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Auto Trader survey questions motorists' brand loyalty

Chris Ward, Auto Trader

Motorists' brand loyalty has been called into question by Auto Trader data which suggests most opt to stick with a certain vehicle type than manufacturer.

Auto Trader’s survey of over 1,000 UK consumers revealed that for their next purchase an overwhelming majority of used (81%) car buyers would also choose the same type of vehicle again.

But customers are less likely to stick with a particular brand of car, with 68% of used and 47% of new car owners likely to exhibit loyalty to a particular manufacturer when replacing their vehicle.

The online retail specialist said that slightly more than one in five (22%) of those customers that owned a used car replaced it with a new one, meanwhile – findings that run contrary to a belief that consumers are more likely to ‘upgrade’ to a new car if they previously drove a used vehicle of the same brand.

In fact, used car buyers are nearly 20% less likely to switch between car types than new car owners.

Chris Ward, advertising airector, Auto Trader, said: “Consumers may be habitual in their buying pattern but brands clearly have a window of opportunity to influence their purchase early on in the process.

“A targeted marketing campaign which employs the right advert, aimed at the right audience, and on the right channel, can be very effective in directing buyers to not only a new car, but also to a specific brand. ”

The habitual buying behaviour of consumers is also present when it comes to the body-type of the car, with an average of 41% of new car buyers likely to stick to the same as they previously purchased, Auto Trader found.

New hatchback drivers are the most loyal, with 38% of those surveyed who owned one, chose to repeat buy.

Growing loyalty for SUV and 4x4 purchases was also revealed, with a respective 17% and 7% increase in repeat purchases.

Superminis and convertibles recorded the biggest decline in repeat purchases, falling from 6% - 5% and 5% to 3% respectively.

Brand (dis)loyalty

Whilst loyalty slowly increases with age – 38% of new car buyers aged 55-64 always purchase the same make, compared with 33% of 25-34 year olds – Auto Trader’s survey found that the majority of consumers still like to change brands at all life stages.

Auto Trader’s data shows that less than one in four part-exchange enquiries were for the same brand of car.

When it comes to the type of car brand consumers are most loyal to, volume (Ford, Vauxhall, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Kia, Hyundai) tops premium (Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen), with 25% of volume owners repeat buying, compared with just 16% of premium.

However, of all the car brands Volkswagen was identified as the most likely to drive loyalty, with 26% of new VW owners stating they always purchase the same make.

This was in contrast to BMW, which was revealed to be the least loyal brand, with just 9% of new owners sticking to the German car maker.

The key to loyalty

Revealingly, when it came to the factors that drove brand loyalty, trust was by far the most influential, with 71% of consumers identifying it as the primary reason for choosing the same make of car.

This was followed by brand image and price, both recording 63%.

Notably, at 47%, a positive aftersales experience ranked the lowest driving factor. For those new car buyers that chose a different make, a desire for change ranked the highest motivation at 74%, closely followed by price at 68%.

Ward said: “By providing a fully transparent customer experience, coupled with a choice of cars that are in tune with the local market not only helps secure a sale, but also one that produces the best margin.”

For dealers, the research revealed that new car buyers are more loyal than used car buyers, with over half (53%) choosing to revisit for a second purchase.

Previously positive experiences (75%) coupled with attractive deals offered by the dealerships (70%) were the most highly ranked reasons new car buyers were enticed back to the same dealership. 

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