Some 65 percent of the owners of hybrids ditch the fuel efficient cars when it when it comes time to buy a new vehicle, according to a new study by Polk
, an automotive information and marketing solutions firm.
The study found that only 35 percent of hybrid vehicle owners chose to purchase a hybrid again when buying a new vehicle in 2011. The Michigan-based firm found that if the owners of the popular Toyota Prius are excluded from the study, hybrid loyalty drops to under 25 percent.
"Having a hybrid in the product lineup can certainly give a brand a competitive edge when it comes to attracting new customers," said Brad Smith, director of Polk's Loyalty Management Practice. "The repurchase rates of hybrid vehicles are an indication that consumers are continuing to seek alternative solutions to high fuel prices."
Polk reported that hybrid vehicles now represent 2.4 percent of the overall new vehicle market in the United States, down from a high of 2.9 percent in 2008.
"The lineup of alternate drive vehicles and their premium price points just aren't appealing enough to consumers to give the segment the momentum it once anticipated, especially given the growing strength of fuel economy among compact and midsize competitors," said Lacey Plache, chief economist for automotive information company Edmunds.com.
"For [electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles] in particular, certain obstacles — including consumer unease with unfamiliar technology and the lack of an adequate recharging infrastructure — will need to be overcome before sales increase."
Polk's research also found that spiking fuel prices between 2008 and 2011 had little impact on hybrid vehicle loyalty.
Areas with the highest hybrid loyalty include West Palm Beach, Fla., Phoenix, Ariz., Orlando, Fla., Tampa, Fla., St. Louis, and Boston. Polk also found that consumers in eco-friendly markets such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and Portland, Ore., are no more loyal to hybrid vehicles than the nation at large.
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