The findings, which are contained in the SMMT's annual issues' survey, are similar to an Ipsos-MORI report earlier this year which revealed that price and running costs were twice as important to female new car buyers as low emissions.
“Of course, price will remain an important factor for all new vehicle buyers,” said Christopher Macgowan, SMMT chief executive.
“However, we all appreciate that low emissions should be higher up the list of priorities.”
The issues survey suggests that financial incentives are crucial in creating consumer demand for lower carbon vehicles.
Tax incentives and cheaper fuels were seen as the most important contributors in driving demand, followed by re-fuelling infrastructure, sustainable fuel production and better consumer information.
However, crucially, more than half of respondents (56%), felt that no factor could be taken in isolation.
“Our colleagues in the industry clearly feel that partnership between industry, government, fuel companies and consumers is the best way to deliver sustainable motoring sooner and most effectively,” added Macgowan.
The survey will be free to download from the SMMT website from 6pm tomorrow.