Special Coverage

SAE World Congress

DETROIT – As the economic crisis has sapped purchasing power, much has been made of the fact that consumers now are less willing to pay extra for so-called green products.

Nevertheless, that does not mean consumers unilaterally have given up caring about how the products they buy are made, where they come from or that green marketing is dead, says John Schneider, chief engineer-E/E systems engineering, Ford Motor Co.

Speaking during the “Electronics in the Green Space” session at the SAE World Congress here, Schneider says it is clear a growing number of consumer purchases are influenced not only by environmental issues, but also religious, health, politics and other matters.

These broader concerns increasingly are being described by the more encompassing term “ethical consumption” by market researchers struggling to understand changing consumer behavior.

“Careful consumption” is another term being bandied about to describe consumers who include a personal value system in purchase decisions but now are on a very tight budget.

Despite being forced to shift some priorities, “They still want to do the right thing,” says Schneider.

Appealing to these consumers with green-themed products requires a different approach than marketing to early adopters, who are more impressed with technology and environmental benefits.

To move beyond early adopters to more mainstream careful consumers, the product must not require compromises and be a very strong value proposition in its own right, beyond its green appeal, Schneider says. In other words, mainstream consumers may favor “ethical” products over other choices, but they do not want to pay extra for them and will not accept lower quality or performance characteristics.

dwinter@wardsauto.com