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Polk: 35% of hybrid owners buying hybrids again

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 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, 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.



True Hybrids sales and loyalty goes up and down with the price of fuel. The current 40% level would climb with gas at a sustained $4+/gal or more.


If fuel price was the only issue of importance, we would have much higher market penetration of HEVs in Europe.


Peter makes a key point, the Prius sales in London with $8 per gallon gasoline were very small compared to U.S. cities with $4 gasoline.

Let's say we set it up where gasoline never goes below $4 per gallon in the U.S. from now on. Would people decide to buy more fuel efficient cars over time? I think that they would, because the fuel price can not go lower than $4 and everyone know this.

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In most European countries the taxes on diesel is significantly lower than the taxes on gasoline so gasoline sell for about 8 USD per gallon and diesel sells for about 7 USD per gallon. Also diesel contain 30% more energy than gasoline per gallon so in the European case gasoline vehicles are not competitive with diesel because of tax differences.

The reason Europe is favoring diesel vehicles is that European automakers are ahead in this particular area and the European auto industry is therefore protected by the tax policy against serious competition from Japanese auto makers. Remove the tax benefits for diesel and the sales of (Japanese) gasoline hybrids would skyrocket in Europe. Therefore they will not be removed.

Battery electric vehicles stand a better chance of succeeding in Europe as most European countries support the sales of these vehicles with hefty subsidies. I think BEVs will outsell hybrids in Europe by December 2013 when the 150k units Renault Zoe factory and the 50k unit Nissan Leaf UK factory is producing at full speed.


I have hard to believe that diesel cars would be the only explanation to the apparent lack of success for HEVs in Europe. We still have about 50% sales of gasoline cars. At our high fuel price, gasoline HEVs would have a considerable advantage over conventional gasoline cars.

One should also recall that tax varies a lot in EU member states. In UK diesel tax is slightly higher than gasoline tax. Still, diesel penetration is high. It is higher in the more economic conscious parts of the country (i.e. Scotland). I do not have any recent data on HEV penetration in the UK but to my knowledge, it is not significantly higher than in any other EU member state.

Consequently, I sense a complex relationship between the parameters that affect HEV penetration. Maybe the question should be re-phrased: Why do we see the relatively big success for HEVs in Japan and the USA? The follow-up question would be: How much higher – if any – would the HEV penetration be in the USA at EU fuel prices?


According to me, the reason that hybrids don't sell as well in Europe is that in general the european market is dominated by small vehicles that are already quite economical. The price differential off a regular gasoline car and one with hybrid technology is just too much to make it worthwile. For instance, a Honda Jazz hybrid cost here (in Holland) over 19,000 euro whereas a regular one is around 15,000 or 16,000 and the fuel savings are between these models are only a few mpg, too little to recover the extra cost, especially since these cars are used mostly in town traffic and therefore don't make the necessary miles to come near to the break even point.


I think Joe has a plausible explanation, the hybrid price premium of $5000 on a $20,000 car could be a consideration.

Lexus who sells in the U.S. gets a premium for their cars and sells hybrids that are based on Toyota products. They sell well enough because the premium does not seem like much.


Many of the early hybrids did not have a significantly lower fuel utilization vs. the lower price standard models of the same car and company. The prii are the only ones with exceptional fuel efficiency. The others are still relatively gas guzzling cars.


Both Henrik and Joe have a point.

A hybrid makes more sense if you drive more km (= use more petrol). But people driving lots of km's are more likely to buy a diesel as Henrik pointed out. They are more expensive, but fuel costs are lower. Just as with hybrids.

With regards to the hybrid loyalty. People take more things into consideration than just drivetrain technology. There are still not that many hybrid models available and you have to be lucky that a hybrid fulfills your needs.

People's needs change (they marry, have kids, start a hobby, lose their job) and so when the time comes to buy another car, a hybrid might not be the smartest choice anymore.

Even though only 2% of the average consumer buys a hybrid, 35% of hybrid owners do so. Hybrid owners favour hybrids 17x more than the average consumer! The research might be valid, the conclusion is totally wrong. Hybrid owners show very high loyalty!

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According to the source below diesels make up for 55% of all cars sold in Europe. I would say that the explanation for the remaining 45% gasoline very much is the small car segment where it is not possible to make a 10000 Euro car like the WV UP or Chevy Spark with a diesel or hybris powertrain so it gets a gasoline only engine. That might be 20% with another 20% being people that buy gasoline vehicles because that is what they have always been driving. And the last 5% may be people that prefer gasoline because it has higher power density than diesel and thus makes a faster car.

I still say that if gasoline and diesel was taxed similarly gasoline would be much bigger in Europe and in particular hybrid gasoline. For diesel and gas to be taxed similarly they should be taxed according to their energy content i.e. euro per BTU per liter. In this way diesel is also favored in the UK.

55% diesel in Europe



>>Also diesel contain 30% more energy than gasoline per gallon

Thus number (30%) is not correct. According to wikipedia the number is either 11.4& or 13.5%. But definitely not 30%.

>>The reason Europe is favoring diesel vehicles is that European automakers are ahead in this particular area.

Can't agree with that one either. The upshot is that diesel engines are inherently more efficient than gasoline engines, for thermodynamic reasons and other reasons.

If you mean "more popular than gas hybrids", there are also other reasons such as cost (price) and reliability.

But as I have said many a time, DIESEL HYBRID is the most efficient solution overall.

Roger Pham

Decisions for car purchasing reflect both utilitarian and pleasure aspect.

Those who are more utilitarian would prefers the economic saving of an HEV, especially if they drive carefully to squeeze the last mpg out of the car. I often get 62 mpg out of the Prius eventhough the EPA rating is only 50 mpg. Those who would enjoy high-power motoring probably would get less than 50 mpg in the Prius and would not appreciate its economic advantage as much.

With good system of public transportation in Europe, perhaps automobile daily commute is less utilitarian there, but more of a status symbol and pleasure motoring, in which case non-HEV's may have advantages. In America, the reverse is true. Automobile daily commute is usally a must, so, a car is more utilitarian, though many people like to mix business with pleasure, and like to show off their testosterone with a 15-mpg full-size pickup truck even though the truck bed is always empty.

Strangely enough, I find it pleasurable to try to squeeze the last mpg out of a car, especially with a mpg indicator built right in, trying to exceed the EPA rating as much as possible. It's a fun game to play just short of annoying the driver in the rear. Early Prius adopters are more in it for the Eco-status symbol.

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Sorry, I was wrong on the 30%. Wiki says 34 MJ for gasoline per liter and 38.6 MJ for diesel per liter so just 13.5% more energy in diesel as you say.

The diesel hybrid is not an easy option because it will add the extra cost of and weight of a diesel engine with the extra cost and weight of a hybrid power train. I think we need 200 USD per barrel of oil before diesel hybrids will get popular.

Energy density


A two cylinder, two cycle, opposed, air-cooled diesel -driving a generator - isn't very heavy.



EP will tell you that air cooled lost favor and you should know this, thus you are an imbecile.


SJC - Stuff it where the sun don't shine.

I HAVE such an engine. (Made in Russia) I ran it for a while last fall. I'm still making improvements on it.

You need to whip out that brain and wash it throughly in a very strong detergent.


" . . . only 35% of hybrid vehicle owners choose to purchase a hybrid again . . . [non-Prius owner] hybrid loyalty drops to less than 25%. "


We need better batteries



I was just reminding you of what an arrogant "expert" would tell you, don't get angry with me.


Alot of people oversold the benifits of hybrids and math challenged people bought them. When the bill came due they quickly learned they were loosing money.

alos normal cars simply are getting better.


SJC - Just pulling your leg...

I bought a new 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid and traded it for a 2006 two years later. AWD came along and I decided that would be the answer to getting around in the snow and ice of far west Wyoming.

Some apparently suitable non-hybrids are just over the horizon. I was happy to be rid of an Isuzu diesel truck about 30 years ago, but I would be willing to re-evaluate diesels again. Good cold starting would be a requirement.


The taxation on diesel varies across Europe - in some places it is noticeably cheaper, in others, more or less the same.
In Ireland it is about 3% lower (at e1.60/litre).
72 % of new cars in Ireland are diesel - no one would buy anything > 1.6 litres in gasoline - the resale values are awful.
(This happened very quickly - in 2008 only 32% of new cars were diesel, due to changes in car purchase tax).
A lot of <= 1L gasoline cars are sold, but this has relaxed as the tax bands are now based on CO2 / km (and people can go to 1.2 - 1.3 while remaining in the > 120 gms tax band).

The CO2 taxation was a policy of the green party, which seem to be more interested in global rather than local air quality.
One useful outcome of this policy is that we now have a substantial proportion of the car population that can get >= 50mpg (uk). This means that petrol at 1.65 / litre causes less grief than it might have 5 years ago.

So Ireland has made good tax choices and prepared the country for expensive oil now and in the future. It takes 10-15 years to turn over a car population, so you better start doing it sooner rather than later.


We have a somewhat similar situation in Sweden, about 2/3 of the sales is diesel for the moment. About 10 years ago, it was less than 10%.


I think a two cylinder horizontally opposed diesel genset is a great idea. With an EREV design, the engine can be whatever does the job and is efficient.

The engine no longer has to pull through the rev range, gear changes and load variations, it can just pull the torque and horsepower required by the large alternator to charge the batteries.


NOW - If we can just convince half a million others in the automobile manufacturing business ...


I'd say the 2-cylinder opposed air-cooled diesel would be great, IF it could meet emissions.  That seems to be where the difficulties are.  The auto industry seems to think that liquid cooling is the only way to maintain clearances so that e.g. oil loss rates are acceptable, and I can't say they're wrong.

Fiat's 2-cylinder liquid-cooled inline turbo GDI seems to be doing a pretty good job, emissions and everything.

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