SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Most customers coming back to dealerships to trade in their hybrids or electric vehicles aren’t trading up for a new hybrid or EV, according to an analysis by Edmunds.com.
The analysis found that only 27.5% of all hybrid and EV trade-ins in 2016 have been applied to the purchase of another hybrid or EV, an 11.3% drop from last year’s rate of 38.5%. These numbers, according to Edmunds, reinforce a trend it identified last year that showed that owners of alternative-fuel vehicles are returning to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles in greater numbers, possibly because of better fuel efficiencies from newer models.
According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the average fuel economy of cars sold in the United States in March was 25.3 mpg, a 25% increase from when the institute first started tracking fuel efficiency in 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."
The largest percentage, 33.8%, of hybrid and EV trade-ins were going toward the purchase of an SUV, the study found. Compact and subcompact cars accounted for 12.1% of hybrid and EV trade-ins, followed by luxury vehicles at 11.5% and trucks at 5.3%.
"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."