As American consumers shift their buying behaviour towards more fuel efficient vehicles, turbocharging – already in use by roughly half of new vehicles in Europe – has emerged as the engine technology US consumers ‘didn’t know they wanted’, according to a survey commissioned by a turbocharger manufacturer.

In a study of US consumers by turbocharger manufacturer Honeywell, more than half of those who plan to purchase a vehicle in the next two years believe fuel efficiency is more important than it was during their last vehicle purchase.

The study also found that more than 80% of American consumers were more likely to consider purchasing a turbocharged vehicle after learning that the readily available turbocharger helps to increase the fuel efficiency of a gasoline engine by up to 20% without sacrificing performance or reliability.

While Americans’ prioritisation of fuel efficiency is new, their actual purchase preferences are not.

According to the Department of Transportation, nine out of the ten most popular vehicles purchased in the recent ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program were equipped with smaller and more fuel-efficient versions of conventional technology engines.

“The success of the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program shows that a consumer appetite exists for fuel efficient options on traditional engine platforms that don’t sacrifice the power, reliability and price that Americans demand,” said David Paja, Vice President, Marketing for Honeywell Turbo Technologies.

“For that reason, almost every major automaker has announced plans to broadly introduce turbocharged engines to the US market in the coming years. We anticipate demand for gas and diesel turbocharged engines in the US market may increase from 5% today to 25% by 2014 and could top 85% by 2020.”

The Honeywell study showed that while 90% of Americans had heard of turbochargers, just over half were familiar with the technology and only 36% of those people said they would consider purchasing a turbocharged vehicle. But that number jumped to over 80% when information was shared about the benefits of turbocharging.