DETROIT (WWJ) – An overwhelming majority of consumers believe that fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks should be improved, according to a new poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

Nearly all respondents (93 percent) support increased fuel efficiency, while 77 percent agree that car manufacturers should produce more fuel-efficient vehicles and the government should increase standards and enforce them.

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Over half (56 percent) of respondents said they were considering hybrid or electric cars for their next vehicle. If availability improves over the next 15 years, consumers are even more likely (72 percent) to consider them.

One of the driving forces behind the growing support for alternative fuel vehicles and increased fuel efficiency standards? The cost of gasoline.

“Eighty-nine percent of consumers who are considering these hybrid and electric models cited lower fuels costs as one of their motivations for making the transition,” David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center, said in a statement. “This survey demonstrates there is strong support in the consumer market for more efficient vehicles that help you keep your costs down at the gas pump.”

And the poll findings strongly suggest that consumers are willing to pay more for a fuel-efficient vehicle if it means they will save money on gas over the long term. In fact, 81 percent of consumers responded that they were willing to pay extra if it would lower their operating costs.

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Among the issues evaluated, consumers who have at least one car indicate that the price of gasoline (79 percent) is their number one concern, followed closely by America’s reliance on foreign oil (72 percent).

In addition, 80 percent agreed that fuel economy standards should require auto manufacturers to increase the overall fleet average to at least 55 miles per gallon by 2025, showing strong support for the target fuel economy or CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards recently announced by the White House.

Champion said, “Moving to a 54.5 mpg average by 2025 would save consumers thousands in fuel costs over the life of the vehicle. This survey makes it clear that there will be customer demand for these efficient vehicles as auto manufacturers continue to innovate to meet these standards.”

Mark Cooper, Director of Research at the Consumer Federation of America, commented on the CR survey results: “These results reflect the strongest support for higher fuel economy standards and willingness to adopt new fuel savings technologies we have seen to date. With the average annual household spending on gasoline headed for a record $2,900 this year, there should be little surprise at this strong support and little doubt that the goal of 54.5 miles per gallon is achievable.”

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The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted 1,008 telephone interviews among adults aged 18+ between Oct. 28 and Oct. 31.