Americans, for all their love of pickups and sport-utility vehicles (SUVs), have embraced gasoline-electric hybrids at a rate that far exceeds Canadians – and those that buy them like them, with 83 per cent planning to purchase another or a plug-in hybrid, a recent University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study has found.
In 2013, 544,537 hybrid vehicles were sold in the United States, including 49,008 plug-in hybrids, the study notes. So 3.8 per cent of all light-duty vehicles sold south of the border were hybrids or plug-ins, versus less than 1 per cent of total sales in Canada, or about 15,000, according to figures provided by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.
Full sales numbers in Canada are a little tougher to get. DesRosiers does not have numbers with hybrid as an option, not standard as it is with the Toyota Prius.
In any case, it's fair to say Americans are snapping up hybrids at a rate three to four times greater than Canadians. One reason: Canadians buy vastly more fuel-thrifty small cars as a percentage of the total sales mix. Canadians are concerned about fuel economy and buy small cars with small engines. Canadians, however, are unwilling or unable to pay hybrid premium for fuel economy.
And unlike Americans, Canadians are apparently unwilling to pay $10,000 or more for a hybrid that will further limit the environmental impact of their vehicle beyond even the most efficient gasoline-powered car. Americans? The U of M study found that the main reason given for owning a hybrid is the environmental impact, and women are "more concerned than males about this aspect of hybrid ownership."
Indeed, 33 per cent of owners cited as a purchase reason a desire to reduce their environmental impact. Another 28 per cent liked the hybrid option for being less expensive in the long run, with 25 per cent saying they wanted to use less energy. And 38 per cent of female buyers, notes the study, chose a hybrid to reduce their environmental impact, versus 29 per cent of males.
- Only a tiny percentage of respondents reported any hybrid-specific problems (9 per cent of women, 6 per cent of men).
- The biggest single problem? Battery replacement (4 per cent of women, 3 per cent of men).
- More than one in five (22 per cent) current hybrid owners plan to replace their cars with a plug-in hybrid.
- Sixty-seven per cent of those planning to replace a hybrid with another one cited a desire to reduce their environmental impact or use less energy as a reason for sticking with hybrid.
The study suggests that hybrid owners are a particularly happy bunch. Only a very small percentage (16 per cent) cited initial cost as a barrier to another hybrid. And nearly half of all hybrid owners (47 per cent) said there is nothing that would cause them to avoid another hybrid. The early adopters are also the truly committed.
So, the American hybrid owner is in love. Perhaps Canadians will be, too ... some day.
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