Lower Gas Prices Not Likely to Reverse Long-Term Driving Changes, Says NPD's Portalatin - aftermarketNews

Lower Gas Prices Not Likely to Reverse Long-Term Driving Changes, Says NPD’s Portalatin

NPD research shows consumers plan to maintain their cars instead of buying new ones.

LAS VEGAS — Even with gas prices below the $3-a-gallon level and American drivers breathing a collective sigh of relief, drivers don’t appear to be in a hurry to go back to their pre-$3-a-gallon behaviors, according to a new survey from market research firm, The NPD Group.

The survey, which asks consumers about their driving and auto maintenance behaviors and vehicle purchase intentions, also finds that many consumers plan on maintaining the vehicles they own, rather than purchasing a new one.

“With gas prices down, consumers are likely to reverse the short-term driving pattern changes they made when gas prices were high, but it’s unlikely that the consumers who made more permanent changes, like changing jobs to work closer to home, will go back to their previous driving behaviors,” says David Portalatin, director of industry analysis for NPD’s automotive division. “Consumers’ concern about the economy and the fact that many believe gas prices will soon go up again, also impacts their driving behaviors.”

Portalatin touched on this subject Wednesday in his comments during AAIA’s Town Hall breakfast at AAPEX.

The NPD survey of 1,363 consumers captures the changes consumers made to cope with high gas prices. In addition to driving less miles, consumers changed their commuting methods (e.g., carpooled), shopping patterns (e.g., reducing or consolidating shopping trips), and took action to increase fuel efficiency (e.g., avoided idling).

Consumers also changed their approach to auto maintenance as it relates to fuel efficiency, according to NPD: More than half of the respondents said they checked the tire pressure, 37 percent changed the air filter and 23 percent replaced the fuel filter. They also reported changing the oil more often; using fuel additives, more premium oil, oil additives or engine treatments to improve performance or gas mileage and purchased higher quality gasoline.

As for purchasing a new vehicle, 61 percent of those surveyed said they are not planning to purchase a new or used vehicle in 2009. Of those consumers who said they were going to purchase a new or used vehicle, 41 percent said they plan to buy a more fuel efficient vehicle, and 43 percent said they possibly would buy a more fuel efficient vehicle. The majority of consumers who said they would buy or possibly buy a more fuel efficient car didn’t select a specific type of fuel efficient vehicle, but 29 percent said they would buy a hybrid.

“When gas prices were high, consumers made conscious changes in all areas of their lives that involved a car,” said Portalatin. “I feel that today’s automotive consumers are more informed about fuel efficiency and have more fuel efficient options available to them. Some will go back to their gas guzzling ways, but many have had their consciousness raised regarding fuel efficiency.”



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