Suggested Citation: Heffner, Reid R., Kenneth S. Kurani, Thomas S. Turrentine (2005) Effects of Vehicle Image in Gasoline-Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-05-08
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have image, or symbolic benefits, in addition to their functionality. This study examines the images that ten HEV-owning households saw in their vehicles, and the impact symbolic benefits had on these consumers' decisions to purchase HEVs. In general, all of the HEV owners perceived some image in their vehicles, although these images varied in their strength and significance. The majority of households saw their HEVs projecting images that were linked to larger values, including social awareness, responsibility, and concern for others; others connected their HEVs to images of frugality and intelligent consumerism. HEVs served as communication mechanisms in all households, either by projecting their images or by stimulating owner evangelism. In addition, for a handful of participants, the symbolic benefits of their HEVs were significant enough to justify substantial functional compromises.