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.