Hybrid and EV Loyalty Plunges Due to Low Gas Prices | Edmunds

Hybrid and EV Loyalty Plunges Due to Low Gas Prices

SANTA MONICA, California — Loyalty to hybrid and electric vehicles is at an all-time low, according to a new analysis by Edmunds.com released just ahead of Earth Day.

A hybrid and EV trade-in is more likely to go toward the purchase of an SUV rather than another hybrid or EV, the analysis found.

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, compared to 38.5 percent of similar trade-ins in 2015.

But green isn't going entirely by the wayside.

Shoppers are trading in their hybrids and EVs for fuel-efficient compact crossovers, signaling that fuel economy is still somewhat of a priority.

The study found that 16.4 percent of hybrid and EV trade-ins this year went toward compact crossovers. Only about 1.4 percent went toward a gas-guzzling purchase of a large SUV or crossover SUV.

The roll call of compact crossovers includes the Buick Encore, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4.

"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," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com director of industry analysis. "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 weight less than they might have in years past. When you're buying a vehicle that can get over 30 mph, you can still say you're doing your part to help the environment."

The alt-fuel category saw a 10 percent drop from the first quarter of 2015 to the same time period in 2016.

However, plug-in hybrids are described as the "one shining segment within the green-car category," according to the analysis.

These cars include the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, Chevrolet Volt and Hyundai Sonata Plug-in.

Low gas prices are likely to continue in the near future, according to AAA.

"Consumers remain poised to benefit from substantial comparative savings as we enter the busy summer driving season, and it is likely that most drivers will pay the cheapest summertime prices in 12 years," AAA said in its latest forecast.

The average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline stood at $2.11 on Thursday, versus $2.46 a year ago, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Edmunds says: Car shoppers are going a lighter shade of green this year based on what they're seeing at the pump.

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