Why drivers own light trucks over cars

April 21, 2017 by Nicole Casal Moore
Credit: University of Michigan

A new national survey from the University of Michigan explores why consumers choose to drive SUVs, pick-ups, vans and minivans over cars, even though these so-called "light trucks" generally demonstrate lower fuel economy than passenger cars.

The U-M researchers say the increasing presence of on the nation's roads is holding back gains for light-duty vehicles, a category that encompasses passenger cars and the larger light trucks that many consumers drive on a daily basis. Fleet fuel economy for this category has increased very little in recent decades, from 19.6 miles per gallon in 1991 to 22.0 mpg in 2015.

While individual models tend to gradually get better gas mileage over time, the fleet fuel economy depends on the mix of cars and trucks being bought and sold each year in the U.S. This mix has fluctuated over the past decade, but light truck sales have increased in several recent years, especially when gas prices are low, the researchers say.

The federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards—which President Trump plans to re-examine—currently set a target of 54.5 mpg for this fleet by 2025. That target, however, was based on forecasts that included a greater share of passenger vehicles by this point.

"The actual trend has been different from what was forecast, with shares of staying relatively flat or even decreasing during some years," said Brandon Schoettle, project manager at the U-M Transportation Research Institute and co-author of the new study. "The much discussed 54.5 mpg target is now no longer expected, due to the fact that the anticipated sales mix may eventually tilt toward light trucks in the coming years."

Schoettle, and his colleague, UMTRI research professor Michael Sivak, surveyed 1,230 people in an effort to identify the lure of larger vehicles. Key findings include:

  • 69 percent of light-truck owners said they use their vehicles primarily for general transportation; 65 percent said commuting; 17 percent said outdoor recreation and 13 percent general work (respondents could give multiple answers).
  • In response to a question about the primary reason for owning a light truck, 19 percent said general utility; 14 percent said large family size; and 10 percent said moving cargo.
  • More than one-third of both light-truck owners (36 percent) and passenger-car owners (37 percent) said they would not consider a vehicle type other than the one they're currently driving.
  • The main disadvantage listed for switching from a light truck to a car was reduced cargo capacity (66 percent), followed by reduced hauling capacity (29 percent) and reduced safety (28 percent).
  • Switching from a conventional light truck to a plug-in hybrid light truck raises the concern that requiring special equipment to charge the vehicle would be a major disadvantage (50% percent). Concern was also high regarding other disadvantages such as increased initial vehicle cost (46 percent) and limited or decreased driving range (43 percent). The concerns regarding the disadvantages of all-electric light trucks mirror the same items identified for plug-in hybrid trucks.

The survey, "Consumer Preferences and Motivations for Owning Light Trucks versus Passenger Cars," was supported by an unrestricted gift from ExxonMobil Corporation.

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7 comments

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lengould100
5 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2017
Gee, people are dumb, eh? No hybrid's because of reduced range?
dustywells
5 / 5 (1) Apr 21, 2017
Well, look at who did the study. Smells of fitting facts to a desired result.
ForFreeMinds
5 / 5 (1) Apr 21, 2017
Well, look at who did the study. Smells of fitting facts to a desired result.


I don't see how the University is "fitting facts to a desired result" here or what their desired result is and why. And that goes for the "unrestricted gift from Exxon" that funded the study as well. The fact is, a lot of people prefer small trucks and SUVs as shown by the vehicles purchased. The study merely attempts to understand why.

But I do appreciate your point, that those funding research often are looking for a desired result - just look at all the global warming funding, done by government that has an objective to get more control over us for the benefit of those running the government. There's lots of articles that show exactly that, here on phys.org.
Benni
1 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2017
Property owners who have acreage sized property need to haul stuff for maintenance on a regular basis: lawn mowers, lawn tractors, roto-tillers, chain saws, and on goes the list. It's an extra cost to have a dealer pick this stuff up.

Then there are 5 gallon containers filled with gasoline, gardening supplies in large bags, garbage, bagged concrete, etc & all this stuff either stinks or it has residue you don't want inside your SUV or car (I've heard of such things).

I have three trucks, I couldn't live my lifestyle without them & I don't care one whit about the cost of gasoline to run them or the 15 MPG, my lifestyle is more important........and yes, I live in the country, deep country with high hills all around me.
Nik_2213
not rated yet Apr 22, 2017
Another possibility is that so many cars are so streamlined that their 'tailgate' is too small, too 'sloped' or too high-silled to *comfortably* swallow a big baby-buggy or folding wheel-chair...
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2017
The survey, "Consumer Preferences and Motivations for Owning Light Trucks versus Passenger Cars," was supported by an unrestricted gift from ExxonMobil Corporation.

Ain't gonna help them now that Musk has announced a semi and a pickup truck.

Next up: Exxon publishes why people prefer to commute using tractors.
EmceeSquared
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 23, 2017
You don't see how an "unrestricted gift from Exxon" to the university could come with restrictions, because Exxon doesn't care about lying but does care about making propaganda to protect selling its product. But you do see instead imagined asserted bias in climate change studies.

Do you work for Exxon? Or for someplace else paying you to have these lines of thought totally driven by the backwards thinking of petroleum trolls?

ForFreeMinds:
I don't see

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