Automakers May Retool Marketing to Improve Hybrid Appeal

For consumers concerned about the price of gasoline and about the environment, a hybrid car would be seem to be perfect solution. Manufacturers have been doing their part to increase the types of models available. But consumers aren’t always so anxious to purchase hybrids.

In particular, new research from Polk shows that after owning a hybrid, only 35% of these consumers would purchase another one. One market standout for hybrids has been Toyota. When Polk considered the potential repurchase behavior outside of the Toyota Prius effect, the number dropped to 25%.

It seems that there’s a serious hybrid loyalty problem among U.S. consumers. In addition, the total market share for these vehicles is now at 2.4%. At the height of the recession, in 2008, hybrids comprised 2.9% of vehicle sales.  While consumers are brand loyal, they are drifting away from hybrids. To support this notion, analysts point to Edmunds​.com data. About 52% of Honda hybrid owners go on to buy another Honda, but under 20% purchase another hybrid of any brand.

Lacey Plache, Edmunds​.com chief economist, says "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."

Much has been made of the rising price of gas and its effect on the purchase of a hybrid. For the most part, analysts find little correlation. In addition, the big stumbling points with respect to a hybrid purchase involve the “unfamiliar technology and the lack of an adequate recharging infrastructure.” Even markets considered eco-​friendly – places like San Diego and Seattle – do not show a higher than average loyalty to the concept of hybrid vehicle ownership. This state of affairs may lead automakers to retool the hybrid technology and change their marketing strategy.

[Source: Higher fuel prices not yet impacting hybrid category’s loyalty rates. Polk​.com. 9 Apr. 2012. Web. 16 Apr. 2012] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.