Segment affinity among hybrid buyers revealed; West Coast remains leader
"Auto buyers are benefiting from new hybrid launches, and fleecing of old models that didn't work. There is a lot of excitement being generated within the industry as manufacturers adjust plans to adapt to consumer demand," said Lonnie Miller, director of Industry Analysis at Polk. "While the Toyota Prius has a stronghold on the midsize car hybrid segment, the Toyota Highlander and Ford Escape share leadership positions in the SUV hybrid segment. As hybrid buyers migrate within a brand, manufacturers have to be prepared to meet their expectations for offerings if they want consumers to remain loyal."
While most of the market continues to see hybrid models enabled by various forms of gas-electric powertrains, the entire hybrid segment will evolve as other technologies are developed and tested. With the end-goal of providing more fuel-efficient vehicles, future offerings will expand beyond the current generation of hybrid models.
"Hybrids are a great foray into the world of fuel-efficiency for many buyers," said Miller. "Unfortunately, we still have an uphill battle for diesel and ethanol adoption given the need for more consumer education and improvements with filling station infrastructure. It will be interesting to see how more advanced technologies progress this whole category, but they can't come soon enough."
Polk's analysis shows that buyers of specific hybrid models predominantly come from the vehicle segment shared by their new hybrid purchase. In 2007, 55 percent of new hybrid buyers previously had a midsize car, midsize SUV or small car model. These vehicle segments represent the majority of the volume in the hybrid category and indicate consumers may be predisposed to a body style first before choosing a hybrid model.
"In cases such as the Lexus LS600h, more than half of these buyers came from the prestige luxury segment," said Miller. "In the case of Honda Civic hybrid buyers, nearly 30 percent already had a small car in their driveway. There's a strong relationship between the vehicle previously owned and the segment they may buy when selecting a hybrid."
For manufacturers' marketing departments, these findings mean they may be able to repurpose some of the brand research and customer studies for non-hybrid models when creating new hybrid offerings or hybrid marketing campaigns. In addition, more luxury hybrids are available than ever before, allowing customers to obtain a hybrid without sacrificing features, amenities and performance they might otherwise be used to.
Geographic trends for the segment remain largely unchanged in 2007, with California continuing to hold 26 percent of hybrid market share followed by Florida, New York, Texas and Washington (Table 1). For the second year in a row, Oklahoma had the greatest increase, up nearly 148 percent. Similarly, Los Angeles and San Francisco led cities nationwide combined with more than 19 percent of the segment's market share (Table 2).
"The coasts continue to dominate the hybrid segment, though we continue to see gains in the Midwest as fuel prices hit home for the 'manufacturing belt' states," said Miller.
About R. L. Polk & Co.
R. L. Polk & Co. is the premier provider of automotive information and marketing solutions. Polk collects and interprets global data, and provides extensive automotive business expertise to help customers understand their market position, identify trends, build brand loyalty, conquest new business and gain a competitive advantage. Polk helps automotive manufacturers and dealers, automotive aftermarket companies, finance and insurance companies, advertising agencies, media companies, consulting organizations, government agencies and market research firms make good business decisions. A privately held global firm, Polk is based in Southfield, Mich. with operations in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. For more information, please visit www.polk.com.
Table 1 - Top 10 Hybrid States (2007 Calendar Year) Rank State Total New Share of U.S. Volume Increase Hybrid Hybrid from Registrations Volume 2006 CY (%) 2007 CY 2007 CY (%) 1 California 91,417 26.1 35.4 2 Florida 19,283 5.5 49.5 3 New York 17,385 5.0 49.4 4 Texas 17,196 4.9 37.0 5 Washington 13,107 3.7 51.5 6 Illinois 13,094 3.7 37.9 7 Virginia 11,952 3.4 14.6 8 Pennsylvania 11,089 3.2 31.9 9 Massachusetts 9,982 2.8 35.5 10 New Jersey 9,645 2.8 36.1 Source: R. L. Polk & Co. U.S. New Hybrid Registrations, 2007 Calendar Year. Table 2 - Top 10 Hybrid Metro Markets (2007 Calendar Year) Rank Market (DMA(R)) Total New Share of U.S. Volume Increase Hybrid Hybrid from Registrations Volume 2006 CY (%) 2007 CY 2007 CY (%) 1 Los Angeles 40,634 11.6 31.1 2 San Francisco 27,292 7.8 32.3 3 New York 20,692 5.9 45.2 4 Washington D.C. 12,744 3.6 12.2 5 Seattle 11,098 3.2 53.2 6 Chicago 10,611 3.0 39.2 7 Boston 10,438 2.8 33.9 8 Philadelphia 8,670 2.5 26.4 9 Sacramento 7,871 2.2 59.9 10 Phoenix 7,829 2.2 85.4