Americans happier with imported vehicle brands
In the US, domestic automakers have been subject to a lot of bad press recently, according to Harris Interactive, which surveyed consumers' attitudes toward vehicle brands and found that automakers which consistently take care of their customers and give them a reason to trust their brands are most likely to maintain strong satisfaction and loyalty.
Currently, almost three-quarters of American consumers (72%) are extremely or very satisfied with the vehicle they drive, and four out of five (80%) say they would recommend their vehicle to a friend or family member.
But when the results are compared across domestic and imported vehicle owners, the figures change dramatically. Import vehicle owners, the survey found, are more satisfied with their vehicles overall, and are more likely to recommend them, as well as having more confidence in the maker.
More than three-quarters (77%) of imported vehicle owners are satisfied with their vehicle, while only 69% of domestic vehicle owners are satisfied. While 86% of import owners would recommend their brand's line of vehicles to a friend or family member, only 75% of domestic owners would do the same.
Although opinions are shaped by many aspects of experience and exposure to a vehicle brand, some of the recent trends in the auto industry are also playing a strong role in shaping vehicle owners' opinions, the company warns. Among the survey's other key findings:
- Maintaining a strong customer focus is critical. While automakers and dealerships continue to focus attention on their customers, their customers may not agree that it is business as usual. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of import owners agree that their vehicle's company sees them as a valued customer, and 58% agree that their dealership is continuing to provide them with excellent customer service despite tough economic conditions. Among domestic owners, nearly half agree with each of these statements (48% and 49% respectively).
- Almost all (87%) import owners agree that the brand of vehicle they drive will still be in business 3 to 5 years from now, and almost three-quarters (73%) believe that their primary dealership will still be in business. Among domestic vehicle owners, only 70% think that the brand of vehicle they drive will still be in business and only 54% believe that their primary dealership will still be open.
- Only half (50%) of domestic vehicle owners have confidence in the management of the company for their vehicle, and slightly more (53%) feel that the company is moving in the right direction. However, 70% of import owners have confidence in the management of the company for their vehicle, and 72% think the company is moving in the right direction.
- Of those who intend to buy or lease another new (not used) vehicle in the future, import owners are more likely to purchase the same brand than domestic owners (61% compared to 54% respectively). Some 85% of import owners are also willing to buy or lease another imported brand, while only 78% of domestic vehicle owners are willing to buy or lease another domestic brand.
As a result, the company suggests, maintaining the trust, satisfaction and confidence of auto customers is critical, especially now that the market is struggling. Compared to domestic vehicle owners, imported vehicle owners currently have higher levels of satisfaction, confidence and trust in their chosen brands, and they are leaning toward purchasing the same brand or another import brand the next time they buy or lease a new vehicle.
At the same time, domestic vehicle manufacturers, which historically had the edge in new vehicle sales, risk having that edge further eroded if their customers continue to feel lower levels of satisfaction with their overall buying and service experiences, and if they continue to lack trust and confidence in the future viability of their current vehicle brands.
As a result, imported vehicle manufacturers have an opportunity to increase the gap between themselves and their domestic competitors, and capturing consumer trust and providing a superior customer experience should help any automaker maintain or improve its market position when these tough economic circumstances eventually improve.