With concern for the environment growing, close to half of Canadians would consider buying a hybrid-fuel vehicle the next time they’re in the market, says a research report. The results of the online survey prepared by Maritz Automotive Research show that although 44% of consumers expressed at least some interest in a hybrid vehicle, only 28% indicated a willingness to pay a premium for such a vehicle. “The survey shows more Canadians are prepared to give hybrids a good, hard look now that they’re on the street, and are beginning to rationalize the cost,” says Chris Travell, vice-president of Maritz Automotive Research. “The key success factor for manufacturers marketing hybrid vehicles in Canada is to bring these vehicles to market at price points similar to what they are used to for comparably equipped vehicles. “We do not believe that consumers are prepared to sacrifice performance or quality in their vehicles in order to have a vehicle that is more environmentally friendly,” says Travell. The survey, involving almost 13,000 respondents, examined a number of issues of interest to Canadian motorists who voluntarily filled out the questionnaire posted on www.carpoint.ca. The survey reveals a number of desires and behaviors of automobile owners as it relates to vehicle service: – Once a vehicle is out of warranty, 40% of owners take their cars to an independent mechanic, compared to 35% who will continue to use the manufacturer’s dealership. Only 9% are inclined to do their own maintenance. “The principal reason is the perception that an independent technician is less expensive. However, 65% of Canadians feel the manufacturer’s dealerships are better equipped to service them because today’s vehicles are getting increasingly complex. This would appear to augur well for increasing service business at dealerships,” says Travell. – Respondents overwhelmingly welcome the idea of meeting the technician who worked on their vehicle, with 83% somewhat agreeing or very much agreeing with the practice. “This is important because the very nature of vehicle service is that it is often intangible. Anything that a dealership can do to show customers what they actually did is going to be beneficial in the eyes of consumers.” – 76% of respondents trust or somewhat trust their dealership to do the work that they said they were going to do. “This trust needs to be earned every time a vehicle is taken in for service. Once there is reason for a consumer to distrust their dealership, consumers tend to defect to another service establishment,” Travell notes. – Nearly half (47%) of Canadians are concerned that cost cutting initiatives on the part of manufacturers can hurt the quality of the vehicles they are buying. “This is a warning bell for manufacturers who state cost cutting as a sole objective. Canadians are saying this kind of strategy can be self-defeating if it results in a reduction in the quality of the vehicle they are driving.” – Canadians are warm to the idea of having several manufacturers represented by one dealership under one roof, with 58% at least partially agreeing with the one-stop concept. “This has important implications for Canadian dealers. This is a business model that has worked successfully in the United States but has not been instituted in Canada in a wide-scale fashion,” says Travell.