NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hybrid Owners Unlikely to Buy Another One

April 12, 2012

Despite previous sales surges tied to past petroleum price hikes the United States, the hybrid vehicle market hasn't been able to maintain its momentum and a new study by R.L. Polk apparently explains why.  After living with the high-mileage technology, nearly two of three hybrid owners wind up returning to a more conventional vehicle when it's time to trade in, says

  • According to Polk tracking data, only 35 percent of hybrid vehicle owners purchased another gas-electric model when trading in during 2011.
  • The number varied significantly depending on the hybrid owned.
  • Less than 20 percent of Honda hybrid owners returned to purchase another gas-electric vehicle -- whether from Honda or another brand.
  • For the world's most-popular hybrid, the Toyota Prius, 41 percent bought another gas-electric model, whether from Toyota or another brand.
  • But it's significant that even then, nearly three of every five Prius owners did not go back for another hybrid.

Hybrid loyalty rates have also varied significantly from year to year.

  • During the third quarter of 2011, when fuel prices were reasonably stable, only 30.9 percent of owners traded in on another hybrid.
  • But when fuel prices started to surge during the final three months of last year, the loyalty rate rose to 40.1 percent.

Polk officials suggested the technology is having a hard time because of the high cost for hybrids.  Analysts note it can take as long as seven to 10 years to recover the added cost through savings on fuel.  The industry is struggling to lower that so-called "payback period," but gains haven't come quite as quickly as forecast.

There are other factors that limit loyalty.  For example, there are a growing number of alternatives, including diesels and advanced versions of conventional gasoline technology that get comparable mileage.

Source: "Hybrid Owners Unlikely to Buy Another One, Study Shows,", April 10, 2011.  "Only 35 Percent of Hybrid Owners Buying Hybrids Again, says Polk," R.L. Polk, April 9, 2012.

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