What Could Happen If Fuel Hits $3 a Gallon

If gas prices reach more than $3 a gallon, as predicted by many energy analysts, in-market vehicle buyers' purchase decisions will be profoundly affected. So indicates the latest AutoVIBES poll from Harris Interactive and Kelley Blue Book Market Research reveals that Forty-seven percent of U.S. adult consumers in the market to buy a vehicle in the next several months have already changed their minds

If gas prices reach more than $3 a gallon, as predicted by many energy analysts, in-market vehicle buyers' purchase decisions will be profoundly affected.

So indicates the latest AutoVIBES poll from Harris Interactive and Kelley Blue Book Market Research reveals that Forty-seven percent of U.S. adult consumers in the market to buy a vehicle in the next several months have already changed their minds to buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle or will consider vehicles they would not normally look at due to the increase in gas prices.

An additional 30% say that they will seriously consider a more fuel efficient vehicle if gas prices rise by 75 cents, bringing the total percentage of those likely to be affected to 77%.

Two of the chief manufacturers of large SUVs, Ford and General Motors, both saw a sales decline in that segment as gas prices rose in March. If gas prices do reach the $3-a-gallon level, the figure (when inflation-adjusted) will tie the highest gas price of all time reached in 1981.

“Up to now we've seen buyers shifting from large SUVs to small or mid-sized SUVs as fuel prices have risen,” says Jack R. Nerad, editorial director, Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com. “But that could change dramatically if gasoline prices cross consumer pain thresholds.”

He adds, “A $50 or $75 fill-up could push consumers towards hybrid vehicles and smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. This, of course, has serious implications for American manufacturers who have staked so much on the large SUV segment.”

AutoVIBES also reports that consumers' consideration of hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and the Ford Escape Hybrid has doubled from February to March.

In February, only 4% of shoppers said they were interested in buying a gas-electric hybrid vehicle. In March, that jumped to 8%. While still a relatively small number, it's viewed as significant.

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