Cars.com News Briefs: April 10, 2012
Here's what we have our eye on today:
- A new study finds that only about a third of hybrid owners buy another hybrid. Industry researcher R.L. Polk & Co. says hybrid nameplates have more than doubled since 2007, but just 35% of hybrid owners bought another hybrid when returning to the market in 2011. If you factor out the high-loyalty Toyota Prius, hybrid loyalty drops to 25%. But a higher percentage of hybrid owners — 60% for Toyota, 52% for Honda — stayed within the brand when shopping for their next car. Hybrids represent just 2.4% of the new-car market, down from 2.9% in 2008 when gas hit an all-time high of $4.11 per gallon. But Polk finds overall hybrid loyalty changed little as gas prices fluctuated between $2 and $4 from 2008 to 2011. Interestingly, traditional eco-friendly markets like Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland, Ore., stayed near the national average for hybrid loyalty, while unlikely places such as West Palm Beach, Fla., and Phoenix had the highest loyalty rates.
- Yet another study suggests teenagers aren't rushing to get behind the wheel. The Detroit Bureau cites new research from the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute, which says just 22% of American drivers are younger than 30 today, down from around 33% in 1983. (The statistic holds less weight when you consider that the number of driving-age Americans under 30 declined about that much over the same period.) But the number of licensed 17-year-olds dropped to 50% in 2008, down from 69% in 1983, and other studies corroborate similar trends among young drivers in countries such as Germany, South Korea and Canada. The Detroit Bureau also notes another study that finds 16- to 34-year-olds each drove some 23% fewer miles between 2001 and 2009.
- Toyota wants to cut costs at least 30% by sharing more parts among cars while still building more appealing models, Reuters reports. The automaker hopes to develop more cars in tandem off of shared architectures, as well as cut bureaucracy in the design review process. Under a new development framework announced Monday, three front-wheel-drive platforms will underpin about half of Toyota's global products.
- Former GM R&D chief Larry Burns expects driverless cars to be available by 2020, Automotive News reports. In Burns' vision, networks of driverless cars would transport occupants to a destination, then drive elsewhere to pick up new passengers. Several players have dabbled in self-driving cars, most notably Google, but "we're not going to go from driving our cars to not driving our cars overnight," Burns said. "It's going to be a gradual transition."