Buyers' loyalties loosen

Consumers have shown a recent willingness to cross-shop outside their traditional habits, according to market monitors. Prodded and lured in one direction by such factors as inventory shortages at import leaders Toyota and Honda, and shooed in the opposite direction by disappearing brands such as Pontiac, Saturn and Mercury, some consumers find themselves unanchored.

The billion-dollar question: Are they changing shopping patterns out of temporary inconvenience, or is a new attitude emerging in the consumer standoff between import and domestic brands?

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I think it’s both, though everything in life runs in cycles too, and this is just one of them. Of course your whole family could own vehicles from one manufacturer for generations, yet one really bad experience will have people switching brands and swearing to never buy another one from that brand.

But in my opinion, people seem to generally have a herd mentality. They will buy whatever is perceived as popular, shiniest, cheapest, or most reliable (or “greenest”), truth not withstanding, even if they don’t understand anything beyond that their peers all have one and that brand ‘x’ has the most compelling marketing. (look at the iPhone phenomenon for example)

For A While Asian Car Sales Were Buoyed Up A Perception That They Were Superior In Quality And Reliability To Other Vehicles, Namely American Cars From Ford, GM, And Chrysler. That Ship Is Sailing. The Bloom Is Off The Rose.

For several years now, quality blunders by Asian car makers in particular, have been on the news and in newspapers and magazines. I personally know of a person who got rid of a fairly new Toyota when she became afraid of it. Poor design or quality control is taking a toll.

I never left American cars and I’ve never had a bad one. Also, I can’t tell you if dealer support is another problem for some makes, in some places. In my neck of the woods, somebody would be nuts to drive a newer European or Asian branded car. There is no dealer support, period.

Pontiac ? Now that I can’t buy Pontiac (It will be back) I seem to have switched to Chevrolet. We couldn’t be happier with the value our newest Chevrolet has delivered.


American brands offer some nifty gadgets that Toyota/Honda are THINKING about putting in their vehicles(SYNC, OnStar, etc)
The Fusion is almost 2 grand less, base price, than the Accord and Camry, but the Focus is about a grand more than the Civic or Corolla

The Detroit 3 are getting better at building small cars, and the greatest market share belongs to Toyota and Honda. Newcomers Kia and Hyundai have to eat someone’s lunch, too. The market leader can’t maintain their big share forever. Just as Honda and Toyota worked hard to build their large share of the compact market, they will have to work hard again to gain it back. The best news is that consumers win by getting a larger selection of cars worth considering.

But there are no ‘‘brands’’ anymore and the buying public knows this.
Major operating systems are sublet to manufacturers who sell to everyone.
Therefore, buying a brand label means much less than buying the vehicle specs they need and want.

I’ve worked at this Ford dealer for thirty years but I’ll shop all brands with local serviceability and have one Chevy in my driveway now.
In 1992 I shopped Jeep, Chevy, Gm, and Ford. Test drove all four and bought the Ford Explorer.

When my dealership people go to the auctions, they come back with a little bit of everything for our used car lots. And we’re selling all of them.

I agree with “ken”…When car companies build more reliable products with up to date engineering, they are rewarded by customers willing to purchase them. The name doesn’t matter as Ford’s more recent success can attest. Sometimes it is what it is. The majority of people are actually smart enough to buy the cars that suit their needs and wants the best.

I remember buyer loyalty as being quite high from the late 1940s after WW II through the early 1960s. A person who purchased Chevrolets would continue either purchasing Chevrolets or move up to a Pontiac, Oldsmobile or most often, a Buick. Chrysler made it easy to move up–there were Dodge/Plymouth dealers, DeSoto/Plymouth dealers and Chrysler/Plymouth dealers. There were loyal Nash owners who then stayed with the Rambler when AMC was formed. There were loyal Studebaker owners.
What changed things is that toward the end of the 1950s, the Chevrolet offered the same features that were available on the higher priced GM models (V-8 engines, air conditioning, power steering, etc.) The same thing happened at Ford and Chrysler corporation.
Toward the end of the 1950s, the VW filled the void left when the Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth grew larger. AMC’s Rambler became a hit for those who didn’t want the larger GM, Ford and Chrysler products. Unfortunately, AMC started building larger cars and the big three began building compacts and intermediates. In the 1960s, a Chevrolet could be anything from a Corvair to an Impala with a Chevelle intermediate and a Chevy II compact thrown in the mix. The same was true with Ford and Plymouth. The perceived quality of the VW Beetle was higher than that of the domestic manufacturers. The confusion over models and the perceived higher quality of foreign makes was the end of buyer loyalty.

I dunno. I think when they forgot about style, they kind of lost it. I usually bought Olds or Buick Park Avenues or Rivieras, but they dumped Olds, dumped Pontiac, and made Buicks for old people. If you are married, you’d better know that the car better have some style and the right color, nice interior etc. Dependability and all that is secondary. So last time around, we ended up with an Acura after looking at everything. Of course the new Acuras have a problem now because the front ends are frowning instead of smiling. Couldn’t get her to even think about an old Buick. You’ve got to package the right styling together first-that’s what sells cars. Couldn’t be happier witht he Acura though. Good dealer, good service, dependable, good MPG, and so on, but style is important.

Bing, I’m not certain about style. The 1951-54 Kaiser and the 1953-54 Studebaker Starliner Hardtop and Starlight couple were very stylish and were later rebadged as the Hawk. Yet these cars didn’t attract buyers.

Dependability and all that is secondary.

Never been that way in my family…Dependability has ALWAYS been the highest priority…Second was the vehicle that met our needs…Third was styling…

I remember when the 1957 Chrysler products hit the showroom and these cars with their tailfins were all the rage. The cars sold well that first model year. However, the cars almost started rusting before they were out of the showroom. The build quality was terrible. Three years later, Chrysler was in bad financial trouble. In the early 1950s, Chysler had a reputation for building dependable vehicles. A lot of Plymouths saw service as taxicabs. However, these Chrysler cars were neither stylish nor had perceived prestige.
In my weaker moments, I have thought I would like to have a Jaguar. However, I found that you have to buy Jaguars in pairs because no more than one will be running at any given time.
I think Lt. Columbo had the right idea with his old Puegot convertible. It was neither sylish nor reliable. Until I retired as a faculty member at a midsized univeristy last spring, I drove my 1978 Oldsmobile to campus most of the time. I made certain to drive it to receptions and other functions put on by the administration. As a faculty member, it is important to go to such events looking poor.

I agree with Ken, Dag, and Triedaq. Ultimately, the sales will migrate to the brands with good product and good reliability and longevity. I personally think the public has become more knowledgable and “buy Japanese” and “buy American” camps are both seeing the effects. People have come to realize that cars and their systems are built worldwide, and even brands aren’t what they used to be. Nissan is coming out with a new small crossover built on a Jeep Eagle platform (Jeep is now owned by Tata). Scion is building vehicle on a Subie platform (Subie will have its own competing version). Cars today often aren’t what they used to be. Partnerships and platform sharing have become the norm. I think people realize this and are just looking for a good value in a vehicle they like.

My wife wants to replace her Jetta (we’ve talked about that car before), but not due to any failures, or even the paint that’s going bad on the flat surfaces. It’s medical - shifting is getting tough on her. Regardless, she’s been looking at all kinds of things, from Mercedes to Honda, Acura, Toyota, Ford, Chevy, Kia…it’s all about the look. So far, the one that struck her initially was a Mercedes. I quietly pointed out that I may not be able to do all the servicing on it like I do the Jetta and our 4Runner. That didn’t phase her, but after looking at more pictures, and seeing the car in person, she didn’t like the styling. I’m thankful, because I didn’t want to pay $80K for a car.

Looks, presence, feel, more than anything else - I think -, will sell. If you’ve got a good name going in (and let’s face it, most of them do now, anyway), some decent warranty, it all comes down to looks. Cost will be there, but if they (the regular buyer) don’t like the way it looks, they’ll never buy it. If you can sell a great looking car for $35K, and a crappy one for $25K, they’ll scrimp to get the better looking one.

Bing, check out Buick now. The Lucerne and Lacrosse might be old folks cars, but in the same way that a Lexus is. The Verano and Regal are not your father’s Oldsmobile, uh, Buick.

Mazda seems to be bringing out some heavy guns for their new designs.

And I will say that the Sonata hybrid looks really mean, in a good way; the normal one, not so much.

I hope the Buick Regal has improved. I had one as a rental a few years ago and while it was peppy and had a comfy ride and decent features and A/C, it was hands-down the worst handling modern vehicle I’ve ever driven.

They’re trying to get Buick and Cadillac to appeal to the younger crowd, but it’s GM, so they’ll fall short on that end.

If the new Fiat 500 proves to be reliable, it may be the car for the younger crowd. I remember when the Volkswagen became popular in the mid 1950s. There wasn’t a big dealer network and the waiting time could be 3 months to take delivery after an order was placed. The recession that hit in 1957 worked in VW’s favor.
We are in economic hard times right now. A reliable, small, relaltively inexpensive car for those just entering the work force may be right on target.

But It’s A Fiat ! Oops, There’s That Bad Taste In My Mouth, Again. Sorry.