CFA study shows that gas prices will continue influencing vehicle acquisitions and next-generation engineering

The per-gallon price of gasoline has a huge impact on the auto industry – sales of small cars, hybrids, and electric vehicles compared to trucks and SUVs; resale values of these segments; and capital expenditures by OEMs. Expectations of where oil prices will go in the next two years will play a big part in new vehicle purchases and what OEMs decide to place in their product pipelines. A new study says that US consumers don’t expect gas prices to fall as far down as they did in recent years – and that prices will be going up soon.

The latest national survey on consumer attitudes by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), reported that US consumers expect the national gasoline price average to rise by almost 50% in the next two years – from about $2.14 to $3.20 – and by over 80% in the next five years – to $3.90. While gas pricConsumer Federation of Americaes dropped dramatically in the second half of 2014, consumers are still building these price increases into their next vehicle purchase.

The fuel price volatility experienced in 2008, and again in 2010, has made a lasting impact on consumer attitudes. More than four-fifths (86%) of survey respondents said that gas mileage will be “important” in their next purchase, while over half (57%) say it will be “very important” in determining what vehicle to purchase.

Fleet acquisitions will likely be met with similar considerations. According to fleet industry coverage (such as articles in sibling publication Fleet Management Weekly), fuel prices and fuel efficiency are up there with telematics, vehicle safety, emissions, and functionality as key factors in making fleet vehicle acquisitions.

Major automakers, including commercial truck manufacturers, are going to continue to invest in alternative fuel vehicles and advanced vehicle technologies. Their executives predict that global demand for fuel from fast-growing economies like China, India, and Brazil, will push gas prices higher in the next two years and beyond.

In the end, financial concerns are driving interest in fuel efficiency. “Buying an inefficient vehicle during periods of low gas prices condemns the consumer to wider swings in monthly costs, much higher monthly peaks and a whopping overall increase in lifetime gas costs,” said Dr. Mark Cooper, CFA’s Director of Research, about the CFA study.

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