|Polk’s assessment of hybrid loyalty by quarter. Data: Polk. Click to enlarge.|
While the selection of hybrid models in the US has more than doubled since 2007, only 35% of hybrid vehicle owners choose to purchase a hybrid again when returning to market in 2011, according to recent analysis by Polk. If repurchase behavior among the high-volume audience of Toyota Prius owners isn’t factored in, hybrid loyalty drops to less than 25%.
However, hybrid owners appear to maintain brand loyalty when returning to the new car market. For example, in 2011, 60% of Toyota hybrid owners returned to the market to purchase another Toyota, according to Polk, while 41% of them purchased another hybrid from any brand. In the case of Honda hybrid owners, more than 52% of them stayed with the Honda brand, while just under 20% 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. The repurchase rates of hybrid vehicles are an indication that consumers are continuing to seek alternative solutions to high fuel prices.—Brad Smith, director of Polk’s Loyalty Management Practice
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 2.4% of the overall new vehicle market in the US, according to Polk, down from a high of 2.9% 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. 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.—Lacey Plache, Edmunds.com chief economist
|Hybrid loyalty rates in the top 15 markets in which a minimum of 500 hybrid owners returned to market in 2011. Data: Polk. Click to enlarge.|
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.
Polk also found that consumers in traditional eco-friendly markets in the US (e.g. Los Angeles; San Diego; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle) are no more loyal to hybrid vehicles than the nation at large.
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 US 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.