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New consumer research suggests large majority of U.S. consumers are interested in Start-Stop vehicles

Wed, 05/23/2012 - 11:53am
PRNewswire

MILWAUKEE, /PRNewswire/ -- New consumer research conducted by Johnson Controls, the world's leading supplier of automotive batteries, finds that 97 percent of Americans are ready for new Start-Stop technology that improves the fuel economy of their vehicle.

The research was conducted to gain understanding of how consumers view fuel-saving power train technologies based on attributes such as purchase price, fuel economy, annual fuel cost and performance. Focus groups across U.S. major metropolitan areas, along with 1,200 survey respondents, provided feedback on efficient vehicle technologies.

"This research further confirms that while U.S. consumers are still generally unfamiliar with the technology, Start-Stop vehicles willprovide the improved fuel economy and performance they want, at a price that is acceptable to them," said Kim Metcalf-Kupres, vice president for Global Strategy and Marketing, Johnson Controls Power Solutions. "Most people will pay a little more for better fuel economy, as long as they don't have to sacrifice performance." Start-Stop is a proven technology, first introduced in Europe, that automatically shuts the engine off during idle, and restarts when the driver releases the brake pedal or engages the clutch, resulting in improved fuel economy and emissions reductions. The system relies on an advanced lead-acid battery that can handle the deep cycling requirements of more frequent starts throughout the course of a trip. It works with a traditional internal combustion engine so the technology is much simpler and lower in cost than hybrid or electric vehicles today.

According to the research, most consumers like the idea of their engine turning off at idle. The majority like the idea because of fuel cost savings, and another quarter of consumers think the idea "just makes sense." Additionally, more than one-third of those surveyed would pay up to $500 for a 5 percent improvement in fuel economy, and that figure rises significantly when increased fuel prices, lower premiums, or greater fuel economy is considered. The findings are important as governmental regulations are requiring automakers to meet stricter fuel economy standards for their fleets. In the United States, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards will require vehicle fleets meet 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 and 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

"Our customers are working across the entire technology spectrum from traditional gas engines to hybrid and electric vehicles to determine the correct mix of vehicle options to meet increasing standards," said Metcalf-Kupres. "Start-Stop vehicles, which achieve 5 percent to 10 percent fuel economy for minimal added cost to consumers, will help automakers meet those initial objectives."

The annual production of Start-Stop vehicles is expected to grow from 3 million today almost entirely in the European market, to 35 million globally by 2015. Start-Stop vehicles could achieve 40 percent of the new vehicle market in the United States in that same time frame.

"We need to rethink how we're talking about clean technology in the automotive space," said MaryAnn Wright, vice president Global Technology and Innovation, Johnson Controls Power Solutions. "Clean technology isn't just about electric vehicles. It's about implementing proven technology that large numbers of consumers are willing to purchase. Our research indicates that near-term mass commercialization of more fuel efficient vehicles will come from the traditional gas engine, led by Start-Stop, and will be followed in the long-term by broader adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles as they become more proven and affordable."

The research was conducted with gas prices ranging from $4 to $6. Consumer willingness to pay is based on gas prices at $4.  Consumers were increasingly comfortable with added cost at vehicle purchase as the price of gas increases. Additionally, U.S. consumers expect that fuel prices will range between $4 and $5 over the next three years.

This research, commissioned by Johnson Controls, was conducted by a number of external research organizations between October 2011 and January 2012. Eight focus groups were utilized in four U.S. cities along with in-depth conjoint analysis of U.S. consumers who currently own a vehicle and have the intention of purchasing a new vehicle within the next 24 months.

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