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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 IHS

IHS (NYSE: IHS) is the leading source of information, insight and analytics in critical areas that shape today's business landscape. Businesses and governments in more than 165 countries around the globe rely on the comprehensive content, expert independent analysis and flexible delivery methods of IHS to make high-impact decisions and develop strategies with speed and confidence. IHS has been in business since 1959 and became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange in 2005. Headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, USA, IHS is committed to sustainable, profitable growth and employs approximately 8,000 people in 31 countries around the world. For more information, please visit www.ihs.com.

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