Study Gives Clues To Auto Purchase Loyalty

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Customers that have thoroughly researched their vehicle purchases may not be the most loyal automobile purchasers, according to a new study by Detroit’s The Polk Company.

In fact, “defectors”, those customers less likely to display car make loyalty, were more likely as a group to have gone out of their way to research their purchases, either through consumer magazines, lengthy (longer than three months) shopping periods, or by using the Internet. Among defectors, 32% reported using the Internet when shopping for their car, compared with only 22% of the “loyalists.”

“As expected, customers who defect conduct a much broader vehicle search,” said Glenn Forbes, Polk’s vice president of transportation business development in a statement accompanying the results. “They are also more likely than loyal customers to rely on written and electronic information sources to aid their purchase decision — information sources that provide summary reports and ratings of all competitive vehicles,” he added. “With their greater need for information, these consumers also tend to utilize the Internet as a source when shopping for their new vehicle.”

Marketers that build campaigns around “test drives” may want to rethink their strategy: The poll indicated that almost 61% of the “make defectors” felt that the test drive was either very important or “of critical importance” in their purchase decisions. By comparison, among the “make loyalists”, 48% said that the test drive was either “very important” or “of critical importance”. One possible explanation for this is untoward pressure from salespeople during the test drive process.

In fact, among information sources ranked with the greatest degree of difference, only the dealership salesperson was viewed by more loyalists as “very” or “of critical” importance, by a 46% to 39% margin.

But the biggest indicator of a defector was the purchaser who switched vehicle segments, such as buying a sport-utility vehicle when the previously owned vehicle was a sub-compact. Seventy-four percent of the defectors fell under this category, compared with only 38% of the loyalists.

“The fact that most defection occurs when consumers change vehicle segments illustrates the danger in assuming that a buyer of a certain make, model or type of vehicle will be shopping for the same vehicle when they re-enter the market,” said Forbes.

The above data was derived from Polk’s Manufacturer Loyalty Excelerator study. Polk collects this attitudinal information from a select sample of nearly 40,000 new vehicle purchasers/lessees each year. It was gathered from consumers who purchased or leased new vehicles during the first six months of the 1998 model year.


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