Low carbon car campaign idling in neutral

Cars drivers are either unaware – or don’t care – about the environmental messages being put forward as an incentive to switch to low carbon vehicles. Asked at a London […]

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By Kelvin Ross

Cars drivers are either unaware – or don’t care – about the environmental messages being put forward as an incentive to switch to low carbon vehicles.

Asked at a London conference if consumers were “on board”, leading transport academic Jillian Anable said they were “not even in the departure lounge”.

Anable, senior transport lecturer at Aberdeen University, told the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership’s annual conference: “Customers have no reason to aspire to a car that they perceive to be inferior” to the one they are already driving.

“Consumers are not economically rational. They base their decisions on making perceptions, rules of thumb. It is all very unsystematic.”

Anable added that the low carbon car manufacturers were putting too many “eggs in one basket” with their hopes for a strong take-up of hybrid and electric cars. She said her own research showed that customers who do take an interest in low carbon vehicles do so not to play a part in rectifying climate change, but instead through a desire not to be beholden to fuel prices.

She said the car industry needed to “fundamentally change” the aspirations of car drivers, and added that the advertising budgets of the major manufacturers was just the tool to do this. “Surely with all the marketing might of the car companies we can influence the consumers.”