Despite the commitment of many automakers to go green, consumers do not share the sentiment. According to a Polk study released today, almost two-thirds of U.S. hybrid buyers do not return to the market for another hybrid.
From surveys recorded since 2008, customer loyalty ratings for hybrids have been inconsistent. While the loyalty rate for hybrids are at 22 percent now, loyalty once reached 41.8 percent during the second quarter of 2009. By the fourth quarter of 2010, the rate had fallen to 26.4 percent, but had risen back to a total of 35 percent for 2011.
Even though the low figures suggest that hybrid vehicle offerings may not seem like smart business sense, Brad Smith, the director of Polk’s loyalty management practice, has found that manufacturers who have invested heavily into developing hybrid technology stand to attract new buyers to brands.
“It’s a great conquesting tool for brands,” Smith said during an interview, and called hybrid technology, “a competitive edge when it comes to attracting new customers.”
Toyota demonstrates this idea best, as the pioneer has now formed a Prius hybrid line-up featuring three body styles and a plug-in version. The survey has found that 60 percent of Prius owners will buy another Toyota brand vehicle, while 41 percent of the owners replace their Prius with another hybrid.
For Honda hybrid owners, 52 percent return to purchase a Honda brand vehicle, but less than 20 percent buy another hybrid.
Despite being frugal at the tank, the reason why fewer buyers are opting for hybrid is an issue of cost. As we have reported before, less expensive conventional fuel-efficiency technologies are also making great strides in improving fuel efficiency, reducing the advantage of more expensive hybrids vehicles. Brad Smith adds, “the premium price points for hybrids are just too high when so many conventional small and mid-size cars have improved fuel economy.”