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Hybrid Owners Unlikely to Buy Another

One-and-out, says new study.

by on Apr.09, 2012

Toyota hopes its expanded Prius line will improve the otherwise dismal loyalty rate among hybrid owners.

Hybrid sales have been surging as fuel prices take their latest run towards record levels.  But the news might not be nearly as good as it would seem if a new study by R.L. Polk is any indication.

Despite previous sales surges tied to past petroleum price hikes the U.S. hybrid vehicle market hasn’t been able to maintain its momentum and the Polk study apparently explains why. After living with the high-mileage technology, nearly two of three hybrid owners wind up returning to a more conventional vehicle when it’s next time to trade in.

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“Having a hybrid in the product lineup can certainly give a brand a competitive edge when it comes to attracting new customers,” noted Brad Smith, director of Polk’s Loyalty Management Practice.   “The repurchase rates of hybrid vehicles are an indication that consumers are continuing to seek alternative solutions to high fuel prices.”


Toyota Tops in Customer Loyalty for 2009

Japanese maker beats ailing GM for first time in nine years.

by on Jan.13, 2010

King of the loyalty castle in spite of what the peasants in the media assert.

Japanese makers Toyota and Honda took top honors in the R. L. Polk & Co.’s 14th Annual Automotive Loyalty Awards.

Toyota ranked number one in Overall Loyalty to a Manufacturer at almost 60%, which indicates a manufacturer’s ability to retain previous customers. Honda was at 55%.

Toyota beat General Motors for the first time in nine years, likely as a result of its well-publicized bankruptcy, subsequent cancellation of four brands, Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer, and ongoing losses. All of course are devastating to the confidence of potential purchasers.

An earlier Polk study indicates the magnitude of a loyalty problem GM faces after canceling brands. Based on data from January through August 2009, three-quarters of the defectors (75%)  from GM brands purchased an import car or truck, while 25% bought a Ford or Chrysler product.

Top non-GM models purchased by former Saturn owners during this period are the Toyota Corolla, Honda Accord, Honda CR-V and the Toyota Camry. The top-selling domestic vehicle to defected Saturn owners are the Ford Fusion, the Ford Escape and the Ford Focus though  in smaller volumes.

In the  latest study, Toyota won top honors in the Mid/Full-Size Car and Mid/Full-Size SUV categories for the Toyota Prius and Lexus RX respectively, and received the new award for brand loyalty among Asian American consumers.

Loyalty, as Polk defines it, is determined when a household that owns a new vehicle returns to the auto market and purchases or leases another new vehicle of the same model or make.

The numbers, arguably, refute a growing chorus of media claims that Toyota is suffering from an image problem due to well-publicized recalls for unintended acceleration and rusting, as well as customer complaints about the braking performance of the Prius hybrid model, amongother issues.


Recession Driving Buyers to Hold Cars for Longer Times, Shift From New to Used

However, a growing number of Americans are now considering "Big Three" options.

by on Mar.24, 2009


There's growing demand as people realize they need to replace current vehicles.

The nation’s deep recession and uncertain economic future is having a significant impact on what – and how – American motorists are buying. For one thing, consumers are holding on to their vehicles a fair bit longer than they used to. And a large share of buyers would now consider going for a used, rather than new vehicle. If the downsizing trend continues it will have increasingly negative implications for car makers.

While such attitudes reflect the rampant pessimism about the economy, there are some potentially bright spots in the latest survey of vehicle buying decisions by Detroit-based R.L. Polk & Co. For one thing, 72% of consumers say they’d consider buying a product from the Big Three. 

The latest results are grounded in the fact that nearly half of those surveyed expect the economy is going to worsen in the coming year. Less than a third are optimistic, predicting things will improve. Yet in terms of the auto industry, “a state of optimism” can also be found in the results, according to Polk’s director of industry analysis, Lonnie Miller. 

For the industry, as a whole, the study shows there’s growing pent-up demand, the result of buyers realizing they need to replace their current vehicles. A full third of those surveyed said they plan to purchase a car, truck or crossover within the next year, while 26% expect to buy one within two years.  (more…)