Report: Polk Study Says Most Hybrid Buyers Don't Buy Hybrid Again

Remember all those early adopters of hybrid cars that helped put the Toyota Prius on the map? Well, it turns out that they might not be staying loyal to their darling technology. Polk has released a new study showing that a sizable number of those who bought hybrid cars in 2007 were unlikely to buy another in 2011.

Hybrid cars make up a tiny portion of the U.S. car market – just 2.4 percent last year, down from 2.8 percent in 2008 – but it looks like they make be good tools in helping to luring new customers to a brand. While loyalty to hybrid vehicles was just 35 percent last year, according to Polk, 60 percent of Toyota hybrid owners stayed with the Japanese brand with their next purchase and 52 percent of Honda hybrid owners stayed with the big H.

Unsurprisingly, the popularity of Toyota's Prius skews the numbers. When Polk removed the Prius from the numbers, hybrid loyalty fell from the observed 35 percent to below 25 percent. Toyota sold an impressive 136,463 Prii in 2011; roughly half of all hybrids sold in the U.S.

Polk has also seen little to no impact on the hybrid market thanks to the fluctuating gas prices of the past few years. Instead, Polk has observed that customers are more diligently cross-shopping hybrids with their non-hybrid counterparts. "The repurchase rates of hybrid vehicles are an indication that consumers are continuing to seek alternative solutions to high fuel prices," state Polk loyalty management practice director Brad Smith in a release.

This comes as little surprise to many, as numerous non-hybrid vehicles in the compact and midsize classes are now achieving 40 mpg on the highway (or more) without the added expense of the hybrid system.

Most interesting are the markets where hybrid retention is the highest. While some markets in the top 15 are unsurprising – places such as Washington, D.C.; Portland, Oregon; and Los Angeles, California – the top five markets are actually West Palm Beach, Florida (43.2 percent hybrid loyalty); Phoenix, Arizona (40.2 percent); Orlando and Tampa, Florida (both with 39.9 percent); and St. Louis, Missouri (38.4 percent).

What say you? Do you own a hybrid? Would you buy another hybrid, or would you instead pursue an ultra-efficient small car? Send us your thoughts by way of the comments section below.

Source: Polk

Ed Weissman
I purchased a 2010 Prius in June 2009, and have about 65K miles on it at this point. I average 52 mpg (without any hypermiling). I will definitely look at another hybrid when it comes time to replace this Prius. My previous car was a 2005 Mazda 3 (which I loved, but the harsh ride was not acceptable after a while, nor was the relatively poor gas mileage). I'll also look at what other vehicles are available as well when the time comes
I respectfully disagree with GS450H Owner, as you miss the point of the study. Whether a person is in the market for a new car within 4 years due to the economic climate is irrelavant; the study measured hybrid retention of people who actually bought a new car in 2011, and had bought a hybrid in 2007. Were the study to include people who hadn't bought a car at all and retained their hybrid, there would be no data. Second, unless you purchased a 2013 GS450H, the mileage for a pre-2013 model was 22/25. Not exactly earth-shattering for a hybrid.
I purchased a Toyota Camry Hybrid a couple of years ago. It did give good gas milage but drove like a vacuum cleaner. I hated the driving experience and after 18 months of ownership traded it for a non-hybrid. Admittedly I enjoy spirited driving so don't mind using a little more gas to gain a margin of fun. I now own a Ford Focus and enjoy the car very much. Gas milage is very good and fun factor is way up.
GS450H Owner
I would argue with this research due to the fact that most car owners in this economic climate are not in the market again for a new vehicle after 4 years, "those who bought hybrid cars in 2007 were unlikely to buy another in 2007". The reliability of hybrids would allow and owner to keep their car without the expense of an upgrade that would not give significantly more gains in fuel efficiency. P.S. I bought my car for the HP and the good MPG that comes with it...Cheers!
It's the US, the only thing that has proven to get Americans to drive efficient cars is gas prices. The Prius C brings the price issue down. If gas keeps going up, people will forget how they responded to some survey. The media has done a good job of marginalizing hybrid drivers like they did with wagons and minivans.

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