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Automotive Fuel - US - March 2012

U.S. household expenditures on gasoline reached nearly $400 billion in 2011, a 28% increase from 2006. Yet at the same time, demand for gasoline has continued to fall sharply, including a 10% decline in both 2009 and 2010.

This report provides an up-close look at the auto fuel market, including:

  • How is consumer behavior changing in the face of high price of gasoline and what are auto fuel companies doing to respond?
  • What grades of auto fuel are consumers buying, and what can marketers do to refine a message for each segment?
  • How can fuel brands build loyalty in an environment where consumers are first and foremost concerned about cost?
  • How has consolidation among the leading energy companies affected the retail landscape, and what do consumers feel about specific brands?
  • Who is buying fuel, what grades of fuel are preferred and how much is spent weekly on fuel?
  • What actions are consumers taking in response to high gas prices?
  • How are mobile apps and cheap fuel finder websites changing the auto fuel industry?
  • What factors are most important to consumers when choosing where to buy gasoline?

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Table of contents

  1. Scope and Themes

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
        • Data sources
          • Sales data
            • Consumer survey data
              • Advertising creative
                • Abbreviations and terms
                  • Abbreviations
                    • Terms
                    • Executive Summary

                        • The market
                          • Rising prices cause gasoline sales to increase despite falling demand
                            • Figure 1: U.S. Household expenditures for gasoline and other motor fuels, at current prices, and gasoline sales through company outlets, volume by refiners, 2006-11
                            • Figure 2: Fan forecast of total sales of for gasoline and other motor fuels, 2006-16
                          • Market factors
                            • As gas prices again top $4.00 per gallon consumers change their behavior
                              • Figure 3: Average U.S. regular gas price, 12 month average, March 2012
                            • Average age of cars on road at record high, fuel efficiency of new models improving
                              • Segmentation
                                • Regular gasoline accounts for 85% of all gasoline sold
                                  • More than 10,000 gas stations have closed since 2006
                                    • Walmart and other big box retailers enter gasoline market
                                      • The consumer
                                        • Four out of five respondents buy fuel
                                          • Figure 4: Grade of fuel purchased within the past 6 months, by household income, March 2012
                                        • Consumers spend average of $47.36 on gasoline
                                          • Figure 5: Average weekly expenditure on fuel, by presence and number of children, March 2012
                                        • High gas prices are cause consumers to change behavior
                                          • Figure 6: Average fuel price triggering specific behavior changes, March 2012
                                        • Price of fuel most important issue
                                          • Figure 7: Most important factors and features when deciding where to buy gas, March 2012
                                        • What we think
                                        • Insights and Opportunities

                                          • Gas stations can promote that small businesses are in fact fuelling America
                                            • Offering discounts at the pump can build brand loyalty
                                            • Inspire Insights

                                                • Trend: Let’s Make a Deal
                                                  • Trend: Accentuate the Negative
                                                  • Market Size

                                                    • Key points
                                                      • Rising prices push gasoline spend higher despite decline in demand
                                                        • Figure 8: U.S. Household expenditures for gasoline and other motor fuels, at current prices, 2006-11
                                                        • Figure 9: U.S. Household expenditures for gasoline and other motor fuels, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2006-11
                                                      • Gasoline demand declining
                                                        • Figure 10: U.S. total gasoline sales through company outlets, volume by refiners, 2006-11
                                                      • Fan chart forecast
                                                          • Figure 11: Fan forecast of total sales of for gasoline and other motor fuels, 2006-16
                                                      • Market Drivers

                                                        • Key points
                                                          • Gas prices rising, pass $4 per gallon in some parts of country
                                                              • Figure 12: Average U.S. regular gas price, 12 month average, February 2012
                                                            • Total miles driven falls by nearly 36 billion miles, more consumers shop online
                                                                • Figure 13: Total annual vehicle miles driven, 2006-11
                                                                • Figure 14: Total annual vehicle miles driven, 1970-2011
                                                              • Spurred by legislation, fuel efficiency improves more than 10%
                                                                • Car buyers trading down in size, hybrid sales pick up
                                                                  • Vehicles need replacing as average age of cars at record high
                                                                    • Figure 15: Average age and number of passenger cars and light trucks in operation, 2006-11
                                                                • Competitive Context

                                                                  • Key points
                                                                    • Public transportation ridership highest since 1956
                                                                      • Figure 16: Unique public transportation passenger trips and miles, 2005-09
                                                                    • Large investments alternative fuels may lead to next generation in energy
                                                                      • As car sharing gains popularity, less need for urbanites to own cars
                                                                      • Segment Performance

                                                                        • Key points
                                                                          • Regular gasoline accounts for 86% of all gasoline sold
                                                                            • Gasoline designations based on octane ratings
                                                                              • Figure 17: U.S. total gasoline sales through company outlets, volume by refiners, by segment, 2008-11
                                                                          • Segment Performance—Regular

                                                                            • Key points
                                                                              • Regular-grade gasoline sales decline 33% between 2006-11
                                                                                • Figure 18: U.S. Regular-grade gasoline sales through company outlets, volume by refiners, 2006-11
                                                                            • Segment Performance—Midgrade

                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                • Midgrade sales fall by more than 50%
                                                                                  • Figure 19: U.S. Midgrade gasoline sales through company outlets, volume by refiners, 2006-11
                                                                              • Segment Performance—Premium

                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                  • Premium gasoline volume sales fall more than 40%
                                                                                    • Figure 20: U.S. Premium gasoline sales through company outlets, volume by refiners, 2006-11
                                                                                • Retail Channels

                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                    • More than 10,000 gas stations have closed since 2006
                                                                                      • Figure 21: U.S. service station count, 2006-11
                                                                                    • Leading energy companies reducing retail footprint
                                                                                        • Figure 22: Leading branded gasoline retailers, by number of stations, 2009 and 2010
                                                                                      • Walmart and other big-box retailers now offer fuel, promote discounts
                                                                                        • Figure 23: Hypermarket fuel stations, 2011
                                                                                    • Leading Companies and Brand Qualities

                                                                                      • Leading companies account for 93% of gallons sold
                                                                                        • Figure 24: Leading supplies of gasoline, by gallons sold, 2009-10
                                                                                      • BP suffers damaged reputation following oil spill
                                                                                        • Shell attempts to educate consumers on ways to save at the pump
                                                                                          • ExxonMobil is world’s largest publically traded energy company
                                                                                            • Chevron asks consumers to join them in renewable energy efforts
                                                                                              • CITGO’s Fueling Good campaign raises awareness of local owners
                                                                                              • Innovations and Innovators

                                                                                                • New enriched fuels help to clean engine, reduce emissions
                                                                                                  • Mobile “gas-finder” apps changing fuel landscape
                                                                                                    • Many gas stations go green, add electric charging stations
                                                                                                    • Marketing Strategies

                                                                                                      • Overview
                                                                                                        • ExxonMobil promotes consumer education on YouTube channel
                                                                                                          • Leading companies launch branded fuel-finding apps
                                                                                                            • ExxonMobil emphasizes scientific resources to create cleaner gas
                                                                                                              • Figure 25: ExxonMobil ad, at Exxon and Mobil we engineer, June 2011
                                                                                                            • Citgo Fueling Good ad connects brand to local communities
                                                                                                              • Figure 26: Citgo ad, these days it's more important, June 2011
                                                                                                            • Parker’s gas station shows consumers how it will help them save
                                                                                                              • Figure 27: Parker’s Gas ad, did you know that every time…, November 2011
                                                                                                            • Shell links grocery shopping to gas discounts
                                                                                                              • Figure 28: Shell ad, now when you shop at giant, May 2011
                                                                                                          • Incidence of Buying Fuel and Grade Purchased

                                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                                              • Four out of five respondents buy fuel
                                                                                                                  • Figure 29: Incidence of buying fuel, by key demographics, March 2012 (part 1)
                                                                                                                • Nearly 80% of respondents buy economy/regular grade fuel
                                                                                                                  • Figure 30: Grade of fuel purchased within the past 6 months, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                • 25-34 year-olds nearly twice as likely to buy midgrade fuel
                                                                                                                  • Figure 31: Grade of fuel purchased within the past 6 months, by age, March 2012
                                                                                                                • One in five of most affluent respondents buy premium gasoline
                                                                                                                  • Figure 32: Grade of fuel purchased within the past 6 months, by household income, March 2012
                                                                                                              • Average Weekly Expenditure on Fuel

                                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                                  • Respondents vary on average fuel spend per week
                                                                                                                    • Figure 33: Average weekly expenditure on fuel, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                  • Larger households spend more on fuel
                                                                                                                    • Figure 34: Average weekly expenditure on fuel, by number of people in household, March 2012
                                                                                                                  • Less affluent consumers likely buying only a few gallons at a time
                                                                                                                    • Figure 35: Average weekly expenditure on fuel, by household income, March 2012
                                                                                                                • Attitudes Toward Fuel and Fuel Grade

                                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                                    • Mixed attitudes concerning fuel grades suggest industry needs better messaging
                                                                                                                      • Figure 36: Attitudes toward fuel & fuel grade, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                    • One third of 45-54 year-olds find no difference between fuel grades
                                                                                                                      • Figure 37: Attitudes toward fuel & fuel grade, by age, March 2012
                                                                                                                    • Nearly 40% of urban respondents agree higher fuel grades help performance
                                                                                                                      • Figure 38: Attitudes toward fuel & fuel grade, by urban status, March 2012
                                                                                                                  • Behavior Changes Triggered by Fuel Price Increases

                                                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                                                      • High prices cause consumers to change behavior
                                                                                                                        • Figure 39: Average fuel price triggering specific behavior changes, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                      • All household income levels look for cheaper gas around $3.70/gallon
                                                                                                                        • Figure 40: Average fuel price triggering specific behavior changes, by household income, March 2012
                                                                                                                    • Use of Fuel Websites and Phone Applications

                                                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                                                        • Half using cheap fuel sites, still room to grow
                                                                                                                          • Figure 41: Usage of fuel savings websites and phone applications, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                        • 18-24 year-olds using cheap fuel apps with location-based technology
                                                                                                                          • Figure 42: Usage of fuel savings websites and phone applications, by age, March 2012
                                                                                                                        • Households with children are more aware of fuel-finding apps
                                                                                                                          • Figure 43: Usage of fuel savings websites and phone applications, by presence and number of children, March 2012
                                                                                                                      • Factors Influencing Where to Buy Gas

                                                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                                                          • Price, location trump brand
                                                                                                                            • Figure 44: Most and least important factors and features when deciding where to buy gas, by gender, March 2012
                                                                                                                          • 35-44 year-olds looking for fast service and convenience
                                                                                                                            • Figure 45: Most and least important factors and features when deciding where to buy gas, by age, March 2012
                                                                                                                          • Urban commuters are more brand loyal
                                                                                                                            • Figure 46: Most and least important factors and features when deciding where to buy gas, by urban status, March 2012
                                                                                                                        • Perceptions of Gas Stations

                                                                                                                          • Key points
                                                                                                                            • Shell used by more than one third of respondents
                                                                                                                              • Figure 47: Type of fuel brands used by customers, July 2010-September 2011
                                                                                                                            • Leading brands deemed most expensive
                                                                                                                              • Figure 48: Summary of perceptions of gas stations, by named station operator, March 2012
                                                                                                                              • Figure 49: Correspondence map of perceptions of gas stations, by named station operator, March 2012
                                                                                                                          • Impact of Race and Hispanic Origin

                                                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                                                              • Hispanic and black respondents more likely to buy higher grade
                                                                                                                                • Figure 50: Grade of fuel purchased within the past 6 months, by race/Hispanic origin, March 2012
                                                                                                                              • Hispanic respondents spend an average of $53.91 on fuel weekly
                                                                                                                                • Figure 51: Average weekly expenditure on fuel, by race/Hispanic origin, March 2012
                                                                                                                              • Asian consumers most web- and app-savvy, though Hispanics not far behind
                                                                                                                                • Figure 52: Usage of fuel savings websites and phone applications, by race/Hispanic origin, March 2012
                                                                                                                              • More than 90% of Hispanics surveyed choose a gas station based on price
                                                                                                                                • Figure 53: Most and least important factors and features when deciding where to buy gas, by race/Hispanic origin, March 2012
                                                                                                                            • Cluster Analysis

                                                                                                                                • True Believers
                                                                                                                                  • Demographics
                                                                                                                                    • Characteristics
                                                                                                                                      • Opportunity
                                                                                                                                        • Tight Pockets
                                                                                                                                          • Demographics
                                                                                                                                            • Characteristics
                                                                                                                                              • Opportunity
                                                                                                                                                • Middling Moderates
                                                                                                                                                  • Demographics
                                                                                                                                                    • Characteristics
                                                                                                                                                      • Opportunity
                                                                                                                                                        • Fuel Finders
                                                                                                                                                          • Demographics
                                                                                                                                                            • Characteristics
                                                                                                                                                              • Opportunity
                                                                                                                                                                • Cluster characteristics
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 54: Grade of fuel purchased within the past 6 months, by auto fuel clusters, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 55: Average weekly expenditure on fuel, by auto fuel clusters, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 56: Attitudes toward fuel & fuel grade, by auto fuel clusters, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 57: Average fuel price triggering specific behavior changes, by auto fuel clusters, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 58: Usage of fuel savings websites and phone applications, by auto fuel clusters, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 59: Most and least important factors and features when deciding where to buy gas, by auto fuel clusters, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                                • Cluster demographics
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 60: Auto Fuel clusters, by age, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 61: Auto Fuel clusters, by household income, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 62: Auto Fuel clusters, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 63: Auto Fuel clusters, by number of people in household, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                              • Appendix: Other Useful Tables

                                                                                                                                                                • Average weekly spend and age
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 64: Average weekly expenditure on fuel, by age, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                                • Attitudes toward fuel and fuel grade by household income
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 65: Attitudes toward fuel & fuel grade, by household income, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                                • Average fuel price triggering behavior by age
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 66: Average fuel price triggering specific behavior changes, by age, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                                • Usage of fuel savings websites and phone apps by household income
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 67: Usage of fuel savings websites and phone applications, by household income, March 2012
                                                                                                                                                              • Appendix: Trade Associations

                                                                                                                                                                Companies Covered

                                                                                                                                                                • BP p.l.c.
                                                                                                                                                                • ChevronTexaco Corporation
                                                                                                                                                                • CITGO Petroleum Corporation
                                                                                                                                                                • ConocoPhillips
                                                                                                                                                                • Exxon Mobil Corporation
                                                                                                                                                                • Marathon Petroleum Company LLC
                                                                                                                                                                • Royal Dutch/Shell Group
                                                                                                                                                                • Sunoco, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                • Wild Bean Café

                                                                                                                                                                Automotive Fuel - US - March 2012

                                                                                                                                                                £2,684.63 (Excl.Tax)