Why Would Anyone Buy a Hybrid Car?

by JP Kiefer

With some experts expecting the transport sector to contribute to 50% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, hybrid cars may be a great alternative to reduce climate change resulting from increased vehicle use. Despite this, some consumers choose not to drive hybrid vehicles. Ritsuko (2011), claims that this is a result of a car being more than just a utilitarian means of transport, but also an item laden with cultural meaning and image such as identity and status. Ritsuko researched what makes a customer buy a hybrid vehicle in order to discover how to encourage them to do so.

Ritsuko did so by means of a survey with respondents from individuals who purchased a Toyota Prius three to four years previously. This survey was developed with help from four Toyota sales assistants who determined that the average Prius customer was middle-aged, well informed, and professional. Ritsuko developed a survey that divided reasons for buying a car into 5 factors that ended up accounting for 64.83% of the variance in reasons customers bought a Prius. The largest portion of this was the first factor, which was that people bought the Prius because driving it reduces the effects of climate change. This explained 22% of the variance. The second highest factor at 16% of the variance was that driving a Prius would provide a desirable image for the driver, followed by a desire to be considerate to others and being socially responsible at 13%. The fourth factor was that driving the Prius enabled the customer to gain independence from oil producers and provide access to free benefits to hybrid drivers, like specified parking spots at 8%. Finally, the lowest factor was that driving the Prius granted the customer government incentives and to spend less on fuel at 6%.

Overall, environmental friendliness seemed to be the primary motivator for an individual looking to buy a Prius, however this could be utilized better if advertisements highlighted more immediate or local environmental benefits than the global issue of climate change. Ritsuko also suggests that because the cost benefits of the Prius seemed to be of the least importance to consumers, government incentives should be aimed towards low-income families who would not be able to afford a hybrid otherwise.

Ritsuko, R., Sevastyanova, K., 2011. Going Hybrid: An Analysis of Consumer Purchase Motivations. Energy Policy 39, 2217-2227.


TAGS: Hybrid Cars, Social Stigma, Climate Change, Demand, New Technologies

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