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American Buyers Increasingly Positive About Detroit Makers

Toyota slips in wake of safety scandal.

by on May.14, 2010

Ford owners are more loyal than Toyota's - some of the good news for Detroit in recent polls.

Whether it’s Washington or the economy, polls show Americans don’t feel very positive about the nation’s big institutions, lately.  But Detroit’s two largest automakers are an exception, according to a number of recent polls.

General Motors and Ford continue to gain ground on a variety of fronts, including owner loyalty.  In fact, Ford has now pushed past the long-time leader when it comes to keeping current buyers in the fold, according to the influential Consumer Reports magazine.

In all, CR found that 61% of Ford owners would buy another car, truck or crossover from the maker, an increase of 10% since the magazine’s last survey, in February.  By comparison, long-time leader Toyota’s loyalty rate has slipped a full 13 points since December, just before the maker announced the first of seven recalls so far this year.

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Ford, however, is still second in the loyalty category, just behind Honda, at 68%.

In the wake of last year’s bankruptcy, General Motors’ image took a sharp hit.  The maker has slipped a bit in the CR loyalty poll, from 57% to 49%, between December 2009 and April 2010.  But another new study suggests that public perception of the troubled GM is beginning to improve.

Ford gets another bit of good news from Automotive Lease Guide, which finds a 4.7 point improvement in perceived quality over the last six months — the biggest jump in the industry.  Here perception translates into a very profitable reality.  ALG says that during this period, the residual value of Ford vehicles has soared $2,400.  Meanwhile, marketing chief Jim Farley claims that, over the last year, the auction price for Ford vehicles less than five years old has jumped $3,000.

Numbers like this are significant and for a variety of reasons.  Higher resale values make a Ford product easier to sell, and they also reduce the amount the automaker has to shell out to subsidize leases.

While in bankruptcy court, last June, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found only 18% of the public had a favorable or very favorable view of the carmaker.  That’s now up 37%, the pollsters report, while only 27% of the public hold the opposite opinions, with 31% neutral.

In fact, only the Democratic Party, also at 37%, and President Obama, at 49%, matched or exceeded GM in terms of positive public perception.

Then there’s Toyota, which has seen its own positive perceptions plunge, in recent months.  The poll shows just 31% of the public saying they feel very or somewhat positive about the Asian automaker, with 34% in the negative column.

That’s still better than the Republicans, at 30%, and miles ahead of BP.  With the oil giant still struggling to cap a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico, only 11% have positive feelings about the company, with 45% in the negative category.  Mega-bank Goldman Sachs scores even lower, with a 4% positive rating, in the latest NBC/WSJ poll and 50% negative.

Incidentally, while the polls have some good news for Ford and GM, things still don’t look all that good for Chrysler.  Consumer Reports found that the smallest of the Detroit Three saw owner loyalty for its Dodge division slip from December to April.

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