TABLE 4.1 Car-Buying Motivations, 2005 and 2011

Motivation to Consider Buying New Car April 2005 (%) August 2011 (%)
Old car had high mileage 34.3 25.7
Old car needed frequent repairs 17.3 14.3
Needed additional vehicle for family 18.0 11.9
Needed vehicle with more room 12.0 12.3
Lease expired 9.7 9.5
Wanted new vehicle 6.5 8.0
Wanted better fuel economy 21.9 16.7
Not sure/other 18.3 22.4
Liked styling of new models 16.3 12.3
Wanted vehicle with better safety features 14.6 11.5
Financing deals/incentives too good to pass up 13.8 11.7
Significant other wanted new car 17.6 16.1
Wanted car with new infotainment equipment (navigation, DVD player, etc.) 11.8 7.9

NOTE: Sum of totals exceeds 100 percent because respondents could provide multiple responses.
SOURCE: BIG Research, Consumer Intentions and Reactions, April 2005, August 2011, proprietary information prepared for the committee by request.

however. Table 4.1 shows surveys of retail consumers taken in two periods—2005 and 2011—representing different economic conditions.

A large number of LDVs are purchased each year for commercial and government fleets, and those purchases are not reflected in Table 4.1 or in Figure 4.1, both of which examine trends among retail consumers. Yet the fleet segment is one in which a substantial number of AFVs will be sold in the future per private and governmental policies encouraging greater use of highly fuel-efficient vehicles. It is too early to tell how those sales might affect the overall success of any particular AFV or alternative fuel.

As these surveys show, replacing a vehicle for reasons including high mileage (age), the frequency of repairs, expired leases, and/or the perceived need for a vehicle of a different size account for more than half the stated reasons for buying a new vehicle. Reasons stated as “wants” or desires rather than needs ran a close second. The need to acquire a new vehicle because the old one was wearing out remains a strong motivation but has diminished in importance among those who purchase their vehicles as vehicle reliability and quality have improved—providing for longer-lived cars and trucks in our garages. Lessees, of course, replace their vehicles more frequently, and typically for reasons other than age-related wear. But leasing accounts for just 20 percent of the new-vehicle market (Automotive News, 2012). The need or desire for a vehicle with better fuel economy, however, has concurrently increased in importance over the past few decades as primary motivation for new-car purchase. (Note: The decline in stated importance of fuel economy between 2005 and 2011 as shown in Table 4.1, is a result of the unusually high level of importance attached to fuel economy that was shown in the April 2005 BIG Research survey and was spurred by gasoline price increases at the time.) The trend of fuel efficiency rising in importance along with fuel prices


FIGURE 4.1 Small vehicle market share (retail sales only) and fuel cost (in 2011 dollars).
NOTE: Recession-driven sales of less-expensive models 4.1 helped Alt keep Vehicles. small-vehicle market share high despite fuel price declines in 2009 and 2010.
SOURCE: Data provided by’s Data Center; chart prepared for committee by

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement