Dependence on foreign oil, increasing fuel costs and concerns for the environment have forced OEMs to develop solutions to improve the efficiency of new vehicles and their response could be seen at the North American International Auto Show which was held in Detroit from January 9 - January 22, 2012.
For those consumers wishing to stick with gasoline engines, Mazda's Skyactiv technology is something worth considering. Skyactiv is the combination of an efficient high compression gasoline engine, a state-of-the-art transmission and a lightweight chassis. Skyactiv delivers 40 miles per gallon in the current version of the Mazda3.
The leading hybrid manufacturers continue to expand their lineups and offer new configurations. Toyota is expanding the Prius platform to include several variants including a plug-in hybrid version and the Highlander SUV and popular Camry are also available in hybrid form. Ford displayed new versions of the Escape and Fusion. Ford also introduced the C-Max, which will only be available in a hybrid format.
The number of plug-in vehicles has increased with Chevrolet's Volt and Nissan's LEAF receiving most of the fanfare while Tesla's Model S provides a plug-in electric option in the luxury segment. Ford, Toyota and Honda have announced plans for plug-in hybrids with some of these products available as early as spring 2012.
Lastly we have our old friend, the diesel engine. The European OEMs including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen continue to highlight the efficiency of their clean diesel technologies and a diesel version of the Chevrolet Cruze is expected to hit dealer lots in 2013. I believe diesel engines provide the best mix of fuel efficiency and power and would like to see diesel engines more prevalent in the U.S. market. An increase in the number of diesel options is evidence of a shift to diesel and according to Audi, which has diesel versions of the A3 and Q7, 50% of these vehicles sold are in diesel form.
There is no doubt the industry is changing and advanced research is providing consumers with more options than ever before. More importantly these options provide consumers with the opportunity to respond to fuel efficiency in manner consistent with their economic, environmental and political concerns.
Posted by Brad Smith, Director, Loyalty Management Practice, Polk (01.25.2012)