According to research firm Polk, 35 percent of hybrid owners chose to purchase another one in 2011. This news comes despite the number of hybrid vehicles offered in the U.S. market having doubled since 2007.
Polk also said, that outside the Toyota Prius, hybrid customer retention drops to below 25 percent. In addition, Polk said that contrary to popular thinking, the price of gas at the pump has appeared to have little effect on the demand for hybrids in the period 2008-2011.
And whether they lived in perceived urban friendly locations, such as Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., Seattle or San Diego, hybrid owners were no more likely to choose another compared with motorists in other areas across the country.
So what’s the reason for hybrids’ apparent lack of popularity? Lacey Plache, chief economist at Edmunds.com believes the problem lies with two major aspects; high retail prices and unfamiliar technology. “Their premium price points just aren’t appealing enough to consumers to give the segment the momentum it once anticipated, especially given the growing strength of fuel economy among compact and midsize competitors.”
Plache also said that plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles have the additional obstacle of a lack of adequate charging infrastructure to support them.
Nonetheless, automakers continue to develop hybrids and EVs; Toyota has evolved the Prius from a single vehicle to an entire range, while other automakers such as Ford, Nissan and General Motors are introducing new alternatively propelled models as well as further advancing hybrid and EV technology, in some cases licensing it others in order to help them bring their own “green” vehicles to market.
Granted, more efficient internal combustion engines and the adoption of some hybrid type technologies, such as engine stop start and regenerative braking are making their way into more and more “conventional cars.”
This push, and the aforementioned new green cars pending are part of an “all of the above” approach to meet another market-shaping force: government mpg and emissions mandates that are expected to continue to spur automakers to create more and more efficient choices.
Further, the study’s finding that gas prices have had no effect on demand is one that many in the industry would disagree with, including Toyota’s Jim Lentz, who spoke to Fox News on the subject. That gas prices affect buying behavior was one point both Fox and Toyota did share agreement upon.
It’s also been noted some consumers have made impulse hybrid purchases – such as in 2008 – when they did fear gas prices were escalating too quickly, so this could account for some not staying loyal to the type.
As consumers become more aware of the positive attributes of the increasing variety of advanced-tech cars, advocates believe their market share will continue to increase.