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Survey: Fuel Efficiency Drives Car Buying Decisions

New Online Application Highlights Plastics’ Role in Fuel Efficiency, Safety and Design

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 27, 2011) – As U.S. gas prices reach all-time highs, nearly eight out of ten Americans now say that fuel efficiency is a factor when buying or leasing a car, according to a recent survey. 

Among Americans who make car buying decisions who ever considered purchasing/leasing a new vehicle, 78 percent identify fuel efficiency as a driver in their choice. The survey, conducted online in March by Harris Interactive on behalf of Plastics Make it Possible® among 2,411 U.S. adults aged 18+, also finds that 63 percent consider safety features as well. However, only ten percent of those who know what contributes significantly to vehicle safety recognize that plastics and plastic composites contribute significantly to vehicle safety.

To highlight the role of plastics in automobile fuel efficiency, safety and design, Plastics Make it Possible today launched Plastics in Motion, a fun, new interactive application that allows car enthusiasts to “build” and post their own cars online. As online car designers add features, they learn how plastics make today’s cars possible, from bumpers to air bags.

For example, plastics help make cars lighter and more fuel efficient—for every ten percent reduction in weight, fuel economy improves by five to seven percent, which translates into less money at the pump and a lighter environmental footprint.

The online car designers can also enter for a chance to win numerous auto related prizes, such as an in-car navigation system, a $250 gas card or AAA emergency road side kits.

“Plastics make up half the volume of cars, so we were a bit surprised to learn how little buyers know about the benefits of plastics in automobiles,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council.

“Since plastics comprise only about 10 percent of cars by weight, they contribute significantly to light weighting and fuel efficiency by doing more with less,” Russell continued. “They also play an important role in safety, performance and vehicle design. Plastics in Motion is a fun way to become more aware of how plastics make today’s cars possible.”

To help educate consumers, the interactive Plastics in Motion application highlights many of the plastic parts in today’s cars and the role they play, including:

Body & Exterior

  • Foam filled body structures can improve the structural strength of the vehicle.
  • Plastic composites can weigh as much as 50 percent less than traditional materials while absorbing 5-10 times more crash energy.
  • Windows and headlights gain cool designs while also being lighter and shatter-resistant—thanks to plastic.
  • Plastic paint film is 15 times thicker than traditional paint, making it more resistant to scratches, chips, and UV degradation, while retaining a high-gloss, showroom shine longer.

Interior

  • Safety features such as seat belts and air bags are made of tough, industrial strength polyester and tear-resistant nylon.
  • Upholstery, carpets, and seat cushions are being made from recycled and plant-based plastics.

Powertrain & Chassis

  • Plastic fuel lines and tanks are resistant to corrosive elements inside and outside the lines/tank—and plastic tanks can be made as a single part, so there are no seams to fail in a collision.
  • Plastic housings for electronics and braking systems protect components from corrosion, heat, and environmental damage to help keep key vehicle systems working smoothly.
  • Hybrid and electric vehicle engines are smaller and run cooler, thanks to new generation lithium-ion polymer (plastic) batteries. Already widely used in cell phones, these batteries may power the plug-in car of tomorrow.

To try out Plastics in Motion and learn more about the role plastics play in today’s automobiles, visit www.plasticsmakeitpossible.com/plastics-in-motion.

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Plastics Make it Possible® from March 4-8, 2011 among 2,411 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Erin First at (415) 677-2814.

About Plastics Make it Possible
Plastics Make it Possible highlights the many ways plastics inspire innovations that improve our lives, solve big problems and help us design a safer, more promising future. This initiative is sponsored by the
plastics industries of the American Chemistry Council. For more information, visit www.plasticsmakeitpossible.com, check out our Facebook page and follow us @plasticpossible on twitter at www.twitter.com/plasticpossible.

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