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Italians seek car alternatives, but not to save planet

Over a quarter of drivers reducing mileage

21 December, 18:09
Italians seek car alternatives, but not to save planet (ANSA) - Rome, December 21 - Italians are looking for more ecological transport alternatives to traditional, gas-driven cars, but not to save the planet, a report presented Tuesday said. A snapshot of automobile use in Italy by the social and economic research think tank CENSIS said the trends are driven by hard economic times, expensive gasoline and expedience.

The study presented at the Touring Club in Rome, Automobile 2010, found drivers who reduced car use in 2010 grew by 5.6% over 2009 to 26.6%.

Instead they are using public transport, motorcycles, bicycles and their own two feet more.

Use of public transport grew 8.3% over 2009 to 49.5% of respondents, whereas two-wheeled transport, motorized or not, crept up in the low single digits. Nearly 18% of Italians use motorcycles or scooters and 18.7% use bicycles.

The report warned the trend away from car use does not indicate new, altruistic or healthier preferences among Italians, but expediency, albeit ill-conceived according to CENSIS.

Short-distance city driving consumes more gasoline per kilometer than highway travel, yet 90.4% of respondents still prefer the car for daily commutes.

''The perception that gasoline costs too much fuels an absurd paradox,'' the report stated. ''For moving the shortest distances, people don't forgo the car, whereas for long journeys, which require more gasoline, they take public transport (more). ''(People) are not renouncing their daily use of the automobile. ''(They are) showing it an affection and trust that no other means deserves, and one that not even the economic crisis and the increased cost of gasoline manage to scratch,'' said the report.

Gasoline prices irk people far more than other automobile costs, with 68% of respondents complaining that they are too expensive - an increase of 4.5% over 2009. Insurance comes next with 55.8% of respondents unhappy, a decline of 1.5% over 2009. The cost of fuel has boosted the popularity of diesel, now favored by 20.2% of respondents.

Meanwhile, demand for new cars remains weak, with just 3.9% of respondents intent on buying a new model in 2011. Nearly 8% are contemplating a new scooter or motorcycle. Reintroducing government economic incentives to encourage new car purchases finds favor with 47.5% of respondents, whereas eliminating road tax strikes a chord with 24.3%.

Respondents say they are more interested in value than discounts, with 41.1% saying the price-quality ratio motivates their purchases compared to 31% who said they were determined by price alone.

Italian men and women have very different ideas on what constitutes value, however. Women want cars to be maneuverable and practical, whereas men want them powerful and luxurious.

Foreign cars have found favor over Italian, almost entirely represented by Fiat. A little over 42% of respondents said they own Italian cars, versus 54.7% who own foreign makes.