HANOVER, Germany and VIENNA, June 27 /PRNewswire/ --

- Hybrid and Electric Vehicles Gaining Recognition Worldwide

- Automotive Supplier Continental Presents Results of an Unprecedented Study

- Increasing Fuel Prices are Driving a Change in Thinking

- Approximately Half of all Drivers Would Like an Emission-Free, Battery-Powered Car for Urban Traffic

- Consumer Acceptance of Hybrid Vehicles is Increasing Internationally - Especially When Government Incentives are Offered

- Nearly Two-Thirds of Motorists Travel on Short Routes and/or in Urban Traffic, Providing Significant Potential for Hybrid Vehicles

Electric cars and vehicles with hybrid drive enjoy remarkable interest among motorists worldwide. A total of 36.0 percent of those surveyed were willing to buy a car with hybrid drive; more remarkably, 45.8 percent were interested in purchasing an electric car. Environmental considerations and increasing fuel prices were equally important motivators. These are the results of a representative survey - the first of its kind - carried out by the international automotive supplier Continental among more than 8,000 motorists in eight major international markets. "This trend holds great potential for us as an automotive supplier and provider of environmentally-friendly drive technologies," said Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann, Executive Board member and Chief Technology Officer of Continental AG, at a press conference in Vienna, Austria.

At the beginning of this year, TNS/Infratest surveyed approximately 1,000 motorists each in China, Germany, France, UK, Japan, Austria, Switzerland and the USA on behalf of Continental AG. The study focused on the motorists' current state of knowledge and opinions of hybrid drive systems, their driving styles and their views on battery-powered cars.

45 percent of all motorists reported that increasing fuel prices have forced them to change their driving behavior to lower their fuel consumption. At 62.6 percent, the Japanese have changed their driving behavior the most in response to higher diesel and gasoline prices, followed by Germans at 55.2 percent.

The figure among Americans was 42.8 percent. Exception: 60 percent of the British and 48.9 percent of the Chinese do not adjust their driving behavior at all, even when faced with increasing fuel costs. "The vast majority of car drivers across the countries has realized that conventional fuels such as diesel and gasoline will become even more expensive in the future," commented Dr. Neumann on the current developments at the gas pump.

The upward trend in fuel prices is feeding greater interest in alternative drive systems, but the study indicates that awareness of such systems varies greatly around the world. About one in five motorists thinks immediately of hybrid drives, which combine a gasoline and electric engine. This type of drive is best-known among the Japanese at 46.9 percent. The British, however, are not the only ones with the need to catch up: only 3.9 percent are aware of this type of drive, placing them at the bottom in international comparison. Likewise, only 6.6 percent of Americans are familiar with the hybrid drive.

With an average recognition of 16.8 percent, the pure electric drive comes in second. Austrians and French at 33.3 percent and 31.7 percent, respectively, mentioned this variant even more frequently than the hybrid drive. Further fuel-efficient drive systems are diesel (14.1 percent) and cars powered by natural gas (11.4 percent). One noteworthy observation is that 81.7 percent of the Chinese knew nothing of fuel-efficient drives. When asked what they associate with hybrid technologies and hybrid drives, more than one-third (36.4 percent) of motorists state that the drives are a combination of electric and combustion engines. One in five referenced environmental and economic factors.

Hybrid drives present significant savings potential, especially in urban traffic. And it is in urban traffic where the vast majority of motorists can be found each day: 85.7 percent of motorists travel less than 30,000 kilometers a year, more than two thirds (69 percent) primarily in urban traffic. In Japan, 63.7 percent of motorists stated that they drive less than 10,000 kilometers per year, of which 63.7 percent were on short routes or in urban traffic. "Urban and short-route drivers can reduce their energy consumption by more than 25 percent using hybrid drives, while also reducing CO2 emissions," stated Dr. Neumann regarding advantages compared to conventional vehicles. "There is also tremendous potential for American drivers: almost two-thirds of all motorists there drive in urban traffic and/or on short routes."

A total of 36 percent of respondents are definitely interested and very likely to purchase a vehicle with hybrid drive. Respondents in high-growth coastal regions of China were even more enthused: After the technology is explained, more than half of Chinese motorists (53.8 percent) can imagine purchasing a hybrid vehicle. Only 27.4 percent of Germans - less than one-third - were prepared to make such a purchase decision. A majority of motorists would be interested, though, if the government provides tax incentives for the purchase of hybrid vehicles. More than half of the respondents (64.2 percent) would then consider purchasing a hybrid car. These incentives are even more decisive for Germans (66.6 percent), Austrians (67.6 percent) and British (69.6 percent).

Thus far, more than half of international motorists (58.1 percent) assume that environmentally friendly hybrid drives have higher purchase costs compared to conventional cars. French assume an average of EUR4,651 in additional costs, but they also expect the greatest reduction in cost at EUR4,411. Americans, in contrast, believe the purchase price to be EUR2,801 above that of conventional vehicles and expect cost savings of around EUR2,364. An average of 50.8 percent of motorists are not prepared to pay more for a hybrid vehicle. The other half could envision investing up to EUR2,781 in a more environmentally friendly vehicle.

"Our task is to highlight the additional benefits of alternative drives and to emphasize the added value for the motorist and the environment," said Dr. Neumann. The study also shows that attractive purchase costs are the strongest argument in favor of hybrid vehicles for 63.5 percent of respondents. 8 of 10 Japanese motorists (82.6 percent) even consider this the most important purchase criterion.

The environment is the second most-important factor for most Europeans. Except for a minority of respondents, Asians, Americans and British, in contrast, do not focus on this issue. "These results show that acting in an environmentally friendly way is also cost-efficient," explained Dr. Neumann. "The purchase costs alone should not be the decisive criterion and must be viewed long-term, where hybrid technologies and drives will bring significant savings for motorists who drive mainly in urban traffic."

When asked about the most interesting type of hybrid drive, motorists cited the lower fuel consumption on hybrid vehicles as the decisive criterion. 37.9 percent would opt for a hybrid with lower fuel consumption and acceleration that is the same or better than conventional engines. "This is just where hybrid drives perform best and really stand out," said Dr. Neumann. More than half of all motorists assume that the purchase of a hybrid vehicle pays off after around three years. "Americans surprised me on this point: 53.9 percent of respondents assume the purchase would pay off after just two years," said Dr. Neumann. "The results for the French were also interesting because 28.5 percent believed that the environmental and climate protection benefits of hybrid vehicles are more important than the reduced fuel costs."

The fast pace of development in lithium-ion battery technology - including contributions by Continental - is leading to increased interest in electric cars. Almost half of all motorists (45.8 percent) could "definitely," "very likely" or "somewhat likely" envision buying a car designed for urban traffic that runs exclusively on battery power and produces no emissions at all. The Swiss, Austrians and Germans all had average findings on this issue. The positive approach of Chinese motorists was remarkable, though. Three-quarters - 73.4 percent - have a very positive impression of this type of alternative drive, due presumably in part to its potential to reduce increasingly severe air pollution in their cities. Dr. Neumann announced that Continental will separately publish detailed, country-specific information in the foreseeable future and will provide the data to its customers who express interest.

With targeted annual sales of more than EUR26.4 billion in 2008, the Continental Corporation is one of the top automotive suppliers worldwide. As a supplier of brake systems, powertrain and chassis systems and components, instrumentation, infotainment solutions, vehicle electronics, tires and engineering elastomers, the corporation contributes to enhanced driving safety and global climate protection. Continental is also a competent partner in networked automobile communication. The corporation currently employs approximately 150,000 employees at almost 200 locations in 36 countries.

More information of the hybrid survey:


Corporate Media Database: http://www.mediacenter.continental-corporation.com

Hannes Boekhoff Vice President Media Relations Continental AG Vahrenwalder Str. 9 30165 Hanover, Germany Ph.: +49(0)511-938-1278 Fax: +49(0)511-938-1055 E-Mail: prkonzern@conti.de Antje Lewe Press Spokeswoman Continental AG Vahrenwalder Str. 9 30165 Hanover, Germany Ph.: +49(0)511-938-1364 Fax: +49(0)511-938-1055 E-Mail: prkonzern@conti.de

Hannes Boekhoff, Vice President Media Relations, Continental AG, Vahrenwalder Str. 9, 30165 Hanover, Germany, Ph.: +49(0)511-938-1278, Fax: +49(0)511-938-1055, E-Mail: prkonzern@conti.de; Antje Lewe, Press Spokeswoman, Continental AG, Vahrenwalder Str. 9, 30165 Hanover, Germany, Ph.: +49(0)511-938-1364, Fax: +49(0)511-938-1055, E-Mail: prkonzern@conti.de