Two-thirds of Americans who buy a hybrid vehicle choose a non-hybrid set of wheels when they buy their next car -- and outside of Toyota Prius owners, the share of repeat buyers falls to under 25%, according to a new study by Polk Automotive. Why such shunning? Money -- and growing competition from more affordable models.
Polk, which researches automotive registrations, found that even in supposedly hybrid-friendly hotspots, the chances of a hybrid car owner buying another one never topped 40%; cities like West Palm Beach, Fla., and St. Louis were bigger fans of hybrids than Southern California. Those owners didn't stray far -- Polk says the majority bought another car from the same brand -- but just didn't find another hybrid attractive.
Hybrid haters will say the defectors left out of boredom, but the more likely answer is pure economics. Outside of the Prius and Honda Insight, most hybrids are just variations on models already on sale. The Ford Fusion sedan starts at $20,000, while the hybrid edition has a sticker of $28,775. Even at today's gas prices, it would take the hybrid Fusion buyer nearly eight years to make up the cost difference in sticker prices. Meanwhile, new midsize sedans get at least 30 mpg highway, and most compacts touch 40 mpg; as mileage numbers rise, the differences with hybrids narrow further.
At last week's New York Auto Show preview, lots of vehicles touted better fuel efficiency, but there was only one new hybrid unveiled -- the Lexus ES300h, also a variation of a new ES. With choices like that, the field of one-time hybrid owners will only get larger.