AutoTrader finds shoppers more concerned about mileage than in summer 2008

(March 7, 2011) ATLANTA (PRNewswire) — A full 53 percent of car shoppers on in February said they are more likely to consider a more fuel-efficient car than the one they currently own as a result of rising fuel prices, according to a just-completed survey of visitors to the car-shopping and information site in February.

This is higher than the 44 percent who indicated a desire to find a more fuel efficient car in a similar survey conducted in August and September of 2008 during the last gas-price spike.

Gas prices have been creeping up for several months as a result of the economic recovery, which has created more demand. More recently, events in the Middle East have created concerns on world markets that have caused a run up in crude oil prices, with a resulting increase in prices at the pump. Many reports and analysts say prices at the pump will continue to rise and may surpass $4 per gallon across the country — a price threshold that has already been passed in some markets including Southern California.

"This survey indicates what we expected based on previous gas-price spikes," said President and CEO Chip Perry. "When gas prices rise, interest on our site in smaller and more fuel efficient vehicles increases. When gas prices go back down, shoppers return to their normal shopping habits.

"The fact is: a large segment of the American car-shopping public likes and wants larger vehicles to accommodate their auto needs and wants. Consumers consider many things when shopping for a car – things like style, utility, price, fuel-economy and more. The current spike in gas prices has put fuel-economy closer to the top of many shoppers' lists right now."

According to Perry, auto manufacturers are in a better position to meet consumer demand for more fuel efficient vehicles than they were in previous periods of rising gas prices. 

"Manufacturers have seen consumer interest in fuel efficiency and have responded by bringing out stylish small cars and also by using technology and design solutions to squeeze more miles-per-gallon out of larger cars. Consumers looking for fuel efficiency in their vehicles today will find many more options than they had in the past."

Twenty-one percent of the survey respondents picked "Strongly Agree" to the statement "I am more likely to consider a more fuel efficient car the next time I am in the market to buy a car due to rising gas prices," and 32% picked "Somewhat Agree" with that statement.  Thirty percent of respondents didn't have an opinion either way, 12 percent picked "Somewhat Disagree" and 5 percent picked "Strongly Disagree" in response to that statement. The survey was conducted among visitors to during February.