The 2011 Honda CR-Z was developed with a strong emphasis on the car's styling (Honda).

    by: Michael Zak | AOL Autos

    Don’t judge a book by its cover.

    As children we’re told time and again that storied cliché, which urges us to withhold judgment and look beneath the surface to find the true essence and value of something. But do we take it to heart? Those likely to buy electric vehicles certainly don’t.

    According to a study by CNW Research, electric vehicle shoppers value distinctive styling in their green machines, even more than improved fuel efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.

    The study of 6,000 responses from mass-market vehicle intenders was collected during April and May. It found that of the myriad reasons those surveyed would purchase an electric vehicle, a vehicle’s distinctive styling was the most important. With 52.33% of respondents claiming to value it the most, styling beat out lower emissions (39.68%), higher fuel economy (21.66%) and “makes a statement about me” (36.11%) to present an interesting profile of the typical “green” driver: Someone who bought his or her vehicle primarily because they thought it looked good.

    Of course, the styling of a particular vehicle ranks among the most important aspects for consumers of conventional internal combustion engine cars. There is an important difference, however. “While likely EV buyers are looking for cutting edge design, conventional-vehicle buyers want ‘nice’ but not over the top,” said CNW.

    Along with the vehicle’s exterior appearance, study respondents valued the styling of the car’s interior as well. “Overall Interior Appearance” was almost 25 points higher for electric vehicle intenders.

    Why The Prius Worked 

    The results of the CNW study can be seen in the huge success of the Toyota Prius over the past decade. The Prius hit the market with innovative new looks. Buyers shopping for a hybrid ate it up and the small sedan became so closely associated with the word hybrid, that it nearly became a generic term like Kleenex.

    Hybrid efforts by other automakers, like Honda and Ford, lagged behind, as their strategy with vehicles like the Honda Civic Hybrid and Ford Escape Hybrid did not include distinctive styling. Looking identical to their gas-powered brethren, with merely a hybrid logo to distinguish the green models, these models did not allow their owners to make much of a statement.

    The Prius, by contrast, was a stand-alone model that bears no resemblance to any other Toyota product. After also experimenting with hybridized versions of standard, internal-combustion-engine products, including vehicles from its luxury brand Lexus, Toyota recently launched its first stand-alone hybrid Lexus with the 2010 HS 250h.

    According to CNW, styling also proved to be a major setback in Honda’s attempt at a performance-minded green vehicle in the Accord Hybrid. Sitting at the top of the Accord line, the Hybrid was the most powerful version of the best-selling sedan. Yet consumers did not bite, in part because the Accord did not have the innovative styling to match its high-tech powertrain. Honda discontinued the Accord Hybrid in 2007 after just three model years.

    What's most important in a green car?

    Stylish Developments

    It seems as though the automakers, especially Honda, now have a better idea of what consumers want from a green product. For instance, the 2011 CR-Z, Honda’s new sporty hybrid, was developed with the utmost emphasis on styling, both inside and out.

    “We wanted to bring something new to the marketplace and break out from the rest of the hybrid vehicles out there,” said Will Walton, a product-planning manager at Honda.

    Walton said that Honda is targeting consumers that place a large amount of their consideration on the looks of a vehicle, so it knew it needed something that would really catch the eye, even before people realized the CR-Z was a hybrid car.

    “The design can appeal to those seeking a hybrid or those who just want a stylish car. Design will be a key area of differentiation,” Walton said.

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    1 - 20 of 202 Comments
    cthecattrapper Jun 26, 2010 9:02 AM
    I HOPE someone will answer me. I have a 1997 Toyota Camery (for now) and I wanted to know how big the gas tank was so I went to Toyota. They couldn't tell me so that didn't make me feel to comfortable that they knew anything about other than selling cars. NOW I don't care how big it is as I think I have it figured out but it is a PAIN everytime I turn around I have to go get gas. Not so with the 1997 Pontiac Sunfire I had. What's the deal with Toyotas? My sister has one & she stops for gas all the time too. I didn't think to ask her when she did it & I was living in Ohio but now that I also have one I think something is wrong. I'd LOVE a fuel effecent car but after this episode I'd leary. Salesmen never tell the truth about anything so where does that leave the consuming public except to buy whatever floats their boat.
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    djhector20000 Jun 24, 2010 9:31 PM
    i dont trust electric cars
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    djhector20000 Jun 24, 2010 9:30 PM
    gas car is better than electric cars
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    estrellafin Jun 24, 2010 7:12 PM
    it must have occured to them....why the question...?? are corvette drivers agressive? are SUV drivers fearful of getting whacked by the compacts? are ferrari drivers in a different world ? Hmmm ... it is a mystery.
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    henryptnm Jun 24, 2010 6:05 PM
    zhardy: I own a 2004 Ford Ranger. It has 115,000 miles on it. Oil changes and regular maintenance. My girlfriend has a 1995 Pontiac Bonneville with 145,000 miles on it. Same thing on oil changes. Both vehicles running great and no major issues. What major issues on American vehicles?
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    zhardy Jun 24, 2010 4:55 PM
    What an IDIOT! I am a conservative. I bought my Prius for three main reasons: 1) Because it made economical sence. I was fed up with American cars that encountered major issues at 70,000 miles and died by 120,000 miles. Taxi drivers put 300,000 miles on a Prius and only have to change the oil! No joke. 2) Former CIA Director James Woosely warned us of the wars to come and advised all Americans to buy economical cars. I bought a tan one just like his. It's the fanciest golf cart I have ever owned. I really like it. I did not buy a Prius because I'm green or an enviro nazi... no- I bought it for the first two reasons and 3) To screw the arabs that want to kill us! I am now sending less money to those bastards! When an all electric ********** the market I will probably get one. So again, I say, the author of this article is an IDIOT!
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    djohnnjohn Jun 24, 2010 4:34 PM
    I'm back My 2010 prius is the 2nd one we own. The new one increases mileage over 10% more than our 2005. When we fill with gas it costs 1/4 the amt as when we fill our corvette(which takes 92 oct gas) and goes twice as far. Prius --comfortable--although neither of us weights in the obese range.
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    dsears704 Jun 24, 2010 3:21 PM
    Shallow? How does cutting your monthly automotive gas bill by 50% (or more) leave me shallow? Like any new technology, I'm quite cautious of results but yet "energized" by my personal experience. Not only did I replace "both" my cars with Hybrids but found that I (like many other American car buyers) can live quite comfortably in a continuingly shrinking "productive" economic environment with something that is (and has been consistant) in its performance, lived up to expectations and saves me $$$$$$! We can say "DUH" can't we? I think this writer was working to achieve what other of "todays" writers hope for....discourse! That way he has more to write about and saves his job for another week or two! Otherwise, we don't need "writers" (certainly not journalists) to tell us we're shallow! Shallow 50 MPG or more next week dude!
    Report This
    wil2660 Jun 24, 2010 3:20 PM
    I'll still take a 68 Olds 442.
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    staberdearth Jun 24, 2010 3:09 PM
    "...Whoever wrote this article is an idiot! The only reason I purchased a Prius was for fuel economy and environmental reasons as is the case with most people I known that purchased one...." Ever do a material and energy balance on the costs (financial and environmental) of producing a hybrid complete with lithium batteries? No, probably not. That's the problem with most emoting enviro whackos on the left. All feeling. NO THINKING! Least of all, no ability to compute!
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    staberdearth Jun 24, 2010 3:06 PM
    LOL! I am perhaps one of the very few people who bought a hybrid that fits no predictable stereotype. I am a staunch fiscal conservative with no love lost for emoting sniveling goofy quasi Ludditic enviro-whackos. Perhaps that is why I bought the Ford Fusion Hybrid over the Prissy Prius. I am an engineer who appreciates the package that Ford put together and also appreciate engineering efficiency since it does make a statement on superior design and engineering prowess. Yes, the Ford does have elements of bought technology from Toyota but it did not become the Car of the Year for nothing. Shallow? I love the shallow stereotyping. LOL! I'd buy my car again and I do not require anyone's approval for doing it. Form, in my book, always follows function unless it can be married to it with no compromise. That's mastery.
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    rphill102 Jun 24, 2010 2:46 PM
    The "greenies" are the most shallow people I've ever known. Whatever "new idea" comes along, these eco-idiots fall all over themselves to adopt. They never look beyond the headlines or the sound-bytes or the self-congratulation they generate. They take political correctness to a whole new level of group-think. If it works for them -- regardless of reality -- it will work for the whole world. How do you get more shallow than that??? Hybrid cars are not economically sound. It will take longer to recoup the higher cost of the car thru savings on gas than the car will last. And that doesn't include the $$$ maintenance costs when batteries or the synergy drive elements wear out. Not to mention the -0- resale value. I've tried to do the math with hybrid owners. They don't want to hear it -- and the majority of them are offended by the suggestion that their "greenness" should also pass an economic test . When people are more interested in doing the politically correct thing in a highly visible and expensive manner rather than applying basic economics and fiscal responsibility....... that's SHALLOW. How people spend their money is their business, of course..... but hybrids don't pass the ecological test, either. I asked one excessively proud hybrid owner... "Do hybrid cars go to heaven when they die?" He looked at me like I'd lost my mind. "Because unless they are somehow transported off this planet, they are just another eco-problem piling up in auto-graveyards and landfills." How long will it take for the chemicals in the batteries to be neutralized by natural processes? What happens to the surrounding environment while that's happening? How much pollution occurs in the manufacturing process of the chemicals themselves and of the batteries? What if the batteries are damaged in a wreak? in a flood? in a mudslide? Are the worn out batteries recycled? How much chemical waste does that create? How and where is it disposed of? I've gotten more assumptions than answers to those questions because hybrid owners are far more invested in the *appearance* of eco-correctness and the holier-than-thou "statement" the car makes for them than the actual consequences of a new technology we have very little experience in managing. More shallowness. Plug-in electric cars are even more problematical. Over 50% of our electricity comes from coal-burning plants. But the eco-correct crowd wants to shut down all the coal plants. What do we do? RATION electricity? Re-build our entire economy and our day-to-day lives around rolling blackouts? Build more nuclear plants? In the 50+ years we've had nuclear plants we still haven't figured out how to safely and permanently dispose of the waste. In addition, we have the reality of terrorism to factor into where and how the plants are built, where and how spent fuel rods are stored and/or recycled, how employees and contract workers are screened. We haven't brought a new nuclear plant online since the meltdown at Three Mile Island. So you have to factor in the "NIMBY" fanatics. Who do you think are the most activist opponents to anything that presents ANY risk in THEIR environment? The eco-correct crowd. How shallow is it to *demand* alternative energy -- but refuse to accept the reality that creates? Remember the eco- euphoria over Ethanol??? --- Until both economic AND environmental reality collided with the ideology-driven farce the eco-idiots had crammed down our throats. It takes more energy to produce ethanol than ethanol produces when used. So we have to either burn more coal or build more nuclear plants to make the stuff ....AND STILL subsidize it's manufacture with enormous governmental grants. It does not travel well and it degenerates rapidly in storage. So it creates an exceptionally inefficient infrastructure which ADDS to the real costs of using ethanol. In Brazil, ethanol is made from switch grass. Their ethanol is a viable energy source because they have SO MUCH land to grow it on. Nowever, converting pastures and staple crop fields to switch grass drives up the cost of meat protein. Not to mention how much of the Amazon Basin is being destroyed to grow switch grass or the crops it's displaced. Whatever happened to the Save the Rainforest campaign??? In the US, ethanol is made from corn. Corn is an unimaginably HUGE part of our food supply. It is the primary grain in the feed which produces the majority of our meat protein. It is processed into literally HUNDREDS of ingredients in almost every food and staple product in our grocery stores. It is the basis of many if not most of the "biodegradable" products we have, and is vital to the manufacture of many of the non-food products we use everyday. We saw what happened to food prices a couple of years ago when corn growers sold their crop to the ethanol industry. What you DIDN'T see was the red ink on the balance sheets of companies who had to absorb the increased cost of corn and corn-based products. The REAL COST of ethanol is paid far from the gas pump. Even ecologists and environmentalists have admitted corn-based ethanol does more harm than good when you look at the whole picture. But I still hear eco-idiots rabidly supporting it as a "necessity" among alternative energy sources. When people catagorically reject repeatedly proven facts in favor of ideology, it's worse than shallow. It's INSANE.
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    henryptnm Jun 24, 2010 2:36 PM
    ocgame9: You never been on I-95 in Maine. It's all straight highway and they don't go 60 mph over there. The mileage is 65-80 mph on that highway. Not a cop in sight. I been on that highway and you are moving. Those Priuses couldn't last on that highway.
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    henryptnm Jun 24, 2010 2:27 PM
    If it comes a difference between a Toyota Prius Hybrid and the Ford Escape Hybrid. I would choose The Ford Escape Hybrid. There is nothing wrong the Ford Escape's style. I test drove a Ford Escape and I like its power. They can have the Prius.
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    ocgame9 Jun 24, 2010 2:24 PM
    Man what you talking about the prius goes 0-60 in 9.5 seconds
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    ocgame9 Jun 24, 2010 2:20 PM
    I have four cars, Ford Taurus, z06 and a gt500 and the car i prefer to drive is my 2008 prius. I get 51 mpg and can travel 500 on a 10 gallon tank with would be the equivalent price of $25.00 of gas. The style is ok and its as comfortable as my gt500 also I'm 6 feet tall and i weight 185. I didn't buy the car to save the earth because i can care less about the earth I bought it because the car saves me money and it really pays for itself especially if you travel a lot. AND ON ANOTHER NOTE COLLEGE IS FOR SUCKERS! TRUST ME.
    Report This
    henryptnm Jun 24, 2010 2:14 PM
    I saw two Priuses on I-95 going to Maine. Both cars didn't have the power to stay on the highway. I passed both of them.
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    wordink Jun 24, 2010 2:11 PM
    You guys are so smart. But, did you figure that when those who shop fuel economy/hybrid but buy style are those who hate compromise? Therefore, these are unsatisfied customers. These rocket scientist have not figure out that fuel econcomy can have style too? Or, is having both too close to giving us the ever elusive illusion of an electric car?
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    sct999 Jun 24, 2010 2:06 PM
    It's all about fuel economy and savings money, let's not kid anyone out there. The side benefits are a relatively cool car with a green statement. But saving $$$ is real.
    Report This
    ronsell Jun 24, 2010 2:04 PM
    The Prius is, in my humble opinion, butt ugly. It must have been designed by a five-year-old.
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    According to a study electric vehicle shoppers value distinctive styling in their green machines, even more than fuel efficiency and reducing emissions.


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