Gas prices are shooting through the roof, and electric cars don't appear quite ready for primetime yet. That leaves a big opportunity for hybrid vehicles, but drivers who have already purchased one aren't necessarily ready to buy another yet. The automotive data experts at Polk just released a study showing that only 35 percent of US hybrid owners chose to purchase another hybrid if they were in the market for a new car in 2011. Additionally, Polk has seen hybrid ownership decline since its high of 2.9 percent in 2008 — hybrid vehicles represented 2.4 percent of the new vehicle market in 2011, a 17 percent decline.

When looking at hybrid re-purchase data on a quarterly basis, it looks like Q2 and Q3 2011 were particularly damaging to the overall trend for 2011 — only 26 percent of hybrid buyers purchased another in Q2, with 31 percent buying another hybrid in Q3. By Q4, that rate had risen to 40 percent, the same as it was in Q1 2011, nearly matching the high of 42 percent from Q2 2009. We'll see if continued high fuel prices make hybrid owners more likely to buy another one this summer than they were last year.

Update: It's worth noting that we're dealing with a pretty small subset of car shoppers here: only hybrid owners who were in the market for a new car. Given how relatively new hybrids are and the small piece of the market that they make up, this small segment of the market shouldn't be confused with overall hybrid popularity. The fact that the hybrid market is relatively new also could mean a lot of these in-market shoppers weren't necessarily looking to replace their hybrid — it's entirely possible that many of these purchases were complementary vehicles, not replacements. Without knowing more details about why these shoppers were in the market, it's hard to draw any judgements about hybrid vehicles outside the fact that they represented a bit less of the market in 2011 than they did during 2008.