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DIESEL and LPG fuels are sliding off new-car buyer shopping lists as electric vehicles and hybrids are becoming increasingly attractive to intending new car-buyers, according to the latest Roy Morgan survey, but the task ahead is to convert those intentions into sales.

Three years ago, more people would consider a diesel-fuelled vehicle over a hybrid – now that has turned the other way with the latest Roy Morgan research showing that 51.6 per cent of Australian drivers aged 18 and over agreed that they “would seriously consider buying” a hybrid vehicle.

Three years ago, the hybrid option interested 48.7 per cent of prospective buyers surveyed by Roy Morgan, less than those who at the time planned to buy a diesel (50.1 per cent).

The research found that the biggest growth in interest for new vehicles was in electric vehicles (EVs). Over the past three years, buyers considering EVs jumped almost 10 percentage points, to 36.2 per cent, while consideration for electric-based vehicles (EVs and hybrids) lifted 4.2 percentage points, to 55.7 per cent.

Toyota Camry Hybrid

The survey mirrors current vehicle sales, with year-to-date June VFACTS data showing hybrid sales up 57.3 per cent and EV sales up 44.1 per cent (from a low base).

In a total market that rose one percentage point, petrol sales are down 15.1 per cent and diesel sales slid 26.5 per cent. (Original equipment LPG vehicles are no longer available and no current data exists in VFACTS).

“Diesel and LPG, which have been the main alternatives to petrol up to now, are both showing declining consideration over the last three years,” said the Roy Morgan Automotive Currency Report.

“Although diesel with 45.5 per cent consideration currently remains above fully electric (36.2 per cent), over the past two years it has been overtaken by hybrids, which are now clearly the major alternative to petrol, being seriously considered by half of all drivers.

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“With the combination of hybrid and fully electric vehicles being considered by 55.7 per cent of drivers in theory, these electric-based alternatives will pose a real threat to diesel, LPG and petrol vehicles.

“However, to date the Roy Morgan car purchasing data shows that less than one per cent of the current car market is electric or hybrid.”

Roy Morgan’s industry communications director Norman Morris said that the change in attitudes by buyers is based on environmental concerns but opinions are also swayed by the wealth of consumers.

“There are notable demographic differences in who would seriously consider buying hybrid and electric vehicles, with the wealthier consumers more likely to seriously consider them. Diesel was more likely among middle and higher-income consumers,” he said.

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“LPG was considered consistently across all income levels, with a slight consideration drop between $120,000 and $200,000 income earners.

The survey found that hybrids had the lowest consideration among drivers who earn under $30,000 a year (at 49.7 per cent), rising to 65.5 per cent for those with incomes of $200,000 and over.

Consideration for fully electric vehicles showed a similar pattern, with 32.7 per cent of people with incomes under $30,000 while 51.9 per cent of those that earned $200,000 a more said they would look at an EV.

“Vehicle purchase intention can be influenced by fuel consideration, however this is a long-term indicator,” Mr Morris said.

“Despite their high consideration among adult Australian drivers, both hybrid and fully electric vehicles comprise less than one per cent of the vehicle car parc.

“The challenge will be to convert this intention to vehicle sales.”

The Roy Morgan Automotive Currency Report is based on in-depth personal interviews conducted face-to-face with over 50,000 Australians a year in their own home, including over 37,000 drivers aged 18 years and over.

By Neil Dowling

Toyota Hybrid range