[box type="shadow"]You know, discussing a survey that discerns a growing long term focus among U.S. consumers on fuel economy is kinda like saying research confirms people enjoy saving money – leading to a ubiquitous “um, duh!” reaction for many. Yet for fleets that rely on light and medium-duty trucks, such a shift is of critical importance. For if more and more everyday consumers make fuel economy a “must have” item on their vehicle specification list – even among buyers of sports cars – then OEMs are going to increase investments along that technological line.[/box]

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Fleets feel the “ripple effect” of such decisions because OEMs like Ford Motor Co. and others are increasing moving to global vehicle platforms, meaning the cars and trucks sold in every corner of the world – along with the engines that power them – share similarly components. And if more of those components are focused on delivering better fuel economy for consumers, fleets are going to get it too.

• 42% of the people surveyed by Maritz say fuel economy is “extremely important” in their decision to purchase new 2011 models – a 13.5% increase versus 10 years ago

• 37% indicated they expect fuel economy will have the “greatest impact” on their next new vehicle purchase

• In terms of generations, “Millennials” place an even greater importance on fuel economy, with 46% saying fuel economy is “extremely important” in the new vehicle purchase decision – the greatest percentage among all age groups. Also, 41% say fuel economy will be the top factor in their next vehicle purchase[/box]

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In addition, the importance of fuel economy significantly increased in nearly all vehicle segments since 2001, Maritz found. Specifically:

• Fuel economy as a purchase reason for B-cars became the top consideration in 2011 (21%), up from fourth in 2001 (14%);

• Fuel economy as a purchase reason for C-cars nearly tripled in importance from 2001 (7%) to 2011 (19%), going from fifth to first;

• After ranking 16th in 2001, fuel economy was listed in the top five most important purchase reasons for small utility vehicles in 2011;

• Fuel economy was listed in the top 10 most important purchase reasons for sports car buyers for the first time in 2011;

• Fuel economy as a top purchase reason for medium utility vehicles jumped 14 spots from 2001 to 2011;

• Fuel economy as a top purchase reason for C/D-cars ranked fifth in 2011 after ranking 12th in 2001.

OK, again, considering the rapid fuel price hikes we suffered through in 2008 and again earlier this year, none of this data comes as much of a surprise, to say the very least. But what it does indicate is a fundamental shift is occurring in buying habits – a shift that, in turn, will potentially help spur even more improvements in fuel economy without necessarily affecting vehicle performance.[/box]