EV and Hybrid Loyalty Falls to All-Time Low, Even as Overall Fuel Economy Thrives, Says Edmunds.com

Follow-up to 2015 Earth Day Study Shows Alt-Fuel Trade-ins Are More Likely to Go Toward a SUV Purchase than another EV or Hybrid

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — April 21, 2016 — Only 27.5 percent of all hybrid and electric vehicle trade-ins in 2016 have been applied to the purchase of another hybrid or EV, according to a new analysis from car shopping destination Edmunds.com. The rate is a precipitous drop from the 38.5 percent of hybrid and EV trade-ins in 2015, and the findings reinforce a trend first identified last year by Edmunds that owners of alt-fuel vehicles are returning to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles in greater numbers than ever before.

But the trend back toward traditional vehicles is not having the negative effect on the environment that one might expect. According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the average fuel economy of cars sold in the U.S. in March was 25.3 mpg, up 25 percent from when the institute started tracking this number in October 2007.

"This trend is not an indictment of the quality of these cars — hybrid and electric vehicles tend to be equipped with some of the most sought-after technology on the market today," says Edmunds.com Director of Industry Analysis Jessica Caldwell. "This is an economics trend, since today's low cost of gas no longer makes it worth paying the price premium of hybrids and EVs. And there are so many fuel-efficient vehicles on the market today that environmental concerns weigh less than they might have in years past. When you're buying a vehicle that can get over 30 mpg, you can still say you're doing your part to help the environment."

'From One Extreme to Another'
A detailed analysis of Edmunds' vehicle trade-in data tells a story of many hybrid and EV owners jumping from one extreme to another. In fact, Edmunds found that a hybrid or electric trade-in is more likely to go toward the purchase of a SUV (33.8 percent) than another hybrid or EV. The trend is even more apparent when looking only at EV trade-ins — 25.7 percent of EV trade-ins went toward the purchase of a SUV, compared to just 4.8 percent that went toward another EV.

Vehicles Purchased in Connection with a Hybrid or EV Trade-in
(Select Segments)
Segment 2015 2016*
Hybrid or EV 38.5% 27.5%
SUV 29.0% 33.8%
Truck 4.1% 5.3%
Compact/Subcompact Car 8.9% 12.1%
Luxury 11.1% 11.5%
*2016 data consists of 5,724 hybrid and EV trade-ins captured through the end of March

"The overwhelming popularity of SUVs trumps just about any other trend in today's market," says Caldwell. "SUV sales are up 22 percent in the last five years, and almost every other segment has suffered as a result. It's especially true for hybrids and EVs, which generally don't offer the size that today's shoppers crave."

Most of those making the switch from alt-fuel vehicles to SUVs are opting for the most fuel-efficient sub-segment of compact crossover SUVs. Edmunds found that 16.4 percent of hybrid and EV trade-ins this year went toward compact crossovers. By comparison, only about 1.4 percent went toward a gas-guzzling purchase of a large SUV or crossover SUV.

Edmunds' trade-in analysis comes at a time when overall electric and hybrid sales have struggled. The alt-fuel category saw a 10 percent drop from Q1 2015 to Q1 2016, while the overall industry saw a 3.3 percent lift during that time. There is, however, one shining segment within the green car category: plug-in hybrids. A successful redesign of the Chevrolet Volt and the introduction of some new models like the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron and the Hyundai Sonata Plug-in have helped the segment's sales jump more than 40 percent, from 7,652 sales in Q1 2015 to 10,932 sales in Q1 2016.

More auto industry analysis can be found in Edmunds' Industry Center at https://www.edmunds.com/industry-center/.

About Edmunds.com
Car shopping destination Edmunds.com serves nearly 20 million visitors each month. With Edmunds.com Price Promise®, shoppers can buy smarter with instant, upfront prices for cars and trucks currently for sale at 10,000 dealer franchises across the U.S. Shoppers can browse not only dealer inventory, but also vehicle reviews, shopping tips, photos, videos and feature stories on both Edmunds' wired site and on its acclaimed mobile apps. Regarded as one of the best places to work in Southern California, Edmunds.com was also named one of "The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Automotive" by Fast Company. Edmunds welcomes all car-shopping questions at our Help Center and help@edmunds.com and on Twitter and Facebook. The company is based in Santa Monica, Calif. and has a satellite office in downtown Detroit, Mich., but you can find Edmunds from anywhere on YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ and Flipboard.

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