Staying true to your fuel: it's an age thing

There was a time when many people stuck by their station – were loyal to one brand of gasoline over others.
“I’d rather push my car past a [Brand X] station then stop there,” said my friend’s dad when we were kids.

mlb_a_citgo_200 Baseball had some say over my choice of gasoline when I was younger. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Turns out that attitude is harder to come by, according to NPD Group’s Motor Fuels Index, which tracks consumer gasoline purchasing.
Consumers over 65 have always been more likely to limit brand choice to only one brand, while younger consumers historically have been more willing to shop around. But the younger, less-loyal customers are keeping their fickle habits with them as they age.
Shoppers who say they “always buy one brand of gasoline” measured 28 percent in the first quarter of 2009, down from 34 percent in the first quarter of 2000. The age group with the biggest drop in that time frame were 30-to-44 year-olds, many of whom were in the 18-to-29 range in 2000.

“I believe we can expect the trend to continue as drivers, ages 18 to 29, also exhibit less loyalty than previous generations,” says David Portalatin, industry analyst for NPD’s automotive unit. “This group is beginning to be influenced by the ‘echo boom,’ children of Baby Boomers, who will be the largest generation of drivers in the history of the automobile.”

Here’s the full report.
Of course there are fewer reasons to be loyal to one brand over another in this age of self-serve, pay-at-the pump, independently owned gas stations. Often the gasoline that comes out of the pump is not even be from the refining or marketing arm of that company. And when was the last time you had someone rush out to wash your windows and fill up the tank while you stayed behind the wheel? (You folks in New Jersey and Oregon are excluded from that question).
I’ve been brand-loyal for a few periods of time over the years but for different reasons. For my first decade of driving Citgo was my brand because 1. The big Citgo sign looming over Fenway Park in Boston where I grew up, and 2. My step-father always gave me $100 Citgo gas cards for Christmas. Somehow my engine always seemed happier running on free gas. Citgo has been trying hard to whip-up brand support with some recent campaigns, maybe to counteract that whole Hugo Chavez-thing some consumers, particularly in Houston, may feel.
Later, I had repeat experiences at Texaco stations where the workers would just randomly start talking about all the research the company put into its fuels. From New Jersey to California the Texaco guys liked to talk gasoline. One guy at a service station in Deming, New Mexico was a one-man marketing machine who should have been made employee of the year. Free refills of my 48-ounce Texaco coffee mug didn’t hurt either.
Now, with kids and a mortgage it’s all about price and convenience. The Valero station I drive by every day is the easiest option, but in the back of my mind I like the fact it’s a Texas-based company.
Is it all about price for you? Or do you have a soft spot in your heart (and wallet) for a particular brand?

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