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GM takes customer loyalty crown from Ford

January 15, 2016

General Motors Executive Vice President and President North America Alan Batey (left) accepts the 2015 IHS Overall Loyalty to Manufacturer award from IHS Automotive Senior Vice President Edouard Tavernier, Tuesday, January 12, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. The IHS Automotive Loyalty Awards are presented annually to companies and brands that demonstrate the ability to retain owners over repeat buying cycles. (Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors)

DETROIT — General Motors finished the 2015 model year with the most loyal customers, unseating Ford Motor Co., which had won the distinction for five consecutive years.

That’s according to IHS Automotive, which presented its the 20th Annual Automotive Loyalty Awards Tuesday at the Automotive News World Congress.

“GM does an incredible job of cultivating Super Loyalists — those customers who come in and buy again and again and again,” Steve Had, vice president of sales and marketing solutions for IHS told Automotive News. When you have success at the top with the Super Loyalists, it pulls your overall rate up. That’s what put GM over the top this year.”

GM was also a leader in keeping customers satisfied, beyond offering spiffs and aggressive marketing, Had said.

Tesla won most-improved conquest percentage and most-improved Loyalty to Make, an indication that the electric vehicle company can compete in the mainstream market, Had said.

“This is a testament to their focus to make sure their existing customers are increasingly loyal to Tesla, but they are also doing it on the conquest side and bringing new customers in,” Had said.

The Ford brand was the only one to reach a loyalty rate of more than 60 percent in the model year, earning the Overall Loyalty to Make award. In 2010, Ford “cracked the 60 percent barrier” and has held it for six consecutive years, Had said.

“It’s a fantastic achievement,” Had said.

Ford also won for its loyalty among African-Americans for a second consecutive year. And Toyota was a repeat winner for loyalty in the Asian and Hispanic consumer markets.

Keeping customers

According to IHS, there were 14 makes that kept more customers than they lost during the model year in 2015, up from 11 the previous year.

The Automotive Loyalty Awards are based on an analysis of more than 17.5 million new vehicle registrations during the 2015 model year, which ran from Oct. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015.

For the 2015 model year, more than 8.2 million consumers returned to market for a new vehicle. That number is expected to hit 8.5 million this year, Had said. The number of consumers returning to market is expected to peak in 2017 to 8.6 million, he said.

Record loyalty

IHS reported record loyalty rates for both brand and manufacturer: 51.5 percent of consumers who returned to market during the 2015 model year stuck with the same brand as their previous new vehicle purchase, and 59 percent stayed with the same manufacturer. Both are up more than one percentage point over the 2014 model year study and IHS expects loyalty rates will continue to increase.

The IHS study found that about 40 percent of customers returning to the market fit into its Loyalist and Super Loyalist categories, meaning they returned to the market to purchase from the same manufacturer at least twice.

Had said Super Loyalists and Loyalists are far less “susceptible to defection following a disappointing ownership experience,” than other consumers.

“By understanding the loyalty of your customers in different ways, you’ll target them in more relevant and meaningful ways not only in incentives, but in messages,” Had said.

‘Conquest opportunities’

The remaining 60 percent of buyers, Had said, are “fantastic conquest opportunities.”

“There will be a lot of messaging and incentives directed at that group,” Had said.

The survey also looked at the ability of manufacturers to get conquest buyers, those who leave one brand for a different brand. Jeep unseated Audi in 2015 to have the highest percentage of conquest buyers — 27.8 percent, according to IHS.

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