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Toyota and BMW were most shopped-for car brands during first quarter

High gas prices are bringing smaller sedans back into style

Toyota car dealership
Photo (c) Peter Fleming - Getty Images
Cars and trucks are expensive and hard to come by, but when consumers shop for a vehicle, a new survey shows they lean toward BMW and Toyota.

The Q1 2022 Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch, a survey that measures consumers’ perceptions of automotive brands, showed that Toyota is in first place as the most-shopped non-luxury brand. BMW was number one in the luxury category.

"High fuel prices and a few high-profile product launches really shuffled the order in the Q1 Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch," said Vanessa Ton, senior research and market intelligence manager at Cox Automotive. "Shopping for traditional sedans, which are often more affordable and efficient than SUVs and trucks, jumped up in Q1 after years of declining. Fuel prices clearly influenced shopping behavior."

Hooman, of Houston, told us he bought a 2016 Toyota Camry six years ago and that it's still a great car for these inflationary times.

“The engine is very strong and the car's overall reliability is unmatched compared with other brands, Hooman wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review in March. “The car is approximately six years old and over 51 k miles while it still drives like day one since I've had it. It is made bulletproof in my opinion with really low maintenance cost.”

Gas prices are a game-changer

Gas prices were a major influence when consumers went car shopping. In the non-luxury segment, 37% of consumers shopped for cars, up from 31% in the first quarter of last year when more people considered a truck or SUV.

As recently as the fourth quarter of 2021, no traditional cars were among the top-ten most-shopped vehicles. This year, the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord, and the Honda Civic were back in the top 10.

Not surprisingly, high fuel prices boosted interest in electrified vehicles as well. However, some shoppers may have been frustrated by higher costs and fewer available models.

Gas prices less important for luxury shoppers

In the luxury category, fuel prices may have carried less influence. Consumers showed the most interest in BMW’s 5 Series and 3 Series sedans. 

The big luxury surprise was Cadillac, which made the biggest one-year advance in the survey. The brand drove into second place and edged out Lexus. David, of Philadelphia, still has fond memories of his 2004 Cadillac but notes that it was a big investment.

“They require patience to deal with all the systems in the car and the maintenance not only of these items but also the wear items,” David told us. “All the modern conveniences are great but present a lot of learning plus trial and error. The comfort, power, and prestige are all great but come at a cost.”

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