Consumer Reports: Car Buyers Don't Care About Fuel Efficiency

Last Updated Jan 19, 2010 3:43 PM EST

The recession and lower gas prices produced a weird side effect among American consumers. They want to save money, but somehow it doesn't translate into caring about fuel efficiency.

The recently released Consumer Reports 2010 Car Brand Perception survey (Hat tip to Morgan Downey of Scare Whales) found safety, quality and value as the three most important factors car owners consider when buying a new car. The green or fuel economy factor? It actually dropped in importance for consumers by eight percentage points to 32 percent in 2010. Technology/innovation was the only other category that dropped in "importance" among consumers surveyed for the report.

At the same time, the brand that received the worst brand perception score was the Hummer. Which leaves the American consumers somewhere between oversized gas hogs and hybrid vehicles.

Or as Consumer Reports put it (also highlighted by Scarce Whales):

"In a troubled economy, with gas prices relatively low, green in the wallet trumps environmental concerns."
Among brands with green cars, Ford made some environmentally friendly gains in brand perception. The report speculates the automaker made in roads with consumers through its new Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids and sales from the Cash for Clunkers program.

Fuel efficiency can't remain in the backseat for long. Gas prices, which have been steadily rising over the past 12 months, will snap consumer attention back to the importance of fuel economy. And if Goldman Sachs' forecast that crude supply will fail to keep pace with a recovery in demand, the importance of fuel efficiency among consumers will rise right along with sales of green cars.