Polk's automotive loyalty awards announced
The eighth annual Polk automotive loyalty awards have been announced at the 2004 North American International Auto Show, with BMW of North America, DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Subaru of America and Volkswagen of America all taking honours for the 2003 model year.
The R. L. Polk & Co. awards are based on the firm's consumer loyalty tracking data from owners of new vehicles. According to Polk, overall make and model loyalty rates increased by about one percentage point during 2003, while manufacturer loyalty increased by one-half percentage point. "In a time of intense competition within the automotive industry, manufacturers are doing a good job of retaining their current customer base, which significantly contributes to their bottom line," said Stephen Polk, president and CEO for R. L. Polk & Co.
Old favourites General Motors won in the overall manufacturer loyalty category for the fourth consecutive year, while Ford Division won in the overall make loyalty category for the eighth year in a row. In addition, four of Ford Division's models won in the segment-level categories, and five vehicles from Ford's sister divisions, Mercury and Lincoln, also won segment-level awards.
"Ford Motor Company was very successful in 2003 in terms of retaining its customers, and this success is reflected in Ford winning multiple loyalty awards," Polk added. "New vehicle designs and improvements for the Expedition, Grand Marquis, Town Car and Navigator, as well as solid incentives on all winning Ford Motor Company vehicles, helped secure this strong presence."
New leaders Unlike previous model years, in 2003 there were only 5 repeat winners from 2002 within the segment level categories. New vehicle winners emerged within all segments except the Small Car, Minivan, Compact Pickup, Full-Size Pickup, and Midsize SUV categories. Across the new segment level winners, four had won prior to 2002, including the Mercury Grand Marquis, Lincoln Town Car, BMW 7 Series, and the Subaru Forester. "Strong players in each of these categories have re-emerged at the top of the rankings," said Melissa Mullen-Travers, manager of loyalty solutions for R. L. Polk. "Once a model ranks highest, on-going efforts must be made to remain at the top of the list, including pricing strategies and product enhancements."
In order to reflect the expansion of the new car marketplace, two new segment categories were added to the awards for 2003: Prestige Sports Car and Prestige SUV. Within the Prestige Sports Car segment, Dodge Viper owners displayed the highest model loyalty rate. The vehicle was completely redesigned for 2003 to include better features and an updated look. (Polk's research shows consistent improvement in loyalty rates following an existing model's redesign.) The Lincoln Navigator captured the Prestige SUV category, having also had a redesign for the 2003 model year, along with a number of financial incentives for purchasers.
Polk's Manufacturer Loyalty Excelerator report, which is the basis for the firm's loyalty rankings and annual awards, was introduced in 1995 to provide household loyalty information for manufacturers. It is now used to provide loyalty rates for the whole automotive industry, and allows for cross-industry comparisons of loyalty behaviour. Polk's report defines loyalty as being when a household that owns a new vehicle returns to market and purchases or leases another new vehicle of the same model or make.