing features such as variable displacement engines (i.e., cylinder shut-off), next generation turbochargers and engine start/stop systems. Of more than 100 features evaluated in the study, both hybrid powertrain and variable displacement engines are in the top 20 features that Americans seek when shopping for a vehicle.

“Companies that develop cost-effective technologies to improve fuel economy, while also providing the infotainment personalization features that American car buyers are coming to expect, will gain an edge in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace,” said Jeff Zupancic, VP of product development at GfK Automotive.

About the study: First launched in 1987, the GfK Advanced Automotive Features Study was updated in 2008 to provide enhanced metrics to track consumer attitudes of more than 125 advanced automotive features and technologies. The survey was fielded in May 2008 among 5,900 Americans who are considering purchasing a new vehicle.

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