Still Concerned About Gas Mileage

Though its price has inched back up in recent weeks, after falling steeply in late summer and fall, a gallon of gas is one of the great bargains in the consumer marketplace these days. (At press time, the national average price was $1.91.) So, has gas mileage receded as a high-priority factor in the purchase decisions of new-car buyers? Not according to the most recent figures in a new report from Acxiom, which recounts the firm’s tracking throughout the year of car-shopper attitudes.

The report shows new-car buyers remained chastened at least through November, the most recent month for which data were available. Indeed, the number of respondents citing the desire for better gas mileage as a motivating factor was a couple percentage points higher in November (32 percent) than it had been in July, when pump prices peaked at $4.11. The November findings showed gas mileage outranking such factors as “tired of old car” (19 percent, down from 24 percent in January 2008) and “wanted vehicle with new ‘tech toys'” (7 percent, down from 11 percent in January 2008).

In its own analysis of the findings, Acxiom notes a swing away from “want” factors (for instance, the desire for a gadget-laden vehicle) and toward “need” considerations (like the urgency of replacing a car that’s worn out). Interest in “safety features” is an exception to that pattern, as the number of car shoppers expressing interest in this category fluctuated seemingly at random throughout 2008, from a low of 12 percent in March to a high of 21 percent a couple months later.