Hybrids For One Time Only

Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius

According to a recent survey by the auto information company R.L. Polk and Co, only 35% of hybrid vehicle owners choose to purchase a hybrid again when they return for a second purchase. This was the trend despite the increasing number of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles available in the market in the United States.

There is an even lower turnout of second time purchasers, down to twenty five percent, when the loyal Toyota Prius buyers are excluded from the survey. The survey was conducted in hybrid vehicle hotbeds such as Southern California and Seattle. Despite such high first time buyers, the area’s hybrid owners would not likely to purchase a second hybrid unit at the same rate as any other area in the country.

There are many theories as to the low repurchase rates for first adopters. One of these theories focus on the increased market share of electric car purchasers, numbering 17,000 last year which in turn is related to the number of trade-ins of hybrid vehicles for fully electric vehicles. Another theory is the current high profile class action suit and small claims lawsuits over fuel efficiency issues with older models of its hybrid version Civic. The third and most alarming, is the lower price of fuel-efficient conventional cars compared to hybrid or electric vehicles.

Cross-shopping date from auto information company Edmunds.com showed that purchasers compare hybrids with similar vehicles with internal combustion engines. An example would be the comparison would be the conventional Honda Civic is the second most compared vehicle by individuals searching online for information against hybrid models Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.

According to Lacey Plache, Chief Economist at Edmunds.com said, “The lineup of alternative-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.”

Overall, hybrids comprise just 2.4% of the new vehicle market in the United States, according to Polk, a decline from 2.9% back in 2008. The market is still lead by the first hybrid vehicle maker, the Toyota Prius. The company has expanded its line, with the “V” station wagon and the “C” subcompact. In 2011, Toyota was able to sell a total of 136,463 units despite supply issues as a result of the Japanese natural disasters. Ford came in at a very far second, selling just 11,286 units overall.

The survey lead to the conclusion that hybrid owners are either reselling their green vehicles and opting for either fuel efficient internal combustion engine vehicles or purchasing fully electric vehicles. Over the years, the number has been quite consistent as to the purchase behavior, with 2008 registering 35.2 percent, 39.6 percent in 2009, 38.9 percent in 2010 and the 35 percent for 2011.