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Hybrid car sales soar 40 percent, study says

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(Read caption) The logo of Toyota Motor Corp's hybrid car is seen on the body of a Prius at the company's showroom in Tokyo. Toyota has been particularly adept at exploiting this market, Ingram writes, having recently sold its 5 millionth hybrid vehicle worldwide.

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Just how popular are hybrid cars? 40 percent more in 2012 than in 2011, according to the latest study from Experian Automotive.

In fact, a little more than that--40.9 percent to be precise, with overall market share increasing from 2.2 percent to 3.1 percent in a single year.

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It's a stark indication of the hybrid car's relentless transformation from eco-themed curiosity to mainstream car choice. It also reflects just how well the average hybrid assimilates into an owner's life, requiring no day-to-day compromise while it goes about saving them money on gas.

Toyota has been particularly adept at exploiting this market, having recently sold its 5 millionth hybrid vehicle worldwide. It's seen the Prius, once dismissed as a toy for celebrities wanting to appeargreen, become California's highest-selling vehicle.

Experian does reveal that total hybrid numbers still make up little over 1 percent of all the vehicles on U.S. roads, but it's a number increasing further every year.

Some of the company's other numbers make for interesting reading.

For example, the gender split is fairly even, if slightly in favor of women--53 percent of adults who live in a hybrid household are female.

It's a young market too, with 25-34 year olds perhaps more eco-concious than their parents--this age group is 16 percent more likely to live in a household that owns or leases a hybrid.

Experian's credit information has also turned up some interesting numbers. Consumers purchasing a hybrid vehicle tend to have a better credit score than buyers of other vehicles--790 next to a national average of 755.

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This might offset the slight price premium of some hybrids for owners, since they're able to obtain financing at lower rates than the average consumer--3.51 percent, compared with 4.36 percent.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Toyota's Prius tops the list of hybrid vehicles bought on finance in 2012, and it took 37.2 percent of the hybrid market. Camry, Prius V and Prius C followed, while the Chevy Volt and even Nissan Leaf appear on Experian's list.