In a pretty stunning turn of events, a Polk analysis has concluded only 35% of hybrid owners bought another hybrid when returning to the market in 2011. The number drops to 25% when you take out the high-volume Prius audience.
Since 2007, the selection of hybrid models has more than doubled, but this hasn’t enticed hybrid customers to stay hybrid. The interesting aspect, however, is that customers do remain brand loyal. In 2011, 60% of Toyota hybrid owners stuck with Toyota for their next car while 41% of them bought another hybrid from a different brand. 52% of Honda hybrid owners stayed with Honda while under 20% bought a hybrid from another company.
Online shopping data from edmunds.com also indicates that consumers are doing their homework when it comes to gas-powered vs. hybrid cars. An example of this is the Honda Civic being the second most cross-shopped car among Prius and Honda Insight shoppers.
Hybrids represented 2.4% of the new vehicle market in 2011, which is down from 2.9% in 2008. In addition, Polk also found that cities and regions traditionally known for their acceptance of renewable energy like Portland, Oregon and Seattle are no more loyal to hybrids either.
All of this begs the question: Why did people leave their hybrids behind in 2011? According to Polk, gas price volatility is surprisingly not the answer. Gas prices in the 2008-2011 span fluctuated between $2 a gallon to $4 a gallon, but had little impact on hybrid loyalty.
Of course, some recent numbers are, in fact, showing an increase in hybrid and electric car sales. It'll be interesting to see how 2012 numbers look now that $4.00 is likely to be the new “floor” for gas prices,