For many automakers, it's a surprising silver lining in what has been a tough year.
Following a pandemic-ravaged 2020, sales of new vehicles have rebounded in a big way halfway through 2021. While sales took a big knock last year, the pandemic and the resultant lockdowns have actually seen customers remain more loyal to some automakers. At least, that's the case according to the results of the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Automotive Brand Loyalty Study.
Consumers who bought cars between June 2020 and May 2021 were more likely to stick with a dealer they already know - and consequently the same car brand - because it makes it easier to have a new car delivered to their homes and to avoid physically visiting different showrooms.
"During the height of the lockdown, shoppers who were unable - or unwilling - to visit showrooms in-person weren't shopping around as much but could still call a dealer and have a vehicle delivered to their homes," said Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics at J.D. Power.
In general, the study found that customers increasingly chose the same brand when trading in or purchasing a new car in this time period. Among premium brands, Lexus topped the list with a loyalty rate of 51.6 percent, up from 48% a year ago. It was followed by Porsche (50.2%), Mercedes-Benz (47%), BMW (45.6%), and Audi (45.5%).
Subaru, which saw second-quarter sales in 2021 increase by over 20% relative to 2020, attained the highest loyalty rate for mass-market brands at 61.8%, up from 60.5% last year. The Subaru Outback continues to be the brand's best-selling model. It was followed by Toyota (61.1%), Honda (59.3%), Ram (56.8%), and Ford (53.9%). Acura and Mazda were the most improved brands in the premium and mass-market segments respectively.
On the other end of the scale, Jaguar had a low loyalty rate of just 17.1%. Chrysler and Dodge were also well below average with loyalty rates of under 20%. Still, the increase in brand loyalty is an unexpected upshot of the pandemic and associated lockdowns. The survey highlights the importance of not only a good vehicle but also a reliable and pleasant dealership experience.