According to a latest Polk study, most hybrid car buyers do not buy another one, when it comes time to replace their hybrids. Almost two-thirds of U.S. hybrid buyers returning to the market in 2011 decided to buy something else besides a hybrid.
Excluding the Toyota Prius, the repurchase rate among other hybrid buyers dropped to 22 percent. The Polk study shows that the overall loyalty rate was at 41.8 percent in the second quarter of 2009 and 40.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. The total loyalty rate for 2011 was only 35 percent.
The biggest challenging facing hybrid car makers is that fuel-efficiency technology on non-hybrid models has advanced rapidly, which has reduced the fuel-efficiency advantage that the more expensive hybrids once had. Brad Smith, director of Polk’s loyalty management practice, stated “The premium price points for hybrids are just too high when so many conventional small and mid-size cars have improved fuel economy.”
Although hybrids may have a low loyalty rate, they do attract buyers to certain brands and may also help those brands retain customers. “It’s a great conquesting tool for brands,” Smith said in a phone interview, calling hybrid technology “a competitive edge when it comes to attracting new customers.” According to Polk, in 2011 60 percent of Prius owners that re-entered the market bought another Toyota. 52 percent of Honda hybrid owners ended up returning to the brand, but less than one in five bought another Honda hybrid.