Southfield, Michigan – U.S. registrations for new hybrid vehicles rose to 350,289 registrations in 2007, a 38 per cent increase from 2006, according to R.L. Polk & Co. The Toyota Prius led the segment with 179,178 new registrations, or 51.2 per cent of the hybrid market share.

“Auto buyers are benefitting from new hybrid launches, and fleecing of old models that didn’t work,” said Lonnie Miller, director of Industry Analysis at Polk. “There is a lot of excitement being generated within the industry as manufacturers adjust plans to adapt to consumer demand. 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.”

Polk’s analysis found that buyers of specific hybrid models predominantly come from the vehicle segment shared by their new hybrid purchase. In 2007, 55 per cent 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 that 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,” Miller said. “In the case of Honda Civic hybrid buyers, nearly 30 per cent 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.”

Geographic trends for the segment remained largely unchanged in 2007, with California continuing to hold 26 per cent of the hybrid market share, followed by Florida, New York, Texas and Washington. For the second year in a row, Oklahoma had the greatest increase, up nearly 148 per cent. Among cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco led nationwide, with a combined 19 per cent of the segment’s market share. “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,” Miller said.

The top ten states for hybrid buyers in 2007, in order, were California, Florida, New York, Texas, Washington, Illinois, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey. The top ten cities were Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C., Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Sacramento and Phoenix.

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