Hybrid vehicles are losing some of their appeal in South Korea, according to latest industry figures, and despite the government's decision to offer tax incentives to buyers.

The Korea Herald, citing unnamed industry sources, said there are nine hybrids on the market but sales were only 591 in February, down from 772 in January. Total new car sales in February were 112,000 so hybrids took a 0.53% market share, down from 0.61% in January.

Of last month's hybrid electric vehicle sales, 474 units were domestic models and 117 were imported.

Hyundai's Avante LPi hybrid and Kia's Forte LPi hybrid were both launched last year but sales have decline steadily since then.

Avante sales started at more than 1,000 a month, falling to 627 in September and 485 in December, and down to just 266 in February.

Forte sales plummeted to just 78 in February from 615 last September.

Sales of the Toyota Prius reached 54 in February; towards the end of 2009, sales were well above 100 each month, the newspaper said, adding that the Prius slump could have been due to Toyota's global recall crisis.

An industry source told the Herald: "With other models, I think it maybe that the gains from saving fuel may not be enough to attract consumers considering that many think that hybrid cars lack performance compared to normal cars. And with Hyundai planning to bring out a Sonata hybrid soon, some people could be waiting for that."

Industry experts believe a change in perception of such vehicles is needed before they can gain in popularity.