New Study: Hybrid Cars On the Rise, Especially in Europe

The number of hybrid car sales in North America will double in the next three years, according to a new forecast presented by R.L. Polk & Company, a leading auto industry market research firm. Polk forecasts that more than one in 20 new vehicles sold in the United States and Canada will have a hybrid gas-electric powertrain by 2012. That’s a growth from 2.8 percent in 2008 to 5.3 percent in 2012.

The rate of growth in Western Europe will be even more dramatic—from one-half percent this year to 5 percent in 2012. “You have a lot more environmental and political discussions throughout the EU and a much higher sensitivity with CO2 emissions,” said Lonnie Miller, director of automotive studies at Polk, in an interview with Miller added that a lot of the growth in Europe is coming from the Toyota Prius, a global leader for fuel efficiency and low emissions—and the most popular hybrid vehicle in all global markets.

R.L. Polk establishes future rates of growth based on past hybrid vehicle registrations—the company has unique access to owner registration data. Polk also analyzes consumer confidence in the overall auto market and product availability. According to announcements from global automakers, the number of hybrids is expected to grow from about 20 today to more than 40 by the end of 2010.

Miller presented his findings last week at a symposium about marketing new powertrains, organized by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. The goal of the event was to shed light on consumer acceptance of various new powertrain technologies. Miller believes that hybrids will continue to sell, despite the recent drop in gas prices. “If you look at one month compared to the previous month, we might be down. But when you close the books for the year, we’re going to be up on hybrids.”

Major Hybrid Car Trends, Accord to Polk

Economic Meltdown Will Not Slow Down Hybrids

Polk stands by its forecasts despite the downturn in auto sales. “The meltdown will translate to lower quantities because you have a lower market base,” said Miller. “But given the attention on fuel efficiency, base demand will increase.” The Polk forecast is consistent with what other market firms, such as J.D. Power, are forecasting for hybrid growth.

Hybrids Are Going Global

Five years ago, 99 percent of global hybrid sales were from US, Canada, Japan, UK and France. Today, the hybrid market has spread to nearly 50 countries. Polk is seeing dramatic growth in the Netherlands, Greece, and Israel.

Very High Customer Loyalty Rates

Nearly one in three Prius owners buys another Prius. On average, one in five hybrid owners buys the same model again. These loyalty rates are consistently high for every popular hybrid model.

Carmakers Will Promote Hybrid-Only Models AND Hybrid Options on Existing Models

Miller believes that carmakers will continue to produce hybrid-only models—like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight—to benefit from the halo effect. But once a carmaker creates an image of hybrid leadership through a dedicated hybrid model, gas-electric options will be offered on existing models. “By expanding into existing models that people are already familiar with, you cast a bigger net faster.”

The Public Believes Hybrid Technology Is ‘For Real’

According to Polk, the number of consumers that think hybrids are a fad is going down. Despite the buzz (in the industry and among enthusiasts) about other options, such as clean diesel and plug-in vehicles, the public puts all the alternatives in the catchall category of “hybrids.” Miller said, “I don’t think they understand the other technologies being discussed. Hybrids are all they know.”

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  • bill coswoth
  • Bryce

    lol….20% retention rate…that is pretty low when compared to truck brand loyalty which ranks closer to 40% or more. I don’t know if Toyota is as evil as said above….however, if I were going to get an import…it would be Honda. Much better quality than crappy Toyotas. Those things are old people cars….lol. Only older folks from the previous generation believe in their (good quality) Anyone with half a brain can read the consumer reports and see that Toyota has fallen back this decade and they are letting their competitors get the better of them. Owel, let capitalism smash them and let Honda and Chevy reign…rofl. The old folks can have their old “quality” beaters, I will drive my Volt or Insight and laugh at yout gas guzzlers.

    All the way to the bank with my tax credit.

  • steved28

    Bryce, until you put your money were your mouth is, your opinion means little. Many people who went to Toyota over Chevy did so from personal bad experiences. My parents were loyal Chevy owners way back when. I’ll never forget spending a day and a half of our vacation sitting in front of a repair shop when my dad’s chevy decided to just stop running (300 miles from home). These are the experience these “old farts” remember. Not some article in Consumer Reports.

  • Dom

    I does seem Toyota is becoming the new Buick, i.e. the cars the older generations buy. I don’t understand why people like Toyota’s so much… most of the are very uninspiring, boring, ugly, or just plain blah.
    Which is especially why I don’t understand why Europeans even bother… they have lots of great fuel efficient cars already, that both look better and meet or exceed a Prius in fuel economy.

  • Dan L

    I’ve bought Toyota for fuel economy, reliability, and comfort. (Yes, comfort. There’s not many small cars that comfortably fit large people like me.) These things may have changed in the eight years since I last bought a car. At that time, however, Toyota dominated.

    They’ve never been flashy, and I’ve never cared.

  • Heags

    Isn’t it a little early to be talking about retention rate on some of these models? Haven’t some only been out a couple years?

  • TD

    Very happy with my Honda Civic Hybrid and my Honda Odyssey.

    Not so happy with my Chevy Venture or Chevy Beretta. Both were serious maintenance nightmares. The Venture was especially expensive to get repaired. It was having problems long before the 36K mile warranty expired and then after the 36K warranty engine seals were starting to go bad so I dumped it. Got a Honda and never looked back.

  • Jerry

    I agree with NC Dave. The Prius is the only one that has been around for a normal 3-7 year cycle for cars. I am sure the rates will increase for these other models.

  • bill cosworth

    Ya I agree support us.

    Stop this anti American Toyota advertising on this site.

    My friend just got a new Toyota brand new and the bottom have the engine failed.

    That sold me on not buying a Crapota.

  • Shines

    Clearly hybrid cars are more efficient that non-hybrids. As fuel prices increase (which they will do again in the near future) and people realize that hybrid technology is not a fad and is in fact highly reliable more will buy them. With Ford providing competition to the Camry and Honda to the Prius, Toyota’s share of the hybrid market will decrease.
    But bill cosworth:
    If you don’t like Toyotas? Don’t buy them. I like Toyotas I have 2 and am glad I do.
    Yes I think most Toyota are kind of boring looking (or even ugly) but besides a few models like the Tundra and Camry V6 they are extremely reliable.
    Don’t like Toyota ads? Don’t read them. I try not to look at the ads on this site whether they are from foreign or domestic car makers (sorry I try to research things before I buy and not rely on ads anyway.
    I wonder how the workers who make Suburbans, Tahoes and PT Cruisers in Mexico are treated?

  • Bryce

    SUVs and large trucks are always made domestically. It is usually small low profit margin vehicles that are made overseas. Just a clarifier.

  • genniz smlier

    Toyota makes large suiv

    4 runner

    HUGE gass guzzlers.

  • vericona billmore

    Yes Toyota is such a fake company.

    They claim green wile selling huge SUVS

    I agree with Bill Cosworth.

  • sean t

    bill cosworth and the Toyota hater gang,
    This site is not a place to spread your hatred.
    If you don’t like Toyota, just don’t buy their cars.
    This article is about the trend of hybrid cars and Toyota (and Honda) are pioneers in that trend. That may make you feel incompetent and begin spreading the hatred.
    My hat off to any car companies that push the hybrid trend.

    Bryce, just keep buying your Hondas. I’ll keep my Toyotas.

  • Dom

    Hey, what’s fair is fair. We all put up with the Toyota fanboys praising their darling cars and talking junk about anyone else, so the Toyota fanboys can put up with a few dissenters once in a while.

  • Bryce

    I have to agree with Dom, with the Toyo fanboys can dish it out, they should be able to take it as well. If you don’t want to hear the complaints of your inferior interior quality and boring old lady exterior design….I mean….different tastes, then stop complaining about domestics. Otherwise, prepare to take the heat.

    O and Mr. Sean, I would prefer a Chevy, personally. However, of the 3 Japanese imports, Honda would be the favorite. Toyota just bores me and I see as an old lady car. Lately they have been lagging on the reliability scale too, so now I really have no idea what they have going for them. lol The boomer generation I guess.

  • Shines

    Well I’m a “Toyo Fanboy” I guess.
    I’m excited to find out how much improved the new Toyota Hybrids will be.
    Of course I’ve been giving GM credit for promoting their efficient cars and hoping the Volt succeeds. As I said in another thread, I think the new Fusion will provide great competition to the Camry hybrid (I used to be a Ford Fanboy).
    Of course I think saying things like Totota is fake and produces HUGE gas guzzlers is disingenuous.
    We should try to do a better job of sticking to the topic of hybrid cars.

  • Zack Nemi

    Well I think for just made a new hybrid Fusion

    That should be interesting.

    Looks really nice.


    In Europe at this time there are only 2 hybrid cars on sale to the public: the Prius and the Civic. There is no real choice if you want to buy a hybrid. Can someone tell me why the development of this technology is so late in arriving? Could it be that the car manufacturer has shares in the oil companies? Alternative fuel has been around since the first cars were invented. During the 1940s a lot of vehicles ran on gas. It seems that we are advancing at an artificial pace which is braked by the governments need to sell us expensive fuel. If it wasn`t for oil what would the tax be on a beer? Why are all new hybrid cars tested in California for christs sake? In Europe we are paying 30% more for our fuel than in the states. Our cars are smaller because of the lack of parking space in our cities not because they are more economical. Parking and road tax is expensive here. It`s curious to see how the world`s petrol prices suddenly dropped when the U.S had the first smell of a financial crash in its over-confident bank lending. The Europeans are held to ransom by U.S oil taxing and middle men who sell on fuel. In conclusion I have to believe that the Japanese and Chinese have less to lose by selling hybrid vehicles. Let`s hope that someone sees sense very soon because the fuel prices will soon go up again.

  • groundhog

    My brother smoked a BMW in his 1990 Toyota Avalon. Not to say everything they make is good, but every car company has a bad one once in a while!!!

  • SoloSoldier

    People will have their opinions. I like Toyota/Honda engineering, Mazda/Hyundai’s spunk, and Nissan’s creativity along with Ford’s vitality. I would never in a million years touch a Chevy or Dodge, they just plain suck!

  • power antenna

    What is wrong with buying a toyota anyways? So far i dont have any problems at all with my prius it is perfect!



  • tapra1

    fuel efficiency, base demand will increase.” The Polk forecast is consistent with what other market firms, such as J.D. Power, are forecasting for hybrid growth.Tech Expo