Gas prices rise — and hybrid sales seem to do the same. However, great gas mileage doesn't seem to be enough of a draw for the majority of hybrid vehicle owners when it comes time to replace their hybrid with a newer model. A recent study conducted by automotive information and marketing solutions firm R.L. Polk reveals that only 35 percent of hybrid car owners purchased another hybrid vehicle when they returned to the new car market last year.
The number gets worse when data for Toyota Prius owners is dropped from the equation. Prius owners are obviously a dedicated bunch, and without these repeat customers, hybrid loyalty was less than 25 percent last year. The good news for manufacturers is that while hybrid loyalty figures are low, brand loyalty figures are high.
Polk's data shows that brand loyalty among Toyota hybrid owners was 60 percent; even if the new car purchase wasn't a new Toyota hybrid, it was another Toyota model. Brand loyalty among Honda hybrid owners was 52 percent.
One factor cited for low hybrid loyalty rates is the overall improved fuel efficiency across the entire fleet of automobiles available here in the United States. According the Polk press release, Lacey Plache, chief economist at Edmunds.com, said, "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."
In addition to looking at overall hybrid loyalty numbers, Polk also examined loyalty by market, and the data may be surprising to some. California, which is often the epicenter of eco-friendly driving, isn't strongly represented on the list with only two cities out of the top 15: San Diego with 35.4 percent hybrid loyalty and Los Angeles with 34.1 percent hybrid loyalty, which is below the national average.
Three Florida cities were among the top 5 for 2011, including Tampa, which placed fourth. Here are the top five cities for hybrid loyalty in 2011:
1. West Palm Beach — 43.2 percent
2. Phoenix — 40.2 percent
3. Orlando — 39.9 percent
4. Tampa — 39.9 percent
5. St. Louis — 38.4 percent