What Auto Brands Have the Most Loyalty?
For all the grief the auto industry has gotten, many automakers strive to build long-term loyalty with customers. At the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this month, Ford and Kia stood out for their ability to generate repurchases.
At the show, R.L. Polk & Co. released the results of its annual Polk Loyalty Awards. Ford won the top two awards, "overall loyalty to manufacturer" and "overall loyalty to make." Kia Motors was also honored for "most improved loyalty to make" award. (See the complete list of winners.)
As a lifetime Ford customer, I can understand why Ford stands out. Even though my 2005 Ford Focus has over 118,000 miles, it gets 30+ MPG and drives great in this snowy New England winter. It's my third blue Ford car, and I plan on buying another Ford in the future. I'm happy with the quality of the product, as well as the manufacturer and dealer's ability to meet my expectations for service and support. Price is a factor, but not a real driver of loyalty for me. Other brands should take a lesson from Ford.
My husband's car brand, GM, sits on the opposite side of the loyalty spectrum. As I have previously written, he has had nothing but trouble in trying to get his car fixed. Both the dealer and GM corporate have fought him every step of the way, and after six months we plan to retain a lawyer to get the matter solved. We have reached the end of our rope, and will never buy a GM car again. In fact, we are both now active detractors, warning people not to buy a GM car because of how difficult it is for the dealer and GM corporate to act in the customer's (our) best interests.
On a side note, further inspection of the Polk Loyalty Awards program shows that while they are called loyalty awards, they are derived primarily from repurchase. According to Polk:
"The awards are based on actual model-year purchase/lease activity and recognizes manufacturers for superior performance in owner retention--a critical aspect of building and maintaining market share. Owners of these manufacturers had such a positive overall experience that they came back to buy another vehicle of the same model, make, or manufacturer...Awards are based on actual consumer transactions, with over 4.5 million household records per year being analyzed to determine the winners and information obtained from state registration and lease transaction information."
Repurchase and retention are indeed important factors when measuring loyalty, but they are not the only ones. Some owners, for example, may stick out of necessity or habit, not true loyalty. Real loyalty comes from an emotional connection to the brand and is shown not only by retention, but by the willingness to recommend and advocate on behalf of the company. With such fierce competition and a leveling of the car quality playing field, this is where automakers and dealers need to go to succeed over the long term.
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