DETROIT -- Flex-fuel vehicles powered in part by ethanol appeal to the sensibilities of American drivers, so much so that their feeling about an automaker dramatically improves when that manufacturer shows leadership on the subject.

This news is according to a new study among vehicle owners conducted by Phoenix Automotive.

The online survey, conducted Jan. 7-9 among 2,057 vehicle owners, found that 60 percent are extremely or very familiar with the grain-based fuel. When presented with ethanol's strengths and weaknesses, more than 90 percent of drivers said they would prefer a flex-fuel vehicle (running on both bio- and fossil-fuels) over a strictly gasoline or diesel version.

Fully 87 percent of vehicle owners said they would feel much or somewhat better about any manufacturer offering flex-fuel vehicles and supporting the ethanol delivery infrastructure.

Ethanol is typically produced from renewable, domestically-raised grain. It is priced similar to or lower than gasoline, and it offers reductions in tailpipe particulate and toxic emissions.

Consumers perceive renewable resource (42 percent), clean fuel (24 percent) and produced in America (19 percent) as the most important benefits of ethanol-powered vehicles.

"Last year's fuel price run-up and Middle East crises may have not only hurt American drivers' pocketbooks, but also caused them to feel guilty about operating large, gas-only vehicles," said Bill Saunders, president of Phoenix Automotive, a division of Phoenix Marketing International.

"Ethanol power not only allows owners to enjoy large vehicles, but it can also let them feel good about the domestic agricultural economy, American energy independence and the environment."

Phoenix Marketing International is one of the fastest growing top-50 marketing research firms in the U.S. and partners with many of the largest companies in the financial services, consumer package goods, automotive and travel, leisure & entertainment industries worldwide.

Phoenix Automotive is the Birmingham, Mich.-based division of Phoenix Marketing International.

SOURCE: Phoenix Marketing International via PR Newswire.