NEW YORK: Ford, the automaker, is ramping up its focus on eco-friendly vehicles, a shift encouraged by consumer research suggesting drivers may pay a premium for these cars if they helped offset costs over the long term.

The company partnered with Penn Schoen Berland, the communications advisory group, to survey shoppers, and found that 82% had spent more on green goods upfront in the expectation of making future savings.

When requested to name the top two factors stimulating such a habit, participants listed both financial reasons and a desire to help the environment.

More specifically, 95% of interviewees agreed fuel-effieicent vehicles were key fighting climate change, ahead of using energy-efficient appliances on 93%, and lightbulbs that achieved the same effect on 85%.

When the survey asked respondents how they might spend a hypothetical $1,000 on activities that saved energy, 25% said they would buy a hybrid car.

This figure was largely matched by the proportion of contributors that would choose appliances which had lower power use, and by the number of consumers keen to buy solar panels.

Looking at driving habits, the analysis revealed 70% of motorists had changed their behaviour to save fuel. Some 64% made less trips in their cars, 41% drove more slowly and 10% "drafted behind" bigger vehicles.

A further 32% had conducted research to discover where cheap fuel was available, and 21% had already purchased a vehicle with improved fuel economy.

Ford's latest Fusion model combines an Auto Start-Stop system, which automatically controls power to the engine in congested traffic and has long been used in hybrid cars, with its greenest gasoline engine.

The company suggested this would make such eco-friendly technology available to the broadest base of customers, who could recoup the extra $295 this feature cost in 18 months, making savings thereafter.

"That's more cash in their pocket and more time saved with fewer trips to the pump," said Samantha Hoyt, marketing manager for the Fusion.

Data sourced from Ford; additional content by Warc staff