The past few days, a new study has been making its way through the blogosphere. The study claims that about 35% of hybrid buyers buy a second hybrid. Right-wing pundits are touting this as proof that hybrids are unpopular with Americans. Lefties just smile smugly from behind the wheel of their Prius. But this study, like so many studies, polarizes the pundits and parses the facts in an unfair manner.
Polk’s research group found that, on average, when hybrid owners return to the new car market to buy a second vehicle, only 35% of the time do they choose another hybrid. If you factor out the best-selling hybrid in the world, the Toyota Prius, that number drops to about 25%. Then again, the Prius outsells every other hybrid car on the market combined. If anything, this study should focus more on the Prius, and less on hybrids in general. The Prius IS the hybrid car market. And Polk did do some deeper digging, noting that 60% of Toyota hybrid owners stay within the Toyota family, and 41% of Toyota hybrid owners do end up owning a second hybrid.
Taken on face value though, why does it seem like hybrid car buyers don’t rush out to buy a second one? My take on it is simple common sense. Most families these days are hanging on to their used cars longer; people aren’t buying new cars every 3 years, and hybrids have only made up a significant chunk of the new car market for five years at best.
So people make a choice; we buy one new hybrid for whoever does the most driving, and hang on to the “beater” for as long as we can. Or perhaps one member of the family needs a truck for work, in which case a hybrid car just won’t cut it. There’s also the idea that buying one hybrid is “enough”, and that buying a second one would make it all but impossible to recoup the price premium.
Honestly, I am amazed that even 35% of hybrid car owners go back for a second one. Sure, gas prices are high, but nothing we haven’t seen before (at least so far). A lot of people these days can’t afford the hybrid price premium, and waiting several months for a Toyota Prius isn’t always an option. What is your take on this study? Are hybrid cars catching on, or will they forever remain a niche product?
Source: Green Car Congress