When it comes to buying cars, Americans are still using the price of the vehicle as the primary deciding factor. A well-priced, fuel-efficient vehicle is the car of choice for Americans and this is bad news for the flex fuel vehicle industry. In a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, only 5 percent of respondents said they would be extremely likely to purchase a flex fuel vehicle, even if it only added $250 to the base price of the vehicle.

David Duganne Sr., senior research director of Harris Interactive Automotive and Transportation Research, cites the increase in the availability of clean diesel engines as one factor leading to the decline of flex fuel vehicle sales.

"Consideration for clean diesel engines has been consistent over the past several years of the study, while that of flexible fuel engines has decreased. With the current push of clean diesel by European automakers, we anticipate this will start to increase while consideration for flexible fuel will continue to decrease, especially as other alternative fueled engines continue to come to market." Source: Harris Interactive

Although this decline is bad news for automakers that have invested in flex fuel technology, the decline is not altogether unexpected. Flex fuel vehicles running on E85 are noticeably less fuel-efficient than the same vehicle running on traditional gasoline — about 15 percent less efficient. When you add the reduced fuel efficiency in with the fluctuating price of E85, consumers may end up paying several hundred dollars more per year for a vehicle that only has a nominal benefit to the environment.

On the other hand, interest in vehicles with an ECO drive assistant or a start stop system is on the rise. In the last year, interest in ECO drive assistant equipped vehicles has doubled — 19 percent of respondents this year said they were very likely or extremely likely to consider purchasing an ECO drive assistant equipped vehicle with a $250 premium.

Consumers are even more interested in vehicles with a start stop system. Twenty percent are very or extremely likely to purchase a new vehicle with a start stop system even if that vehicle comes with a $500 premium charge. A vehicle equipped with either an ECO drive assistant or a start system can be up to 10 percent more fuel efficient than a similar vehicle without the added technology.

Overall, this survey shows that Americans are still focused on fuel efficiency at a good price. The more fuel efficient a vehicle is, the less money the consumer spends on gasoline. The less expensive the technology is, the more money the consumer saves up front. Although alternative-fuel vehicles have far more environmental benefits than more fuel-efficient gasoline engines, the financial bottom line is still on most consumers’ minds.

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