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Savings at the Pump Still Supreme for Car Buyers

The price at the pump may be falling, but interest in buying a fuel-efficient model remains high. In fact, the latest survey on consumer attitudes shows saving money on gas is the top factor impacting what model car buyers are looking for.

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Consumer Reports surveyed 2,009 Americans and found 35 percent have cut back on driving.

Among those thinking of buying a new car, 37 percent said fuel economy was the top factor, followed by quality (17 percent), safety (16 percent), value (14 percent), and performance (6 percent).

Perhaps the most interesting finding in the survey is what car buyers would be willing to give up in order to reduce fuel costs. More than half would give up size/capacity (58 percent) and amenities/comfort (52 percent). Far fewer would give up performance (37 percent) or safety (12 percent).

With so many car buyers looking for better mileage, how much interest is there in pure electric cars? Not a whole lot. Just 19 percent of those surveyed would consider an EV for their next vehicle. By comparison, 81 percent expect their next car to be a conventional gasoline powered model.

Do any of these results surprise me? No.

As I've said for some time, the advancements in engine technology (including the addition of turbo boosters) will make small and mid-size cars an increasingly popular choice for many car buyers. The fact that we are seeing smaller models delivering the type of performance that makes them enjoyable, even fun, to drive is adding to their appeal.

And by the way, I don't expect these attitudes to change even if gas prices keep falling. Demand for fuel efficiency is here to stay.

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___________________________ Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.comand Follow me on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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