Fuel efficiency and hybrid technology are no mere passing fancies, but represent a “permanent” consumer shift that automakers must address, industry executives say.
According to Automotive News, their belief is captured in a global survey of auto industry leaders released Thursday (Jan. 4) by the U.S. tax and audit firm KPMG LLG.
The survey may tip the hand on upcoming product directions, since the KPMG predictions are typically based on plans the executives know to be under discussion or in the pipeline.
The survey found that 89% of the 150 participants believe fuel efficiency has become the most prominent issue in vehicle purchases. Last year, 87% of the executives told KPMG that the leading factor in consumer decisions was product quality.
The executives predicted that hybrid-power vehicles will become a greater force in U.S. sales this year, rising from about 200,000 sales in 2006 to as many as 500,000 in 2007. That volume of hybrid sales would strain existing worldwide production capacity of the vehicles.
As far as growth in other product segments, the executives split regionally.
• 67% of North American executives believe crossover sales will increase over the next five years
• 57% of European executives say that luxury-segment vehicles will increase
• 37% of Asian executives predict growth in large pick-up sales.
But there also is some regional disagreement on how the industry will be able to cater to a shift toward more fuel-efficiency, according to Daron Gifford, KPMG’s national automotive industry leader.
“A lot of the executives told us that, when it comes to shifting the product mix to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, they will rely on alliances to get there,” Gifford says. But that forecast was hazy.
At Asian automotive companies, which already have a leg-up on small and fuel-efficient products, 81% of the executives predicted an increase in global consolidations and alliances, while 58% of North American executives believe such events are on the horizon. Among Western European executives, 32% foresee these changes.