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SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Is green becoming mainstream? A new global survey shows nearly six in 10 people would choose an environment-friendly car over a petrol-powered one, even if they had all the money in the world.
The survey of 13,500 city dwellers in 18 countries, by market research firm Synovate, also showed that over a third of respondents said they would either use public transport, walk, or cycle more often this year, partly to save on fuel costs but also for the sake of the environment.
"More and more, owning a car may not be viewed as that responsible," said Scott Miller, CEO of Synovate Motoresearch. "But car makers are producing more and more options that will appeal to this fast-growing group of green-inclined people.
"Cars are freedom, and people value freedom. If they continue to enjoy guilt-free freedom, the car will stay a large part of daily lives for many people," he said in a statement.
The survey asked respondents to forget about cost and choose between "green" or "dream" -- that is an electric or hybrid car versus a luxury, powerful sports car.
The survey, conducted in March, included the world's top passenger car markets, China and the United States.
Even with money being no object, nearly 40 percent of respondents said green would be their preferred purchase. An additional 20 percent said green cars were their "dream" car.
More than 70 percent of Chinese said they would buy a green car, compared with 42 percent of Americans, the survey showed.
Chinese, at nearly 40 percent, were also the people most likely to take public transport more often in the next year, while Americans -- at 2 percent -- were among the least.
The nation most likely to choose green cars over petrol-powered ones, regardless, was Germany, with nearly two-thirds choosing the environment over their dream cars.
The environment, however, meant little to a third of all respondents, which the survey showed would choose the car they desired the most, green-be-damned.
The majority of these buyers were in South Africa and India, where cars are regarded as a status symbol, Synovate said.
Overall, 15 percent of respondents said they would buy a new car in the next 12 months, despite the economic downturn.
The new car would-be buyers were topped by India, Egypt and Turkey, which Synovate said showed developing countries presented a good opportunity for car manufacturers.
Least likely to be buying a new car were Australians and Germans, while 6 percent of overall respondents say they would buy a used car in the next year.
While 36 percent have a pragmatic view about cars, the survey also showed that nearly a third of all respondents said the would love a car that turned heads, especially in the United Arab Emirates, India, China and Egypt.
"Car makers have to get the balance right," said Tim Englehart, US-based vice president of Synovate Motoresearch.
"A car can still be very cool while offering practicality and a lower price. Success in the auto business comes from understanding people well enough to meet their emotional needs as well as practical ones."
The survey was conducted in March across 18 markets -- Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the United States.
Editing by Alex Richardson