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Survey on green cars points to more efficient engines

Ford this week revealed results of a poll it commissioned. Don’t worry, it wasn’t focused on brand specifics. Instead, it looked at car buyers’ attitudes to green cars, and how many people are actively environmentally conscious when it comes to choosing new models and the makers to buy them from.

Turns out, Europeans are very environmentally conscious, perhaps more so than many realised. Indeed, 35% reckon they would willingly spend more on an eco-conscious car, despite 71% of them saying they are now spending less on general outgoings overall.

In other words, despite people cutting back in every area of their life, one in three would still be willing to fork out a bit more for a green car when they next change their motor.

That’s a remarkable stat, particularly given the current European economic crisis, not least the threat of a triple-dip recession here in the UK. But then, if you look at the virtuous circle that you get when owning a green car, maybe the logic shouldn’t be too surprising after all.

Ford Fiesta 2013 UK

As we know, green cars give out fewer emissions, particularly CO2. How do they do this? Not through black magic: it’s simply through using less fuel in the first place. In the age of the £6 gallon, using less fuel is good, and so green is good. That the environment benefits are there too is almost a happy consequence of many motorists’ prime aims for driving a green car.

The Ford survey goes on: 60% of people reckon they prefer to choose cars from makers that have clearly stated their desire to be environmentally friendly. But 68% of them also admit they are far more aware of fuel efficiency when driving these days – and 71% say they consider fuel economy to be a major factor when choosing a new car.

New and used car buyers are more environmentally conscious than ever, but one of their prime buying considerations remains fuel economy. That the two are directly related simply strengthens the case for car makers to make their cars green.

The results seem to have surprised Ford, which clearly didn’t expect such goodwill towards more expensive green cars given the economic challenges faced in Europe.

“The survey shows that even in economically difficult times there is a clear desire for vehicles that are more environmentally friendly,” said Barb Samardzich, vice president Product Development, Ford of Europe.

He went on to add the company line: “Ford is extremely focused on meeting this demand now and in the future, and this goes hand-in-hand with delivering products that help reduce running costs.”

But what caught my eye was a statement from Ford’s vice president of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, Andreas Ostendorf. “The majority of car buyers prefer fuel-efficient vehicles, even if only a minority feel they can afford to invest in one given the current economic climate,” he said.

This is interesting: it sheds a different light onto Ford’s headline stat – two thirds of people are NOT willing to spend more on green cars, even though MORE than two thirds of them actually want them. And Ford’s aware of this.

What’s the answer? Democratisation of green fuel-saving technology. And it’s here where the Ford clincher is: it feels, with engine such as the downsized Ecoboost range and its advanced diesels, it has this. No expensive hybrids, no costly plug-in electric cars, simply engines that do more to the gallon than other engines, without costing too much more than them to buy.

The 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine is the current star. It debuted in Focus, is now in Fiesta (99g/km CO2 emissions ‘n all) and has just been launched in C-Max too. Yes, a seven-seat Grand C-Max is now available, that can do 54mpg and emit less than 120g/km CO2 – and it’s not a diesel! Whichever way you look at it, that’s all kinds of impressive.

“Through its Econetic variants and range of 1.0-litre EcoBoost-equipped vehicles,” believes Ostendorf, “Ford is providing the right balance between climate protection, social equity and customer acceptance.”

Given the results of the Ford-commissioned survey carried out by The Futures Company mobility consultancy, you’d have to say Ford’s perhaps onto something here.

Last year, the Fiesta was the UK’s best-selling car: it was the only car to sell more than 100,000 units and outsold the next-best Vauxhall Corsa by a mighty 20,000 units (and this was despite it being in model change year!). So, any way of rolling out greener Fiestas that don’t cost any more than less-green Fiestas is a good thing: it will help many more people save money on fuel and have a much bigger impact on the environment than a few thousand hybrids.

Tapping into European buyers’ greater eco consciousness looks like it’s going to be a key trend for car makers in the future. Buyers want it, so they have to offer it. The best days of mass-market green cars may just be about to begin…

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Richard Aucock

Filed under: Ford, Weekly Column

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