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Understanding car buying behavior

Psychological determinants of energy efficiency and practical implications
: Peters, Anja; Haan, Peter de; Scholz, Roland W.


International journal of sustainable transportation 9 (2015), Nr.1, S.59-72
ISSN: 1556-8318
ISSN: 1556-8334
Fraunhofer ISI ()
road transport; consumer behavior; revealed behavior

Consumers' adoption of fuel-efficient vehicles is crucial to save energy in road transport. Investigating reasons for the gap between intention and revealed behavior can contribute to more effective, faster and less costly market penetration of efficient vehicles. We compare psychological determinants of the stated importance of fuel consumption vs. determinants of actual behavior. Swiss survey data of potential new car buyers and of owners of recently purchased new vehicles were used. Car purchase behavior is represented by four different proxies. Each differently accounts for needs and resources indicated by household type and socio-economic status. The results indicated that intention (the stated importance of fuel consumption) is explained to a lower degree than behavior; it is mainly expressed according to an inner feeling of obligation (personal norm) and influenced by symbolic motives (to express one's self and social position through the car). For revealed purchase behavior, the evaluation of less vehicle power and smaller size and perceived behavioral control added considerable explanatory power.
As the intention for the next car purchase will mostly still be rather vague, it might not be influenced yet by variables that are very close to behavior. With regard to the promotion of fuel-efficient vehicles, policy measures to influence both intention and behavior are outlined.