Growing Anti-SUV Sentiment Sends Warning To Automakers

Group warns of "rough road" ahead for carmakers and SUV owners.

Published: 03-Mar-2003

CINCINNATI, March 3 /PRNewswire/ -- A significant number of influential online consumers are sympathetic to anti-Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) campaigns and sentiments, a finding that could have an effect on future buying behaviors in the automobile dealers' showroom.

Indeed, anti-SUV feelings are particularly strong among non-SUV owners, under-25 drivers and older drivers, with growing numbers of consumers expressing interest in alternative-fuel vehicles, according to a survey and analysis by PlanetFeedback, a Cincinnati firm specializing in real-time consumer insights and online discussion monitoring.

"Clearly, there's rough terrain ahead for auto manufacturers and SUV owners," said Pete Blackshaw, founder and chief marketing officer at PlanetFeedback. "The very consumers who shape and influence opinions are raising concerns, and the auto industry would be wise to stay tuned to the pulse of the consumer marketplace to stay competitive and relevant."

PlanetFeedback collected the data by analyzing thousands of SUV-related messages and postings on public Internet discussion boards and by surveying nearly 1,800 consumers identified as influential because of their online activity and tendency to spread their opinions to others. Among the findings:

    * 27% of the survey respondents said anti-SUV publicity campaigns are
      justified, such as those by The Detroit Project that link SUV ownership
      with foreign-oil dependence and the support of terrorism in oil-rich
      countries. Support was highest among under-25 drivers and those over 55.

    * 20% of all consumers polled (slightly more men than women) said they
      would rethink their plans to purchase an SUV based on the negative
      publicity.

    * Importantly, while most SUV owners are unsympathetic to negative
      campaigns, 10% said they would rethink their purchase behavior because
      of the anti-SUV publicity. "The switching behavior of existing SUV
      drivers is sure to have most noticeable impact on other drivers, in that
      current SUV owners have credibility with the issue and relevant
      experience with these vehicles," Blackshaw said.

    * About one-third of survey respondents (owners and non-owners alike)
      support the development of alternative-fuel vehicles, including
      gas-electric hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell SUVs. Support is highest
      among 19-24-year-olds.

PlanetFeedback will host an online seminar ("webinar") on its SUV study 4-5 p.m. on Thursday, March 13. In addition, the report, "Rough Terrain Ahead for SUVs," is for sale to interested buyers. Webinar registration is available online at http://biz.planetfeedback.com/bizsite/pressevents_events.jsp . To register by phone, or for more information about the report, call 1-800-333-3222 (1-800-FEEDBACK).

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