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Most hybrid owners wouldn't buy another

A recent survey, many hybrid owners say the gas savings aren't enough to offset the premium price.

By Stacy Johnson Apr 11, 2012 2:36PM

This post is from Michael Koretzky at partner site Money Talks News.


The deadline to file your taxes is Monday, and a new survey by eBay says 21% of Americans who expect a refund will spend at least part of it on a new or used car. But will they buy a hybrid?


Image: Couple shopping for car (© ThinkStock/Jupiterimages)Toyota announced last week that U.S. sales of the Prius hit an all-time high -- 28,711 sold in March. While that's 54% more than the same month a year ago, it's still puny compared with the Toyota Camry, which had sales of 42,567 last month.


Now a new survey suggests that most hybrid owners will go back to gas-only vehicles. "While the selection of hybrid models in the U.S. has more than doubled since 2007, only 35% of hybrid vehicle owners choose to purchase a hybrid again," says automotive research firm Polk.


The only good news is for Toyota: "If repurchase behavior among the high volume audience of Toyota Prius owners isn't factored in, hybrid loyalty drops to under 25%."


That's bad news for the Honda Civic Hybrid, the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Lexus HS 250h, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and more than a dozen other models. But how can hybrid owners be unhappy in this era of nearly $4-a-gallon gasoline? Part of the reason may be that the survey was conducted in 2011, so prices weren't as high as they are today. But another reason may be purchase price vs. fuel savings.


"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," says Lacey Plache, chief economist for car-pricing site Edmunds.com. Plache says that's especially true "given the growing strength of fuel economy among compact and midsize competitors." (Post continues below.)

In other words, standard gas-powered cars are getting more fuel-efficient at lower sticker prices. "Hybrid, electric car owners must wait years for savings," read a recent headline in the Charlotte Observer. The newspaper reported that "opting for models that promise better mileage through new technologies does not necessarily save money."


That's bad news for Chevrolet, which makes the all-electric Volt -- a car Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney insulted in December, telling a Boston radio show, "The Chevrolet Volt?  . .  An idea whose time has not come."


Of course, tastes can change on  a dime -- especially as gas prices climb. The Polk study concedes that, while prices now have had "little impact on hybrid segment loyalty," that can change "as fuel prices continue to rise."


Regardless, Polk says, car companies should keep making hybrids, because they also drive customers to their more traditional vehicles. "For example, in 2011, 60% of Toyota hybrid owners returned to the market to purchase another Toyota," Polk reports. "In the case of Honda hybrid owners, more than 52% of them stayed with the Honda brand."

If you're in the market for a hybrid, Cars.com named its top 2012 hybrids just last week. Here are the best in the five car categories (excluding SUVs and trucks). Note that two are Priuses:

  1. Subcompact: The 2012 Toyota Prius C ($18,950) gets 53 mpg city/46 mpg highway
  2. Compact:  The 2012 Honda Insight ($18,350) gets 41 city/44 highway
  3. Midsize: The 2012 Toyota Prius ($24,000) gets 51 city/48 highway
  4. Family sedan: The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid ($25,900) gets 43 city/39 highway
  5. Luxury car: The 2012 Infiniti M35h ($53,700) gets 27 city/32 highway

More from Money Talks News and MSN Money:

3Comments
Apr 11, 2012 10:12PM
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If it wasn't for Yahoo! news, MSN would be the most useless "serious" news site on the net. Every time I read something on here I regret having clicked.
Apr 11, 2012 4:36PM
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I hate to admit it, but Romney is right. The right answer is hydrogen.

Apr 11, 2012 4:34PM
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I have two Toyota prius's.  I purchased my first in 2010 and this year purchased a Prius V.  They are the perfect cars for this time.  Our environment needs hybrids and Prius is "BY FAR" the best.  If youu are looking at a new car to "save" money, you've got a screw loose.  Go buy a bicycle.  I love my Prius because it gets 50 mpg yes - but I also love the quiet, the ride, the feeling that I'm doing my 'small' part to heal the environment while still getting to where I want to go.  Would I rather have my GTO or my 409($3049 brand new) of bygone years - hell yes I would but I wouldn't feel as good about being a good environmental citizen.   Be honest with yourselves.  When in the past did you go buy a new car because it would help your cash flow or savings account.  Want to save money and still drive?  Then drive "BY" the car lots.
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