Innovation for Business Success

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Why Do People Buy Hybrid Cars?

Wan Ying Chua, Alvin Lee & Saalem Sadeque, The University of Western Australia

Abstract
This article reports on the underlying dimensions used by petrol-electric hybrid and conventional car buyers when evaluating a vehicle with the intent to purchase. Buyers of conventionally fuelled vehicles reported that they considered quality and performance as the most important determinants of choice. They rated as least important, the image they derive from driving a particular car and social influence. On the other hand, petrol-electric hybrid car buyers reported that social influence and projecting a “green” image were most important considerations and quality and appeal were least important. These findings provide social marketers with a crucial understanding that helps in the selection of an appropriate model to promote the diffusion of eco-friendly vehicles. Why Do People Buy Hybrid Cars?

Consumers are buying increasing numbers of environmentally friendly cars. Increasingly, many of these environmentally conscious consumers choose to purchase petrol-electric hybrid vehicles. In this category of “greener-cars”, Toyota’s Prius model is reported to be the market leader. In 2009-10, it was the best-selling car in Japan, an important leading market for automobile trends (Mick 2010). Sales of the Prius keep growing despite well-publicised quality and safety problems (Mitchell & Linebaugh 2010). In fact, the demand for petrol-electric hybrids is so strong that Toyota has introduced a second and larger Camry branded hybrid vehicle into Australia. Other car manufacturers are following with their own models, indicating that there is likely to be sustained demand for this type of light-duty passenger vehicle.

Toyota markets the Prius as an environmentally better alternative to conventional vehicles because it uses less fuel and has lower emissions. This marketing position appears to appeal to consumers who do not wish to further degrade the environment. It has been suggested that these consumers choose to help by driving a car that is more environmentally friendly (Griskevicius, Tybur & Van den Bergh 2010; Bamberg 2003). Popular sentiment has it that intrinsic motives to preserve the environment are the driving force behind the popularity of these vehicles. This is because consumers keep buying petrol-electric hybrid cars like the Prius even though they cost more then twice the amount of a comparable conventional car. But are intrinsic reasons really why consumers choose to buy a car like the Prius? Are there other reasons behind its popularity?

It has been recognized that encouraging the adoption of environmentally friendly products is a key challenge for the behavioural scientists (Kaplan 2000). This appears to be why there has been a great deal of research into the reasons behind this adoption. This article seeks to add to this knowledge by exploring the reasons that drive adoption of environmentally friendlier automobiles, specifically, the petrol-electric hybrids that are gaining popularity. This information may potentially be valuable to increase adoption rates for other environmentally friendly products and ideas.

Previous Research

Environmental sensitivity and consumption

The currently popular paradigm for discussing the environment originated in the 1970s, when the ideas of global warming and finite oil reserves were first proposed (Minton & Rose 1997; Pelletier et al. 1998). While some debate continues on the veracity of these propositions, this thinking has influenced the way people live by increasing their efforts to reduce energy use and to have fewer by-products as a result of consumption. It has been suggested that this type of thinking has led some consumers to prefer products like the Prius (Jansson, Marrell & Nordlund 2009). These consumers with ecological and environmental concerns have been described in various ways,...
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