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Survey Finds Americans Ready for Smaller, Fuel Efficient Cars

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A new survey, released by Yahoo! Autos found that a majority of Americans are ready for a smaller vehicle, a sign of how much concern over gas prices has reshaped our tastes.

The online poll of 1,000 people found a majority were planning to buy a new car within the next three years, and two-thirds were expecting to do so in the next five years -- consistent with the move by many Americans to replace aging rides following the steep recession.

Some 49% said they would either buy a smaller car or had already done so; another 9% said they'd do it if gas hit $4 a gallon. Only 4 percent said they wouldn't ever consider a smaller vehicle, while a slightly larger percentage said they'd only do so if gas prices soared above $5 a gallon.

But while smaller vehicles generally get better fuel economy, customers aren't sure just how much more they'd be willing to pay for a hybrid car or truck. When asked if they would pay more for a hybrid vehicle, a majority, 55%, say they would be willing to pay $1,000 more for a hybrid and 42% said they would pay between $500 - $2,000 extra, but 38% said hybrids are not worth an extra penny.

Given that the typical hybrid goes for at least $1,200 more than similar models, and in some cases carries a premium of several thousand dollars over gas-only varieties, it's little surprise that hybrids haven't gained much traction among American buyers even as gas touched $4 a gallon. Part of the challenge comes from more efficient gas engines which have made 40 mpg a standard for small cars and 30 mpg a requirement for midsize sedans, with no cost penalty.

[source: Yahoo! Autos]

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