Despite high gas prices and growing evidence of the destructive environmental and health effects of vehicle exhaust fumes, gas-sipping hybrid cars and trucks may not be very popular among a critical demographic: hybrid vehicle owners.
Only 35 percent of U.S. hybrid owners chose to purchase another hybrid when returning to market in 2011, according to a study released Monday.
That figure drops to a quarter of hybrid owners if Toyota's top-selling Prius is excluded, said Polk, an automotive data and marketing firm.
For U.S. owners of gas-electric hybrids made by Toyota Motor Corp., 41 percent of them purchased another hybrid - whether from Toyota or a competing brand, the Polk study said.
Hybrid vehicles represent just 2.4percent of the overall new-vehicle market in the United States. That is down from a high of 2.9 percent in 2008, Polk said.
This drop occurred despite the selection of hybrid models in the U.S. market more than doubling since 2007.
Toyota, whose U.S. sales and marketing headquarters is in Torrance, disagreed with the study's findings regarding its hybrids, saying in a statement to the Daily Breeze: "While Polk's findings may be true of the industry's loyalty to hybrid based on their own methodology, our internal research shows about 50 percent of Toyota's hybrids being replaced with another hybrid, which includes a variety of different models - both Toyota and Lexus - all with very different


Toyota said that Prius owners replace their cars with another hybrid at a rate of 58 percent, much higher than Polk's estimate of 41percent.
For Honda hybrid owners, nearly 20 percent bought another hybrid, Polk said. Honda's U.S. headquarters is in Torrance.
Even if most hybrid owners are not buying another, the fuel-efficient vehicles still add value to a car company's brand, Polk said.
For example, last year, six out of 10 Toyota hybrid owners who bought a vehicle last year chose another Toyota. The figure for Honda was 52 percent.
"Having a hybrid in the product lineup can certainly give a brand a competitive edge when it comes to attracting new customers," said Brad Smith, director of Polk's Loyalty Management Practice, in a statement.
Many hybrid owners are looking to conventional vehicles with good fuel economy for their next vehicle, Polk said, citing data from online car shopping site
One issue that may be driving the lack of greater interest in hybrids is the retail price, which is usually thousands of dollars more than that of comparable vehicles with conventional engines.
"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," said Lacey Plache, of