Recession Hits Brand Loyalty

Research firm R.L. Polk and Co. says the longer a driver hangs onto a car, the more likely they are to switch brands on the next one, Automotive News reports. About 46% of drivers who own a new car for three years will buy from the same brand, Polk says. After nine years, that drops to 39.8%.

Unsurprisingly, the recession brought just that drop. New-car shoppers keep their cars for six years on average, up from four years before the recession, Polk says. Shuttered lease programs during the recession played a big part in the drop, but those programs are at least on the mend.

The threat of losing customers comes with the opportunity to gain new ones — "conquests," the auto industry calls them. Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle told Automotive News he's bullish on the chance to get new shoppers into Ford showrooms. Meanwhile, GM announced new initiatives last week to boost loyalty rates, citing Toyota as the industry's top retainer. Toyota's complementary maintenance program brings shoppers back to the dealership — rather than their neighborhood mechanic — for service appointments, which the automaker says can double the chance those owners stay with the brand.

GM Wants Toyota's Loyalty Rates
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