updated 8/21/2008 10:58:31 PM ET 2008-08-22T02:58:31

Hybrid car owners are some of the most loyal in the U.S. market, with nearly half purchasing a vehicle of the same make when they buy another car, according to a study released Monday by an automotive data company.

Forty-seven percent of hybrid buyers buy a vehicle of the same make, compared with 35 percent of buyers overall, according to Experian Automotive, a division of global information provider Experian, whose North American headquarters are in Costa Mesa, California. Eighteen percent of hybrid car buyers even buy the same model, compared with 12 percent overall.

Scott Waldron, president of Experian Automotive, said the results show hybrid manufacturers have a clear advantage in attracting and maintaining customers. That's critical, since overall loyalty to car companies has been steadily slipping over the last decade. One percentage point in loyalty can transfer to thousands of sales, he said.

Toyota Prius owners were the most loyal to the vehicle model among hybrid buyers, with 25 percent returning to buy another Prius. Toyota Motor Corp.'s hybrid owners also were the most loyal when it came to staying with the Toyota make. Fifty-one percent chose another Toyota, compared with the Toyota make's overall loyalty rate of 44 percent.

Full-size pickup truck buyers remained the most loyal in terms of choosing a new vehicle from the same segment, even if it wasn't from the same manufacturer, according to the study. Thirty-three percent of pickup buyers chose another full-size pickup, while 25 percent of hybrid car buyers bought another hybrid. The average loyalty rate within a segment was 21 percent.

Experian examined U.S. vehicle sales from January 2007 to March 2008 for the study. The company said hybrids are the fastest-growing segment on the market, up 130 percent from 2005 through the first six months of this year.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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