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Study: $5 Gas Not Enough To Give Green Light To Hybrid Cars

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Gas prices may be soaring toward the $5-a-gallon mark, but one survey suggests the spike won't be enough to fuel a boom for eco-friendly cars.

A study from J.D. Power and Associates finds that despite a surge in production of alternative fuel vehicles, automakers will have to fight for their share of the relatively few consumers willing to go green.

The main reason: shoppers fear the high price tag for most hybrid and electric vehicles may be too high to offset the savings they can expect at the pump.

Mike Van Nieuwkuyk, director of global vehicle research at J.D. Power, told KNX 1070 consumer reluctance is based on wondering just how much — or even if — the green premium will pay off.


"You've got many more hybrid options from most every manufacturer and it exists almost in every level of the market, so consumers who traditionally bought vehicles that were gas engines now have a "cousin" that is a hybrid," Van Nieuwkuyk said.

And it's while the environmental benefits of these vehicles are a major element in the marketing of these vehicles, shoppers cite them far less frequently than their fuel economy.

The study shows that 75 percent of consumers who indicate they would consider a hybrid electric vehicle cite lower fuel costs as the biggest factor in their decision to buy, while half say the car's main benefit is that it's "better for the environment".

Van Nieuwkuyk also hints at a "been there, done that" attitude among drivers, but warns that $5 gas might help produce a shift in consumer attitudes.

"They're more likely to hold back and say 'Hey, I can survive'," he added. "It's the premium, though, that really is in the way for consumers to make that decision."

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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