Consumers more loyal to some car brands than other

Photo (c) Saklakova - Fotolia

Meanwhile, consumers continue to show a preference for more expensive vehicles

Despite an ever-increasing number of choices, there is a large segment of American consumers who find a brand they like and stick with it. It's always been the case for cars and trucks.

Consumers who bought Fords one year tended to buy another when it was time for a trade-in. While that isn't true for all brands today, it is definitely true for some.

Experian Automotive keeps track of consumer loyalties and reports that Subaru has the most loyal following, with 67.7% of Subaru owners going back to the dealership to buy another. Among companies that sell cars under more than one nameplate, Ford is close behind, with 67.5% of consumers who own a Ford remaining loyal to the Ford family when purchasing a new vehicle.

"It's exciting to see that manufacturers' efforts to improve owner loyalty are working," said Brad Smith, director of automotive statistics and consulting at Experian. "Over the last few years, loyalty rates have increased, and these improvements are key to the industry.”

Data help carmakers improve

Smith says studying consumer loyalty among vehicle brands, makes, and models helps the industry make better business decisions, such as a dealer selecting inventory and targeting advertising or a manufacturer making adjustments to a vehicle's design and creating more competitive promotional strategies.

In the Experian analysis of sales data, Subaru, Ford, Toyota, and GM hold the top four spots for loyalty, with only 0.5 percentage points separating them. Why does loyalty matter? For a consumer considering a new car purchase, it can point to vehicles that tend to make their owners happy.

Top 10

Here is Experian Automotive's top 10 in terms of customer loyalty:

  1. Subaru
  2. Ford
  3. Toyota
  4. GM
  5. Fiat Chrysler
  6. Daimler
  7. Kia
  8. Honda
  9. Hyundai
  10. Nissan

Buyers continue to pay more

When buying these and other cars, consumers continue to pay more and more for them. The average transaction price hit yet another record high in December, according to Kelley Blue Book (KBB). The average price paid for a new car last month rose to $34,428 – up nearly $300 from a year ago.

"Prices continue to climb, reaching record levels, with more new product on the market than ever before, and new product iterations tend to bring higher transaction prices, particularly among luxury models," said Akshay Anand, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

Among the possible reasons for higher spending levels is, with lower gasoline prices, consumers are buying more SUVs and trucks, which carry higher sticker prices. But Anand also notes consumers are opting for more luxury models, which last month made up 15% of total sales.

Among luxury nameplates, Lexus and Lincoln both rose 1% month-over-month and from this time last year. KBB says new products have helped each brand achieve average transaction pricing in the $40,000 range.

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