Senior automotive executives are expected to increase their investment in new technologies to produce more environmentally-friendly, fuel-efficient vehicles. This is the conclusion reached by the 11th annual global automotive survey conducted by KPMG LLP, the US audit, tax and advisory firm. Of the 200 senior executives surveyed worldwide, nine in ten expect manufacturers and suppliers to focus on new technologies, while 88 percent predict manufacturers will increase investment on new models/products and 78 percent say suppliers will do the same.

Hybrid Seen As Most Important Fuel Technology

When asked to rate the importance of alternative fuel technologies over the next five years, hybrid fuel systems came out on top (almost 85 percent), followed by battery electric power (68 percent), fuel cell electric power (63 percent), and biodiesel (42 percent).

"The consumer mindset on fuel efficiency is forcing automakers to build more fuel efficient cars and to create new product that satisfies demand,"said Gary Silberg, National Automotive Industry leader for KPMG LLP.

The survey results come on the heels of sales data released earlier in the week showing that 2009 industry sales in the US were 21.2% lower than sales in 2008.

Fuel Efficiency Cited As Key Purchase Factor

The key question of course is: How much of the emphasis on fuel efficiency is the result of economic conditions, how much is due to stubbornly high fuel prices, and how much is due to climate change and environmental concerns?

The survey suggests that both fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness are driving consumer demand. When asked what would influence consumer purchase decisions over the next five years, fuel efficiency was most frequently cited (94 percent), fairly flat from last year's high of 96 percent, followed by environmental friendliness (just over 80 percent). Other consumer desires were significantly lower including safety innovation (71 percent) and vehicle styling (61 percent).

When asked which vehicles the executives expect will see sales increases over the next five years, hybrid fuel vehicles (almost 93 percent) were most frequently named, followed by other alternative fuel vehicles (83 percent), low cost or introduction cars (82 percent), cars (66 percent), cross-overs (46 percent) and small pick-up trucks (just under 45 percent).

Most surprising were the responses on incentives, including discounts, rebates and free offers. When asked to name which vehicles might see an increase in incentives during the next year, the top prediction was SUVs (53%). But almost an equal number of the auto executives surveyed responded that incentives would be increased for hybrid fuel vehicles (almost 50 percent) and other alternative fuel vehicles (48 percent).

John Howley
Orlando, Florida

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