More than half of Australia’s drivers are now “seriously considering” buying a hybrid car instead of a purely petrol-powered option, according to a Roy Morgan survey of more than 50,000 people.
The organisation’s market-specific Automotive Currency Report published findings based on in-person interviews with more than 50,000 Australians at home, up to September 2018, including 37,000 current drivers and the rest aged over 14 and intending to be drivers within four years.
Not only did Roy Morgan’s staff find 52.2 per cent of Australians would now consider a hybrid such as a Toyota Corolla, Camry or Prius (48.8 per cent last year), but also found growth in buyer interest towards fully electric vehicles (like the niche Tesla Model S or BMW i3).
According to the data, 36.2 per cent of those interviewed would look at an EV as an alternative to petrol (up from 31.6 per cent just 12 months ago).
This insight comes as our market gears up for an influx of battery-powered offerings from the relatively affordable Hyundai Kona Electric and Nissan Leaf, to the premium Audi e-tron quattro, Mercedes-Benz EQC and Jaguar I-Pace.
Interestingly, the study also found a total of 56.1 per cent of those interviewed would consider some form of electrified vehicle (that’s hybrid or EV, with a clear overlap evident) over a purely petrol-fired car.
By contrast, only 45.4 per cent would now consider a diesel vehicle as an alternative to petrol, meaning hybrids are now seen as a better alternative than oil-burners to a majority of respondents.
Although diesel is facing declining consideration, the fact that it's still on the radar for 45.5 per cent of drivers accounts for the fact that a relatively high 24.8 per cent still consider it to be the most likely fuel for their next car.
This would be most evident in the ute and van space, and among large SUV buyers. Don't forget, the nation's two top-selling new vehicles both almost unanimously run on diesel: the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger utes.
About 78 per cent of vehicles out there are believed to run on petrol at the moment, but this will decline since only 63.7 per cent of responders want their next car to be an internal-combustion, petrol-only proposition, according to the survey.
“This is not surprising as we have seen a high level of consideration for alternatives to petrol which will ultimately translate to increased buying intentions,” Roy Morgan said.
“Although only around 1 per cent of vehicles are currently either hybrid or fully electric they are likely to face a major increase in sales in the coming years as shown by the fact that 10.6 per cent say that their next vehicle is likely to be ether hybrid (8.0 per cent) or fully electric (2.6 per cent).”
According to industry VFACTS sales data, of the circa 1.07 million new vehicles sold in Australia between January and November 2018, about 63 per cent (673,293 total) were petrol, about 35 per cent were diesel (378,411 including trucks and buses), and the fractional remainders were hybrid (12,628 total) and EV/PHEV (1251).
It’s worth noting, however, annual sales of hybrid passenger-type cars (up 21 per cent to 11,153, mostly from Toyota and Lexus) are nearly as high as diesel passenger cars (13,088, down 22 per cent). Passenger cars are, in short, defined as vehicles that aren't SUVs, vans, utes, buses or trucks.
Attached to the report excerpt was a quote from Roy Morgan’s Industry Communications Director, Norman Morris, who said:
Source: Roy Morgan
“Attitudes regarding petrol alternatives for vehicles have changed considerably over the last few years. Those alternatives considered more environmentally friendly than the traditional internal combustion engines, mainly hybrids and fully electric, have seen increased consideration.
“This is largely as a result of major car brands continuing to develop and produce new models that make alternate fuels an affordable and practical reality. A recent example of this is that Volkswagen has just announced that it will launch its last generation of vehicles using combustion engines in 2026 and focus on electric cars instead.
“Vehicle purchase intentions can be influenced by fuel considerations, however to date, this has been a long term indicator in converting this to actual sales. This is illustrated by the fact that despite high consideration levels among Australians for both hybrid and fully electric vehicles over the last eight years, they still account for around only 1 per cent of total vehicles.
Source: Roy Morgan
“The challenge is to convert fuel consideration into vehicle sales. There are some positive signs in this research that this will occur, as evidenced by the fact that there has been a very positive level of drivers saying that their next car is most likely to be a hybrid or fully electric.”
It's worth noting that market leader Toyota, which owns close to 20 per cent total market share, will offer eight hybrid car lines by 2020, and currently about 40 per cent of Camrys sold are petrol-electric.