Polk Study Says Hybrid Loyalty Is At 35 Percent

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.

Green Car Congress


  • Capt. Concernicus

    I own a 2nd gen Prius and I fully intend to buy another one after this one. I make fewer stops to the gas station and when I have to fill up I have yet to spend more than $40 in gas. Do I hate high gas prices? Yes, just as much as the next person, but the high MPG’s the Prius returns helps insulate me from the spikes in gas prices. I bought my Prius when gas prices were low and Prius wasn’t in big demand. I’m glad I bought when I did.

    Now with more hybrid choices from Toyota and other automakers people can start looking at used models that are 1 or 2 years old.

  • Dan Peed

    I own a 2002 1st gen. Prius and still get 43 m.p.g. in city traffic. The car runs great and has saved me a large amount of $$$ for more than 10 years.

  • c_harnett

    The Polk study leaves us with more questions than answers. It refers to hybrid buyers returning to the market. Why are they returning? Are they getting rid of their current hybrid in favor of something else? Or are they buying an additional car?

    And this HybridCars article, regurgitating part of the Polk article, doesn’t do us any favors. Some additional research or even a little web surfing would be nice. A recent Car & Driver review of the Prius C included this observation:

    “Not surprisingly, Toyota didn’t contact us during development of the C. According to the company, the Prius has the highest owner loyalty—meaning people who buy one typically buy another—of any mid-size car (as categorized by the EPA).”

    Stats about hybrid retention would be bi-modal. There’s the Prius, with exceptional customer retention, and then there’s everything else. This article doesn’t bring that out.

  • fireworks

    35%? That’s big enough. Some of friends also have this brand.

  • Scott Z

    Well duh. I purchased a prius in 05 as our main commuter car. Then we needed a new second car. Oh how I prayed to the car gods for a hybrid mini-van. Like all gods they did not listen. So I purchased a normal mini-van.

    Our Prius is going strong with 90k miles and still get 47-51 MPG so you bet I will get another one.

    The main issue Hybrids have is simply options. If I wanted a slightly larger Prius I had no options until very recently and of course there is still no hybrid mini-van to be found.