The allure of owning a hybrid car isn't necessarily a sustainable resource.
Only about one out of three hybrid vehicle owners chooses to buy another hybrid, according to a study by research firm Polk, which in 2011 measured the buying decisions of consumers who have purchased hybrids as far back as 2007. Polk's Loyalty Management Practice puts the figure at 35%, looking at 15 markets across the U.S.
The good news for automakers is that a high percentage of the return buyers remain loyal to the brand, even if they don't buy another hybrid. The loyalty rate among Toyota customers is 60%, and 52% among Honda buyers, the report said.
In the case of hybrids, rising fuel prices, to more than $4 a gallon in some places, has so far had "little impact" on hybrid buying decisions, the report said. "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."
The findings may not cause frenzied reaction among automakers: hybrid vehicles represent only 2.4% of the new-vehicle market in the U.S., down 5 points from 2008, according to Polk.
Still, Toyota has a different take. "Our internal studies show that about 50% of our hybrids are replaced with another hybrid," said company spokesman Greg Thome. "This includes a variety of different models, both Toyota and Lexus, all with very different buyers." The company's Prius hybrid sold more than 60,000 units in the first three months of this year, according to Automotive News.