Is Automotive Brand Loyalty Real?

The latest study about automotive brand loyalty in the UK says that consumers are habitual buyers, except when it comes to the brand of car. The survey of 1,000 UK consumers, revealed that for their next purchase an overwhelming majority of used (81%) and new (76%) car buyers would choose the same type – used or new – of vehicle again.

Slightly more than one in five (22%) of those that owned a used car replaced it with a new one. This contrary to a commonly held belief that consumers are more likely to ‘upgrade’ to a new car if they previously drove a used vehicle of the same brand. In fact, Auto Trader research showed that 60% of all car buyers are open to considering a brand-new vehicle, with a third of all buyers open to new or used. The introduction of thousands of virtual new vehicles on Auto Trader in 2016 has helped give consumers more choice when in the market for their next car, opening all available options in search results for new and used models.

The habitual buying behavior also exists when it comes to the body-style of the car, with an average of 41% of new car buyers likely to stick to the same as they previously purchased. New hatchback drivers are the most loyal, with 38% of those surveyed who owned one, chose to repeat buy. There is growth in loyalty for SUV and 4×4 purchases, with a respective 17% and 7% increase in repeat purchases. Super-minis and convertibles recorded the biggest decline in repeat purchases, falling from 6% – 5% and 5% to 3% respectively.

Brand Disloyalty

Consumer loyalty drops when it comes to the make of vehicle, with a significant 68% of used car buyers and 47% of new changing brands between purchases. Whilst loyalty slowly increases with age – 38% of new car buyers aged 55-64 always purchase the same make, compared with 33% of 25-34 – most consumers still like to change brands at all life stages. When it comes to the type of car brand consumers are most loyal to, volume (Ford, Vauxhall, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Kia, Hyundai), top premium (Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen), with 25% of volume owners repeat buying, compared with just 16% of premium. However, of all the car brands Volkswagen was identified as the most likely to drive loyalty, with 26% of new VW owners stating they always purchase the same make. This contrasted with BMW, which was revealed to be the least loyal brand, with just 9% of new owners sticking to the German car maker.

Loyalty Levers

Of the factors that drove brand loyalty, trust was by far the most influential, with 71% of consumers identifying it as the primary reason for choosing the same make of car. This was followed by brand image and price, both recording 63%. Notably, at 47%, a positive after-sales experience ranked the lowest driving factor. For those new car buyers that chose a different make, a desire for change ranked the highest motivation at 74%, closely followed by price at 68%.

For dealers, the research revealed that new car buyers are more loyal than used car buyers, with over half (53%) choosing to revisit for a second purchase. Previously positive experiences (75%) coupled with attractive deals offered by the dealerships (70%) were the most highly ranked reasons new car buyers were enticed back to the same dealership.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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