The European Union has set target values for CO2 emissions from new passenger cars and taken measures to ensure that information on the CO2 performance of new passenger cars is readily available for citizens. This study examines the implementation of Directive 1999/94/EC relating to the availability of consumer information on fuel economy and CO2 emissions with respect to the marketing of new passenger cars; and assesses potential amendments to the legislation, taking into consideration research results in the field of consumer behaviour.
Lessons on Consumer Behaviour
Of key importance to consumers, as determined in the review, is price or financial information and product performance. Therefore, an ideal information tool (i.e, label) would be one that that would enable the comparison of operating costs, while conveying the product’s performance as well as being easily recognizable or familiar to the consumer. Providing operating costs is important and valuable to consumers. The literature suggests that consumers do consider fuel consumption as a factor of operating costs when making car-purchasing decisions. However, fuel consumption is factored into consumer decisions, based on its economic implications rather than its environmental ones. Furthermore, according to consumer studies there exists an increase in consumer awareness of fuel consumption information (and the CO2 label). A number of important drivers identified in the literature review play a key role in consumer behaviour. The actions of others, life cycle costs and socio-economic factors all as well as brand/ label recognition and product differentiation all influence consumer behaviour, and ultimately their car purchasing decision. The most commonly used measures include labels, websites, brochures, information campaigns and various combinations of the measures. The selection of information tools are selected according to the information that is being provided.
Providing technical information often requires the use of several media, as it may not be possible to display all the content with only one measure. The challenge for policy makers is to find a balance between providing enough information to inform discerning consumers, while also ensuring less concerned consumers are not overwhelmed by information. Car buyers seem to go through a two staged process: In a first step, they decide about the type of car they intend to purchase, i.e., a station wagon or a micro-car; in a second step, they decide which car they will chose, based on secondary criteria such as fuel efficiency. It appears that car advertisements are primarily used for the first stage.
The review of consumer behaviour and car purchasing determined that consumers value a variety of sources when seeking information regarding new passenger cars. The role of sales people stands out as an access point to information which consumers heavily rely upon. Not only do consumers seek information from sales people, sales people have a strong influence on the final selection of automobiles that consumers make. An additional information source increasingly favoured by consumers is the internet, particularly manufacturer and independent websites. Both sales people and internet sites represent gateways to consumers and possibilities to inform consumers and thus influence their choices.