Hybrid car owners unlikely to buy one again

Nearly every auto manufacturer touts each and every hybrid vehicle in its lineup. And judging by the number of ads we see and hear, you might think that hybrid cars are flying off the lot.

But not only are hybrids just a small part of the number of cars research points out that even those who do buy them aren't likely to buy another one when the time comes.

R.L. Polk & Company, a research firm for the automotive industry, recently completed a survey of hybrid owners that points out some interesting trends.

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.

And If repurchase behavior among the high volume audience of Toyota Prius owners isnâ??t factored in, hybrid loyalty drops to under 25 percent.

"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."

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, 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."

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.

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.

Are you surprised at the low re-purchase rate of hybrid cars? Do you own, or would you buy a hybrid car? If you don't at what price per gallon of gas would you buy one? Or would you avoid a hybrid even if gas prices continued to climb?