Buying a hybrid is a one-time deal for most drivers, according to a new study by automobile marketing solutions firm R.L. Polk.
The rise of gas prices every Spring seems to energize people to go for a hybrid. But the study found that only 35 percent of U.S. hybrid owners in 2011 bought another hybrid when it was time to trade in. The study is based on the top 15 markets in the country in which at least 500 people own a hybrid.
What may be surprising is that in green-friendly Seattle, hybrid loyalty wasn’t that much higher. Only 36.2 percent of Puget Sound hybrid owners bought another hybrid. In Portland, only 34.8 percent stayed loyal to hybrids.
When it comes to brand loyalty, Toyota is the clear leader thanks largely to the Prius. Sixty percent of Toyota hybrid owners returned to buy another Toyota. Next was Honda, which found 52 percent of its hybrid owners purchased another Honda.
"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."
According to Polk, cross-shopping data from Edmunds.com indicates customers are doing their homework when comparing hybrids with similar gasoline-powered vehicles. For example, the Honda Civic is the second most cross-shopped vehicle among both Toyota Prius and Honda Insight shoppers.
The Polk study found hybrid vehicles represent just 2.4 percent of the overall new vehicle market in the U.S., down from a high of 2.9 percent in 2008.
Polk also found that the recent volatility in gas prices – from just under $2 per gallon in 2008 to nearly $4 per gallon last year – had little impact on hybrid loyalty.
Below is a ranking of hybrid loyalty among the top 15 U.S. markets, in which at least 500 people owned a hybrid.
- West Palm Beach – 43.2 percent
- Phoenix – 40.2 percent
- Orlando – 39.9 percent
- Tampa – 39.9 percent
- St. Louis – 38.4 percent
- Boston – 38.4 percent
- Indianapolis – 37.3 percent
- Minneapolis – 36.7 percent
- Seattle – 36.2 percent
- Raleigh-Durham – 36.1 percent
- Milwaukee – 35.9 percent
- Washington, DC – 35.6 percent
- San Diego – 35.4 percent
- Portland – 34.8 percent
- Los Angeles – 34.1 percent