Consumers hunt for fuel efficiency at auto show

January 7, 2011 12:52:32 AM PST
Forget the gadgets and electronics the focus of this year's international auto show in San Jose is on something far more practical -- saving at the pump.

The Silicon Valley International Auto Show is back. All the big car names are here and they're all pushing their newest, coolest features. Touch screens and voice navigation systems are considered common place these days. That's why the 2011 consumer is looking for something else.

"People are coming to the auto shows and they're not saying 'Oh, what's in that car?' 'What models does that have?' 'What colors does it come in?' They're saying, 'What is the miles per gallon?' 'What can I save at the pump?'" says Dee Dee Taft from the Silicon Valley International Auto Show.

In a time when gas prices are rising and are expected to jump another 33 percent this spring, fuel efficiency is the focus at this year's auto show.

"We're looking for a combination of gas mileage and comfort," says Foster City resident Don Carlson.

A recording near the car said the "Volt uses electricity to move the vehicle at all speeds and all times."

The Chevy Volt arrived in California last month and several dealerships sold out.

"They can charge this battery pack without using a drop of fuel, so we're really moving into that direction where we can have vehicles that don't utilize any fuel," says Stacey Riley from Chevrolet.

The Volt and the Prius are the only plug-in hybrids on this show room floor. Toyota is hoping 2011 will mean a turnaround for the company that's been struggling since the recalls of 2009.

"Overall, I think the industry needs 2011 to be better," says Harry Osborne from San Jose British Motors Jaguar.

Last year, 11.4 million cars were sold nationwide. In 2010, 43,000 cars were sold in Silicon Valley alone. Local dealers expect that number to jump to 50,000 in 2011. Analysts say a few reasons for the expected rise are the extension of unemployment benefits for some, job creation, and consumer confidence.

"It's a good time to buy. So if I find something great, actually that my wife loves, then we'll get it," says San Jose resident Lee Riddley.

You can't buy a car at the auto show, but it is a place to window shop.