How much do hybrid drivers really, truly like their cars? According to R.L. Polk, not all that much – at least not in 2011.

Polk has released a new hybrid loyalty analysis that concludes that only 35 percent of people who bought a hybrid bought another one last year. The data comes from car purchases made in 2011, and Polk found that Toyota Prius drivers are the most loyal, both to the gas-electric technology and to Toyota itself. Sixty percent of Toyota hybrid owners bought another vehicle from the automaker, even if it wasn't a hybrid. A recent J.D. Power Customer Retention Study found that the average brand loyalty was 49 percent, but that doesn't take powertrains into account.

According to Polk, forty-one percent of Toyota hybrid drivers choose to buy another hybrid (from any brand). Interestingly, when Polk took out these Toyota buyers from their results, hybrid loyalty rates dropped to "under 25 percent. However, in our book that's kind of skewing the numbers, since most hybrids sold in the U.S. are built by Toyota. When looking only at Honda hybrid drivers, for example, 52 percent bought another Honda and "just under 20 percent" purchased another hybrid (from any brand). The in-brand loyalty, says Brad Smith, director of Polk's Loyalty Management Practice, shows that hybrids "can certainly give a brand a competitive edge when it comes to attracting new customers."

What's perhaps most interesting is that changes in gas prices, "had little impact on hybrid segment loyalty," according to Polk. In the company's quarterly hybrid analysis from 2008 through 2011, loyalty rates ranged from 26.4 to 41.8 percent, but spent most of the time in the 30s. See more details of the study in the official Polk press release by scrolling below.
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Only 35 Percent of Hybrid Owners Buying Hybrids Again, says Polk
Higher fuel prices not yet impacting hybrid category's loyalty rates

Monday, April 9, 2012

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (April 9, 2012) -- While the selection of hybrid models in the U.S. has more than doubled since 2007, only 35 percent of hybrid vehicle owners choose to purchase a hybrid again when returning to market in 2011, according to recent analysis by Polk (See Table A). If repurchase behavior among the high volume audience of Toyota Prius owners isn't factored in, hybrid loyalty drops to under 25 percent.

However, hybrid owners appear to maintain brand loyalty when returning to the new car market. For example, in 2011, 60 percent of Toyota hybrid owners returned to the market to purchase another Toyota, according to Polk, while 41 percent of them purchased another hybrid from any brand. In the case of Honda hybrid owners, more than 52 percent of them stayed with the Honda brand, while just under 20 percent of this same owner group bought another hybrid vehicle from any brand.

"Having a hybrid in the product lineup can certainly give a brand a competitive edge when it comes to attracting new customers," noted 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."

Online cross-shopping data from Edmunds.com indicates that consumers are doing their due diligence to compare hybrids with similar gasoline-powered vehicles. As an example, the Honda Civic is the second most cross-shopped vehicle among both Toyota Prius and Honda Insight shoppers.

Hybrid vehicles represent just 2.4 percent of the overall new vehicle market in the U.S., according to Polk, down from a high of 2.9 percent in 2008.

"The lineup of alternate drive vehicles and 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," according to Lacey Plache, Edmunds.com chief economist. "For EVs and PHEVs in particular, certain obstacles -- including consumer unease with unfamiliar technology and the lack of an adequate recharging infrastructure -- will need to be overcome before sales increase."

Polk's research also indicates that volatility in fuel prices between 2008 and 2011, which ranged from just under $2.00/gallon to nearly $4.00/gallon, had little impact on hybrid segment loyalty. As fuel prices continue to rise, Polk will be working closely with its customers to continue to analyze the impact.

Surprisingly, Polk also found that consumers in traditional eco-friendly markets in the U.S. (e.g. Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Ore. and Seattle) are no more loyal to hybrid vehicles than the nation at large. A list of the top 15 markets by hybrid loyalty is included in Table B

Table A. Quarterly Hybrid Segment Loyalty 2008-2011
Quarter Hybrid Segment Loyalty
Q1 2008 39.8%
Q2 2008 32.8%
Q3 2008 33.5%
Q4 2008 35.2%
Q1 2009 34.7%
Q2 2009 41.8%
Q3 2009 39.8%
Q4 2009 40.7%
Q1 2010 36.6%
Q2 2010 40.4%
Q3 2010 38.7%
Q4 2010 39.8%
Q1 2011 40.8%
Q2 2011 26.4%
Q3 2011 30.9%
Q4 2011 40.1%

Source: Polk


Table B. Hybrid Segment Loyalty by DMA (Top 15*)
Market Hybrid Segment Loyalty
(2011 Calendar Year End)
West Palm Beach, FL 43.2%
Phoenix, AZ 40.2%
Orlando, FL 39.9%
Tampa, FL 39.9%
St. Louis, MO 38.4%
Boston, MA 38.4%
Indianapolis, IN 37.3%
Minneapolis, MN 36.7%
Seattle, WA 36.2%
Raleigh-Durham, NC 36.1%
Milwaukee, WI 35.9%
Washington, D.C. 35.6%
San Diego, CA 35.4%
Portland, OR 34.8%
Los Angeles, CA 34.1%
Overall U.S. 35%
Source: Polk

* Note: This table represents hybrid loyalty rates in the top 15 markets in which a minimum of 500 hybrid owners returned to market in 2011.

About Polk's Loyalty Management Practice

Polk's Loyalty Management Practice aids manufacturers and retailers in effectively managing owner loyalty through the in-depth analysis of automotive shopping behaviors and related market influencers. Polk's analyses cover the entire U.S. market, and can identify likely defectors, before they leave, providing the opportunity to re-win their business prior to defection actually taking place. The practice is solely focused on helping manufacturers and dealers in retaining their owners through Polk's diagnostic, predictive and advisory services.

Polk's solutions identify the key areas and potential causal factors influencing owner loyalty and are applied in the sales, service, finance and marketing functions within the automotive industry.

About Polk

Polk is the premier provider of automotive information and marketing solutions. The organization collects and interprets global data, and provides extensive automotive business expertise to help customers understand their market position, identify trends, build brand loyalty, conquest new business and gain a competitive advantage. Polk helps automotive manufacturers and dealers, automotive aftermarket companies, finance and insurance companies, advertising agencies, media companies, consulting organizations, government agencies and market research firms make good business decisions. A privately held global firm, Polk is based in Southfield, Michigan with operations in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 83 Comments
      S2000
      • 2 Years Ago
      It seems like this is missing a key piece of information. Was this about hybrid owners buying a second car, or about the cars that hybrid owners trade their in their old hybrid on? People who already have a hybrid might not need a second one. It's really hard to interpret the data without knowing this. I just spent the weekend at a lake with a Volt owner. He loves his Volt and wouldn't stop talking about it. He's hoping to keep it forever. But his next purchase will be a pickup truck so he can pull his boat on the weekends. What does that say about hybrid/electric car owners? That they've saved enough gas money to own boats? No, it says absolutely nothing about them. Kinda like how the information from Polk doesn't reveal much...
      regionrat
      • 2 Years Ago
      What a ridiculous study. Most people have multiple vehicles in the same household. You don't need two of the same thing. My parents have a Prius and the next year they bought a CR-V. Different vehicle, different purpose. They still had the Prius!
        Julius
        • 2 Years Ago
        @regionrat
        I agree - the study would have been stronger if they checked those who *traded in* hybrids, rather than just bought one. Then again, hybrids only make about 2-3% of the market, so I'm sure the trade-in rate is pretty low at the moment...
      Donny Hoover
      • 2 Years Ago
      This study seems strange. If somebody has a hybrid, chances are they bought it to run until it drops and to save all that money as they rack miles up year after year. These cars aren't fun and they aren't really nice inside. There's no reason to pay such a high price other than the money you save in the long run due to fuel economy. People buy a hybrid and then they get a weekend sports car, off roading SUV, pickup, project car, whatever. It doesn't seem to say that they had to have traded the hybrid in or sold it when they buy another car. Since nothing but the original Prius or Honda Insight are old enough to start wearing out in large numbers, it makes sense that people won't be buying another one. They don't need it yet. Let's give it some time and see what happens. I don't even like hybrids but c'mon. This is just stupid logic.
      Adaptable1
      • 2 Years Ago
      I've had a hybrid Civic since 2004. When I went to buy another larger, family sized hybrid in 2010. Dealers either tried to talk me out of it because I would never "break even" in saving over the 100% combustion model (Nissan Altima Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid), had a 5 month delivery delay and no discounted financing on hybrid models (Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner Hybrid), or they did not have a hybrid car that was larger than the Civic I already owned (Honda). I recently went to look at a Volt and got a similar story about "breaking even" and they did not have the base $40k model....instead their price was $46k and did not qualify for the California state tax incentive (that model will not be available for a few more months). Dealers are dissuading buyers from buying hybrids and electrics.
        Pinhead
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Adaptable1
        I also imagine that many people trading in hybrids are doing so because, like you, their needs changed since they bought the hybrid. Face it, most hybrids are small cars. Sometimes you have kids or your kids get bigger or you get married or buy a boat or whatever, and the small car thing isn't so fun anymore.
          A_Guy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Pinhead
          It's true. EVERY small family I know that reaches a point where they have 2 kids suddenly thinks they need a 7-passenger vehicle.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Pinhead
          [blocked]
        Jimmery
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Adaptable1
        That's so annoying--the sales people are looking out for themselves, not the customer.
        mapoftazifosho
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Adaptable1
        I had the finance guy at a dealer do this to me too! Asking me why a Hybrid over a regular car when the costs were lower...I then went to my bank and secured my own financing...he pissed me off. I paid a very little price premium over a a conventional car and I've determined that my break even will be within 5 years. Although I plan on keeping the car for much longer than that.
      Spies1
      • 2 Years Ago
      Let's conduct a survey with an outcome in mind. Most Tablet Owners say they will never buy another table. . . . . . . . . ipad owners excluded from the results.
        WillieD
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spies1
        What does having a tablet have to do with buying a table? :P
      rmkensington
      • 2 Years Ago
      Cars in the last few years are getting better and better mpg without using hybrid tech.
        A_Guy
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rmkensington
        That's only going to make hybrids get even better mpg.
      Myself
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just people are keeping the hybrids because they run and are reliable, doesn't mean they're done with them. Look, Toyota Prius has been found to be the most reliable car in Germany for the second year running by the TUV (based on inspections of about 7.5 million cars, at least 10,000 from each model) so why would people buy a new one? You buy a hybrid to SAVE money and you don't save money if you buy a new car every few years. The study's a joke.
        Myself
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Myself
        http://www.cbt.com.my/2012/01/12/tuv-toyota-prius-most-reliable-car-mazda-2-and-3-scores-well-too/ http://www.welt.de/motor/article13753699/Acht-Millionen-Autos-auf-deutschen-Strassen-ungenuegend.html http://www.focus.de/auto/ratgeber/sicherheit/tuev-report-2011-prius-schlaegt-porsche-911_aid_582282.html
        Bruce Lee
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Myself
        Not to mention that hybrids are fairly new models for most car companies so almost nobody is buying a REPLACEMENT for their hybrid yet. If anything most of the sales to hybrid owners would be for 2nd cars. The only hybrid that's been out long enough to really have meaningful replacement sales is the Prius and it's showing 60% brand retention to Toyota and 40% hybrid retention-if you consider that a lot of the sales are probably not replacement but 2nd/3rd car sales chances then the actual replacement rate would probably be much, much, higher for hybrids. The only conclusion you can really draw is that the Prius has better loyalty rates than other hybrids but that's not surprising since it's also the best selling (and thus most liked) hybrid to begin with.
      Daniel Girald
      • 2 Years Ago
      As far as environmental conscience goes, a Diesel-powered engine is a better option than a gasoline-powered hybrid. Not just due to the lower fuel consumption but also due to the adaptability to use some biofuels such as biodiesel or even ethanol.
        mapoftazifosho
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Daniel Girald
        Go put biodiesel in a brand new Jetta Diesel...good luck on those warranty repairs...
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Daniel Girald
        [blocked]
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        waetherman
        • 2 Years Ago
        Your fifth point is good - Honda hybrids have definitely been disappointing, and I'm sure more than a few Honda customers haven't bothered with a hybrid the second time 'round because of that.
          A_Guy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @waetherman
          I know the Civic hybrid had it's issues, but I am driving a 6MT CR-Z and I've been pleasantly surprised. I normally average 38 on a tank, though right now I am averaging 41. If anything, this car has shown me that even the mildest of hybrids makes a big difference in overall average fuel economy. Comparing this to my other best MPG car I've had, a Focus ZX3 @28 mpg average, it's a huge jump.
          A_Guy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @waetherman
          @hydraulicDragon: Read: "AVERAGE", not highway. Elantras are rated 40 highway, not average. Furthermore, it is now common knowledge Hyundais don't even achieve the ratings on the sticker. Nice try tho!
          HydraulicDragon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @waetherman
          Congratulations, A_Guy, you are now achieving the EPA rating of a gasoline only Elantra in your hybrid. Not to mention with less power, and probably more or similar weight, with less interior room. Honda hybrids are not impressive in any way other than reliability.
          HydraulicDragon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @waetherman
          Also i know someone who regularly gets low 30s in his ZX2, and the Turbo Veloster with 200hp is rated for 38 on the highway.
      mapoftazifosho
      • 2 Years Ago
      "The lineup of alternate drive vehicles and 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," according to Lacey Plache, Edmunds.com chief economist. This bugs me. Far too many people think a new Ford Focus/Honda Civic/whatever gets 40 mpg all day long, in traffic and wherever. That's the highway figure for their special edition model!!! These same people don't do their fuel economy calculations and therefore assume that the Hybrid costs too much while only offering the same fuel economy as these non-hybrid cars...
        Ed
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mapoftazifosho
        It's true. I bought a Skyactiv Mazda 3, and it's incredible to watch it on the highway, but in watching my fuel economy gauge, I definitely understand the use and appeal of a hybrid. While it gets 40mph while cruising at 70, it also gets 4mpg while I'm accelerating away from a stop sign and my own driving involves lots more of those than it does highways.
          Pinhead
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ed
          You DO have a nice car, though Ed ;-) We just bought an Insight because we do at least 95% city driving - and we do consistently get 45mpg in the city, which is admittedly nice. But I'd rather drive the Mazda 3.
      Daniel Robinson
      • 2 Years Ago
      well...this happened with my father. bought a prius in 04. then got an audi A4 convertible.
        Bruce Lee
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Daniel Robinson
        Well the Prius had double the retention rate of the other hybrids, and most new purchases were of Toyotas so your father actually didn't agree with this study. Kind of a stupid study anyway since most people were probably buying 2nd cars (who just constantly buys new hybrids?)
      Spies1
      • 2 Years Ago
      Interesting, but I would not use 2011 data. In 2011, most hybrid production was severly limited do to the tsunami disaster. Hybrids were just not available to sell.
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