Alternative Fuel-Powered Cars Winning Over Millennial Drivers

Alternative fuel vehicles have been around for quite a long time: The first electric vehicle was built way back in 1839, and steam-powered cars had been invented well before then. But, interesting, consumers were thoroughly unimpressed with the first production models of alternative fuel cars that were unveiled in the 20th century.

However, that attitude has changed dramatically – and the results of a recent survey by Deloitte LLP reflect that shift in perception.

The firm’s annual survey of Millennial (aka “Gen Y”) auto consumers reveals that a solid majority prefer a vehicle with electric fuel capability over a traditional gas-powered vehicle. In fact, 57% of the poll’s respondents would purchase a vehicle with hybrid technology before they would buy one which runs solely on gasoline.

The Deloitte survey polled 1,500 American, 250 Chinese, and 300 Western European Millennials in September and October of 2011. Millennials are identified as people who are between the ages of 19 and 31. It is believed that one out of every four new vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2012 will be bought by a Millennial – and that percentage rises to 40% over the next decade. So it’s easy to see why automakers and car insurance companies want to know what these almost 80 million Americans are thinking.

But these young adults aren’t dissatisfied enough with gas-combustion engines to avoid them completely. Perhaps the most surprising finding in the survey is that only 2% of respondents would opt for an “electric-only” vehicle. That indicates a willingness to reduce — but not eliminate — the periodic trips to the gas pumps. In addition, Millennials favor a non-pug-in hybrid over a plug-in counterpart by a more than 2 to 1 margin.

Another interesting poll result is the underlying reason why Millennials prefer hybrid cars over gas-powered ones: money. A whopping 89% of those surveyed would want a vehicle with excellent gas mileage, which would reduce their fuel costs. So while the trendy appeal of owning a “green” car might be a consideration, Millennials are turning to hybrids primarily because of the impact on their wallets.

So what can we glean from this survey? First and foremost, it’s readily apparent that the alternative fuel vehicle market has fully matured. A major slice of the car-buying public is seriously considering a hybrid vehicle – meaning that today’s alternative fuel offerings have as many safety features, style points, and bells and whistles as its competitors do.

But perhaps more importantly, the growth in the hybrid vehicle industry is now morphing from a government-funded effort (through tax breaks and incentives) into a consumer-driven phenomenon. And when they go to dealer lots these days, young adults are discovering that what’s available to them is a far cry from their fathers’ alternative fuel vehicles.

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