“Number one, there’s no brand loyalty in the fuel business, they’ll tell you right away,” Matt Horton explained to delegates at this year’s Algae Biomass Summit, where the still-youthful but now seasoned Propel Fuels CEO was giving a keynote address. “Two, people only care about price. Three, they have no real interest in the content of the fuel. Four, they are afraid of putting new fuels in their car.”
Those are going to sound pretty familiar to a lot of people in renewable fuels. In fact, a lot of people in the industry believe it, too.
“The thing is, we asked customers,” said Horton, “and they’re just not true.”
Our research shows that there’s a lot. 53 percent of our customers fuel up exclusively with Propel, and another 17 percent go with us if it is feasible to do so. 18 percent of our customers are occasional with us, and 12 percent in the survey were first-timers. That means that 70 percent of our customers are either always with us, or with us if they can be. What else can you call that except brand loyalty?
Price and pain at the pump
OK, there’s myth number one. What about #2, the all-important price at the pump?
“Take price, for example,” he told ABO’s summiteers. “It’s the most important factor. But it’s not the only factor. Not by a long shot. 61 percent of customers said that price was important to them. But 42 percent said that convenience was important. 29 percent said that carbon was a key factor, 24 percent keyed in on. 21 percent wanted a fuel made in the USA and 19 percent wanted fuels that helped end imports. There are lots of factors.”
So, price is perhaps the most important, but far from the only factor — and there’s a surprising focus on emissions and energy security. What about the content of the fuel?