Using Social Marketing to Encourage the Purchase of Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

Using Social Marketing to Encourage the Purchase of Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

Lisa Watson (University of Regina, Canada) and Anne M. Lavack (Thompson Rivers University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4430-4.ch010
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With a looming future shortage of fossil fuels, how can consumers be convinced to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles? To begin to address this basic question, it is necessary to examine consumer attitudes toward the environment, consumer decision-making models, consumer willingness to trade luxury or personal comfort in order to buy smaller and more Fuel-Efficient Vehicles (FEVs), and price sensitivity with regard to purchasing hybrid vehicles or other Alternate Fuel Vehicles (AFVs). By understanding the consumer dynamics behind the purchase of FEVs and AFVs, an effective strategy for social marketing can be developed.
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Consumer Automotive Purchase Decision-Making

In order to understand the relevance of fuel efficiency in vehicle purchasing, it is important to have a broad understanding of the consumer choice process at it relates to automobiles. Past research suggests that there is only moderate willingness on the part of consumers to purchase vehicles that are more fuel efficient (DEFRA, 2008). A possible reason may be that consumers have relatively low awareness of how much fuel they consume or what their fuel costs are over time (Turrentine, Kurani, & Heffner, 2007), and therefore have little understanding of the potential long-range impact that a more fuel efficient vehicle would have on their energy consumption. Another reason may be that when consumers are asked to estimate their annual driving mileage, they seem to consistently underestimate this by approximately 2,000 miles per year on average (Kavalec, 1999). Other possible reasons why consumers are unwilling to buy more fuel efficient vehicles relate to issues of convenience, self-identity, and unwillingness to pay higher initial costs for alternate fuel vehicles.

Discrete Choice Modelling

Much of the literature that considers how consumers choose vehicles involves discrete choice models. Many existing studies have used the same data sets to conduct different model analyses. Much of the data on consumer vehicle choice has been collected in California, where demand for pollution reduction strategies has made consumer willingness to adopt FEVs or AFVs an important issue. These studies are carried out by either asking consumers to predict vehicle choices (stated preference) or by gathering market data on actual purchases (revealed preference). Some of the stated preference studies have used experimental designs that limit the selection of vehicles to choose from, using prior survey results to tailor options for each respondent in a phased design.

The literature on automotive decision-making divides vehicles into two categories. The first category consists of conventional vehicles (powered by gasoline or diesel) which are small and therefore relatively fuel efficient. The second category consists of alternate fuel vehicles (AFVs), including such fuel options as electricity, fossil-derived fuels such as liquid petroleum gas, propane, and compressed natural gas (CNG), bio-fuels such as methanol and ethanol, and hybrid technologies. The literature to date provides evidence that the decision-making processes for conventional vehicles and AFVs differ, thus they are addressed separately here.

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