Last week J.D. Power and Associates reported the overwhelming reason why consumers buy hybrid or electric vehicles is improved “gas mileage” followed by environmental impact.

As for why they do not buy them, the J.D. Powers’ 2013 Avoider Study found 36 percent of new vehicle shoppers avoid hybrids and EVs because of “cost/price” and 25 percent avoid them because of exterior styling.

But while more than a third are still balking at the sticker price or payments, J.D. Powers notes measurable improvements in the quality index for vehicles of all types, including hybrids and EVs.

Looking at the general auto market including hybrids and EVs, a given vehicle’s reputation for reliability only prevented 17 percent of new car shoppers from buying compared to 19 percent in 2012 and 21 percent in 2009.

Powers noted perceptions of reliability and dependability have improved along with the actual quality of the vehicles. The average number of problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) after three years of ownership has decreased to 132 PP100 in 2012 from 170 PP100 in 2009, said the researchers.

“Improved actual and perceived reliability has leveled the playing field, allowing many manufacturers to be considered among new-vehicle shoppers that may not have been considered in the past,” said Jon Osborn, research director at J.D. Power and Associates. “Factors, such as gas mileage, styling and comfort, play an important role in the decision-making process. The study findings suggest that marketing a brand image is just as important as building reliable vehicles.”

Surveying the general auto market, J.D. Powers found shoppers rejected cars at nearly the same rate as hybrids and EVs – 33 percent avoid a model because they do not like its exterior look or design, while 19 percent of shoppers do not consider a model because they don’t like its interior look or design.

“The impact that design and brand image have on new-vehicle shoppers is substantial,” said Osborn. “Shoppers are concerned about what the vehicle says about them as people and how it can express their individual tastes, just as much as it is about being reliable or
holding its value throughout the tenure of ownership.”

Gas mileage, it was found, also mirrored hybrids and EVs as the strongest reason for why people bought – 15 percent of new-vehicle buyers in 2013 said it was the primary reason for purchasing their vehicle. Further, new car owners under age 25 cited gas mileage as the most influential purchase reason more often than their older counterparts.

And coming back to those hybrid and EV buyers, Osborn summed it up saying while looks and price matter a lot to people, the cost of fuel and environment matter more to those who opt for hybrids or EVs.

“Hybrid and electric vehicle owners want to get the most out of a gallon of gas and minimize the environmental impact, even if that means spending more money to purchase the vehicle,” said Osborn.

J.D. Powers via AutoGuide