Even Hybrid Owners Aren’t Likely to Buy Hybrids

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Well, this doesn’t exactly bode well for the future of hybrids, now does it? Last year, when just 2.2% of all cars sold were hybrids, even the people who had previously decided to buy hybrids weren’t likely to purchase hybrids.

According to data from the auto research firm Polk, only 35% of hybrid owners who bought a car in 2011 decided to go with another hybrid. Remove owners of the hybrid champ Toyota Prius from the equation, and just 25% of hybrid owners who bought a car last year went with a hybrid.

The numbers seem to indicate that hybrid owners—the folks who have in-depth, firsthand experience driving and paying for hybrids—aren’t particularly impressed with them. Like most consumers out there, the majority of hybrid owners are doing the math and coming to the conclusion that, in light of increased fuel efficiency among gas-powered cars, driving a hybrid often doesn’t save money.

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Lacey Plache, an economist for Edmunds.com, backs this theory up, telling Polk researchers:

“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.”

When comparing, say, the Chevy Volt vs. the Chevy Cruze, the former an electrified vehicle that’s rated at 95 mpg but starts at over $39K, the latter a traditional gas-powered car getting up to 42 mpg with an MSRP under $17K, there’s not much debate among the vast majority of consumers. They’re going with the car with worse (but still good) gas mileage and a much cheaper asking price. For the most part, hybrid owners have been coming to similar conclusions when the time comes to purchase a new car.

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The Los Angeles Times does point out, however, that not all hybrid owners who elect not to buy another hybrid are turning away from alternate-power vehicles. Roughly 17,000 electric cars were sold last year—mostly Volts and Nissan Leafs—and a significant number of consumers who bought them were trading in their old hybrids during the transaction.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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