October 22, 2010
EPA Designs Fuel Consumer Confusion
On August 30, 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly proposed two new fuel economy label designs – labels consumers see on the window of every new vehicle in dealer showrooms. The goal is to help consumers make the best economic and environmental decisions when buying a new car, ultimately increasing the number of fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. With the release of the new designs, the DOT and EPA provided a 60-day public comment period to encourage honest feedback from consumers.
With the intent of exploring which of the two proposed labels would be most understandable to the average American and which data were of most interest, CooperKatz client Siegel+Gale, a global strategic branding firm, commissioned a nationally projectable survey in late September. The survey results found both labels to be confusing. Overall, 66 percent of respondents rejected the version that emphasized a prominent letter grade (the vertical label below) and favored the one that focused on miles per gallon (the horizontal label below). Yet while consumers preferred the horizontal label, 38 percent found some aspect of the design confusing as well.
Beyond sharing consumer reactions to the label approaches, Siegel+Gale provided recommendations to help make the designs more meaningful – including scrapping the vertical label altogether, losing the letter grade approach and emphasizing both mpg and total cost of owning the vehicle given fuel expenses.