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Are Hybrids A ‘One Shot Deal’?

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2006 Honda Civic Hybrid
jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) – Despite high gas prices, hybrid owners aren’t repeating their purchases.

“In 2011, only thirty-five percent of hybrid owners bought another hybrid vehicle,” said Brad Smith, director of the loyalty management office at Polk.

Polk found that the Toyota Prius was a notable exception, with nearly half of Prius buyers coming back. You take that out of the equation, and only 21 percent of other hybrid owners, return to the segment.

Smith says hybrid buyers tend to do more research than other owners. Much of that research shows a lot of gasoline powered vehicles that get highway fuel economies topping forty miles per gallon.

“The manufacturers are still exploring gasoline technology and trying to get every ounce of fuel economy they can,” he said.

Hybrids are attracting a lot of first-time buyers, with the overall segment doubling since 2007. The Polk study also shows that hybrids attract new buyers to a brand, and tend to keep them within that brand.

“Hybrids represent a great source of conquesting new buyers into the brand,” Smith said. “As we see with both Toyota and Honda, they are able to keep those hybrid owners in the family.”

Buyers seeking hybrids are seeing more choices. General Motors recently debuted Chevy’s and Buick’s with a mild hybrid system called “eAssist”. Toyota, meanwhile is expanding its Prius family with a larger Prius V and a smaller Prius C.

Still hybrids represent about 2.4 percent of the overall vehicle market. A market that Polk says peaked in 2008 at 2.9 percent. You find gasoline powered vehicles dominating the market, even when you add in diesel and pure electric vehicles.

“Those alternative fuel options only account for five percent of the vehicles sold in the marketplace,” said Smith. “So, still between gasoline and flex fuel vehicles, they still dominate the marketplace.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Email: jdgilbert@cbs.com
Facebook: facebook.com/carchronicles
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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