Are Hybrid Vehicles Losing Steam?
A recent report by Polk, a leading automotive information and marketing analysis firm, has shown that only 35 percent of people who owned hybrids bought another hybrid when they bought a new vehicle in 2011. This surprising statistic has led many people to question if hybrid vehicles are just a trend and question if the hybrid movement is losing steam.
There are many reasons that former hybrid owners would buy non-hybrid cars, including improved non-hybrid MPG rates and sticker price. However, hybrid and alternative-fuel cars have seen record sales in recent months, and it is likely that there are more people jumping on the hybrid vehicle train than jumping off it.
Many people will cite a recent study performed by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute as a reason for why hybrids are losing popularity. The study examined the average fuel economy for new vehicles that were sold in March and found that, for the first time ever in America, the average miles per gallon for new vehicles was above 24. Critics of the hybrid trend might use this study to argue that previous hybrid owners are switching back to non-hybrids because they aren’t willing to pay exorbitant sticker prices for hybrids as long as non-hybrid MPG is increasing. However, using a study in this way can be slightly misleading: Not only are hybrids counted in that study, which would drastically inflate the collective MPG of other non-hybrid cars, but some hybrids still outclass this average by far.
A 2012 Toyota Prius is estimated to get 50 miles per gallon from combined use, and a 2012 Chevy Volt is estimated to get 94 MPG from its electric charge and in between 35 and 40 MPG for city and highway driving with gas. One can argue, though, that these models and numbers are at the high end of the hybrid spectrum. Many other hybrids are more in line with their gas counterparts as far as MPG is concerned, and a shrinking difference in MPG, combined with the added cost of a hybrid, can make buying a hybrid unnecessary.
Hybrids do have an unfortunate sticker price issue. For instance, a new Toyota Prius will set a person back about $24,000. A new Ford Fiesta, on the other hand, only costs around $13,200. Even the least expensive hybrids can cost several thousands of dollars more than their gas counterparts. That price difference alone can make a person wary about buying a hybrid, and for people who bought one before, ponying up for another hybrid might not be worthwhile. The question is, is saving money at the pump going to pay for that price difference? A hybrid’s break-even point is more likely to be reached with drivers who put a lot of miles on their car and who plan on owning their car for a long time. Many people who bought hybrids in the past and have since switched to non-hybrid cars might not have realized the savings that they were expecting through hybrid ownership.
On the other hand, hybrid and electric cars have seen record sales the past month. In an article from the Associated Press that was picked up by CBS and other networks, hybrid and electric car sales rose to 52,000 in March, which was up from 34,000 in March of 2011. The fact that gas prices have continued to rise, with some locations in the United States reaching the $4 mark, is likely to cause hybrid and electric car sales to climb in the coming months.
If one was to estimate that only 35 percent of those new sales were from previous hybrid owners, then 65 percent of those sales, or 33,800 cars in total, were bought by people who have never owned a hybrid. While it is unfortunate that many hybrid owners don’t seem to have loyalty to hybrid vehicles on the whole, their reluctance to continue to buy hybrids isn’t a sign that the hybrid boom is necessarily fading. Skeptics can continue to argue that buying hybrids is just a fad, but the facts remain that many people are new to hybrid and electric car ownership and that they almost single-handedly accounted for more sales of hybrid and electric cars than in the same month of the previous year.
Author Bio: John is a blogger and car enthusiast but also concerned about the environment. He writes for hybrid-suv.net, a blog about hybrid Sport Utility Vehicles.
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