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Car Buyers Motivated By 'Green'

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Toyota, Honda and Chevrolet are perceived by consumers as selling the most environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient models, according to a new Eco Watch study from Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research.

Sixty percent of respondents reported they were "extremely concerned" or "very concerned" about the environment, citing water and air pollution, global warming and energy shortages as their primary issues.

The online study of 1,000 in-market consumers, taken in September, also found:
* 58% were considering a more fuel-efficient vehicle for their next purchase. On average, they said they would be willing to spend up to $2,600 more on an environmentally friendly vehicle.
* 57% said they had changed their driving habits.
* 58% who have already changed the type of vehicle they are planning to buy said they would not go back to their former vehicle of choice even if gas prices were to drop to $1 a gallon.
* The alternative-fuel technologies they most favored were hybrid engines, hydrogen fuel cells and natural gas vehicles.
* Motorists were most skeptical of biofuel, diesel and battery-electric vehicles.

Half of respondents reported that rising gas prices were a factor in their next car decision or have made them consider vehicles that they heretofore would not have considered. And 75% said they wished there were more alternative fuel vehicles in the marketplace to choose from.

The appearance of Chevrolet right behind Toyota and Honda, names almost required in an talk about fuel-efficiency, "is proof that advertising works," said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book and kbb.com.

"They have been hitting it so hard in their marketing," Nerad said. "And what is ironic is that a lot of that advertising centers on the Volt, which isn't even available."

Hybrids, the alternative fuel technology that has received the most attention, represent only 1.6% of new car sales in August, per CNW Marketing Research, Bandon, Ore.

New diesel models with fuel systems allowing them to meet emissions standards in all 50 states are just starting to appear from Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes. But state taxes and demand have so far kept the clean burning fuel too high in price to make it attractive to most buyers.

According to KBB's Web site, the top 10 "green" cars of 2008 are (in order):