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Buy a hybrid car once, but not twice? Skewed and undersupplied?

A Polk study claims that hybrid cars buyers didn't buy hybrids again in 2011, but there are lots of confounding variables.

Just 20 percent of Honda hybrid owners bought another hybrid in 2011

Could two car families and limited hybrid supplies be skewing the results?

Pretty scary Polk study regarding hybrid car buyers, at least at first glance. According to Polk just 35 percent of past hybrid buyers shopping in 2011 bought another hybrid, although Toyota Prius buyers — at 41 percent –  buoyed these averages higher.

But, I wonder, do many that own a hybrid also own another vehicle? And what about the 2011 hybrid supply shortage?

For instance, perhaps many that bought a Prius a few years ago are now replacing their Toyota Sienna minivan with a new minivan. If this were the case, then 50 percent of the time such two-car owning, hybrid buyers would be buying a non-hybrid.

Furthermore, 2011 was not a good year for hybrid car sales because supplies were severely limited. According to Honda, hybrid supplies still have not recovered from the tsunami/earthquake. Similarly, for most of 2011 Toyota Prius supplies were also limited — some months extremely limited. Thus, many hybrid buyers returning to the market in 2011 found limited supplies and even fewer deals. Interestingly, in the 4th quarter, the hybrid re-buy rate jumped 10 points compared to the third quarter — as supplies finally began to recover.

Likewise, in 2008 hybrid supplies were also limited and hybrid buyers faced dealer markups as high as $5000. In 2009 and much of 2010, on the other hand, the economy and gasoline prices crashed. Thus, every year covered in this study had major variables that impact car buying decisions.

Anyway, certainly no one should expect hybrid buyers to remain hybrid buyers. Unfortunately, choices are still very limited in the hybrid space. Plus, today for instance, there are many more deals on non-hybrids, and if you’re short of cash, the best upfront price is hard to pass up for most Americans — even if that choice costs more long term.

Ultimately, I don’t read too much into this study, and there are a lot of confounding variables. I’ve never bought the same car twice in a row, nor have my parents. And if you drive a Prius and want to try something a little different, for example. there aren’t many hybrid options. Thus, maybe you’ll try a Jetta TDI to see how it compares. Besides, there really isn’t another Prius contender out there.

If you want a big take away, it’s this, hybrid prices are still too expensive. Profound, huh? That coupled with limited supplies and selection, hybrid loyalty studies are by their nature, pretty meaningless.

Source: Polk

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