Global market research firm, Synovate surveyed more than 13 500 people across 18 markets about ‘green’ versus ‘dream’ cars, vehicle ownership, intent to buy in the next year and attitudes towards cars, traffic, public transport and their need-for-speed.

Dream, green or in between?

Is green mainstream? Can the lure of the environmentally friendly vehicle outweigh the desire for all the raw power of the petrol engine? Synovate asked respondents to forget about money for a moment and tell them whether they would buy green, dream or in between.

The top answer across all 18 markets, if money was no object, was to buy a green car, with 37% of respondents saying this would be their preferred purchase. Thirty percent said they would buy their dream car and a further 22% claimed that ‘my dream car is a green car’… meaning that 59% – or very nearly six in ten – showed the desire to go green.

More than half (53%) of South Africans interviewed would take their dream car over a green car.

Some of the highest results for ‘green’ were Thailand at 77%, Korea at 76%, China at 75% and Brazil at 72%. And the nation most likely to simply elect ‘green car’ was Germany, with 58% choosing the environment over their dream cars.

South African fantasy

So where can the dreamers be found? Overall, 30% of people would still choose their dream car green-be-damned, comprised of 35% men and 27% women. The single biggest result for dream car came from South Africa where over half of all respondents (53%) would go for their fantasy vehicle over a green one.

South Africa-based Richard Rice, Director of Global Motoresearch Sales & Marketing for Synovate, says that, in South Africa, the car is probably the closest product that comes to a visible expression of who a person is.

‘Here a car is emotional. People love their cars… for the freedom, for the image they create, for what it says about their status. Consequently, that image is far more important than how environmentally friendly a car is.

‘Compounding this is that many car buyers in South Africa are the first family members to even be able to buy a car so, in the excitement, green considerations will fall by the wayside. We’ll go with however much power we can afford.’

Governments taking the wheel

In a global recession, with car companies struggling and the subsequent loss of jobs and economic power, should Governments drive matters?

The Synovate survey asked people whether they agreed with ‘I think it’s reasonable in a recession for car manufacturers to receive financial assistance from Governments’. The question was posed in March 2009, ahead of the US Government’s General Motors investment, but well after many other Governments stepped in, in a variety of ways.

Overall 41% agreed that it was indeed reasonable for auto industry assistance in a recession. Most of the markets surveyed have national car industries in common, so there’s a strong cultural variability on whether people thought those industries and jobs should be influenced by a Government or left alone.

The top markets for agreeing that Governments might step in were South Africa (63%), Turkey (60%), Malaysia (59%), China (58%), India (55%) and Thailand (54%).

South Africa’s Rice says people there expect a lot of the Government.

‘The car industry here employs tens of thousands and makes a significant contribution to the GDP… for most South Africans it makes complete sense to support Government financing.’

Interestingly, more South African women than men would choose a dream car over a green car (57% women versus 50% men) if money was no object.

About the Synovate global ‘Dream versus green’ cars survey

This car survey was conducted in March 2009 across 18 markets – Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (US).