The Ford Fusion (the hybrid version shown here) had the highest loyalty of any model in the U.S. market during the first quarter.
While the U.S. car market has “clearly turned the corner” from last year’s decades-low slump, this year’s slow turnaround is treating some makers better than others – and threatens the very survival of some marques.
Domestic makers are, on the whole, gaining ground according to an analysis of first-quarter 2010 new vehicle registration data, though the clear winner is Ford Motor Co. For imports, the situation is more mixed. Honda and Nissan were able to make some gains, reports research firm Experian Automotive, but the ongoing series of safety recalls and quality glitches clearly took a toll on the industry giant, Toyota.
“Toyota was the only major manufacturer (other than Chrysler) not up by double digits” during the first three months of 2010, noted Jeffrey Anderson, Experian’s Director of Consulting & Analytics.
Significantly, the damage to Toyota’s image is having an impact in the market, especially among those motorists who the company has long counted on to keep building its sales and market share. According to Anderson, the Japanese maker appears to be having far more trouble “conquesting.”
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“Toyota traditionally had a large chunk of its sales come from domestic buyers who never owned an import,” Anderson added, but the number of buyers “conquested” from Detroit’s Big Three brands fell by nearly half during the quarter. That alone “probably cost” the carmaker 37,000 lost sales during the first quarter, or about 15% of its total volume.