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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Consumer automobile choice and gasoline consumption Kanetkar, Vinay


The increasing emphasis on gasoline conservation programs indicates the importance of understanding consumer gasoline consumption patterns. Consumers may reduce gasoline consumption by reducing automobile weight, payload, distance travelled, and frictional losses. It is argued that understanding consumer decisions about the size of household automobile fleet and car weight will improve the current understanding of gasoline consumption and possibly lead to conservation programs which will reduce gasoline demand. A review of econometric literature at the consumer level indicated that income, family composition, price of gasoline, central city residency, and employment status are important determinants of the number of cars owned by consumers. A review of marketing studies indicated that attitudes and personality factors provide additional understanding regarding consumer automobile choices. Finally, a conceptual model was used to integrate these approaches, suggesting that the choice of automobiles is determined by situational, market related factors, consumer needs as well as consumer characteristics. The conceptual model implies several empirical hypotheses. For example, it was postulated that income, family size, and employment status will have a positive impact on the number of cars owned by a family, while size of urban centre and gasoline prices will have a negative impact. It was also expected that income and family size would positively affect automobile size. The age, size of urban centre and energy consciousness of the head of the household will negatively affect this variable. Logit models constructed to predict the number of cars owned by a Canadian family gave significant results for the above factors. In addition, the life-cycle stage and the proxy variables for gasoline prices had non-linear effects on this variable. Models predicting the average car weight, however, suggested that attitudes towards conservation, and participation in gasoline conservation efforts were also strong predictors. Thus, this research concluded that demographic and situational factors are linked to the number of cars owned, while travel needs and attitudinal factors are linked to car weight.

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