“Buy American” resonates strongly among car shoppers today, though not all brands are considered equally, according to a new survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
About 80 percent of respondents who are in the market to buy a new car are likely to consider a model from a domestic brand. This compares with less than 50 percent each who are considering Asian or European brands. Ford has benefited the most from the recent turmoil in the auto market, with the largest gain in new-car buyers who say that they are likely to consider buying a Ford model—up 17 percentage points compared with a year ago. The respondents considering buying a GM model were up six percentage points, but those considering a Chrysler model were down 25 percentage points.
Other highlights from the survey:
This latest Auto Pulse survey was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center using a nationally representative probability sample. Telephone interviews were conducted with 1,777 adults (18 and older) whose household owns at least one vehicle. Interviewing took place from July 30 to Aug. 3, 2009.
The Detroit 3 automakers have been in the spotlight all year, with Chrysler and General Motors going through heavily publicized bankruptcy proceedings. Despite public concern about the future of those companies, the vast majority of survey respondents—79 percent—say that they are likely to consider a model from an American brand when they buy their next vehicle. And 53 percent say they are very likely, compared with only 27 and 13 percent, respectively, who are very likely to consider an Asian or European brand.
Percent of respondents who are likely to consider a model from an automaker based in these regions:
|Brand||All respondents||New-car buyers||Used-car-only buyers|
Ford was the only one of the Detroit 3 that did not seek federal assistance, and that has probably helped to bolster Ford’s reputation among car buyers. The company saw the greatest jump in purchase consideration compared with last year, up 10 percentage points among all survey respondents and up 17 percentage points among new-car buyers. This is reflected in the fact that the Ford Focus and Escape were the highest selling domestic models, other than pickups, in July 2009. In recent years, Ford has also made the biggest gains in our testing and reliability ratings. (See What is right and wrong with Detroit.)
Ford’s good news contrasts sharply with Chrysler’s. People considering buying its models dropped a dramatic 28 percentage points among all respondents and 25 percentage points among new-car buyers. And with relatively few new models in the short-term pipeline, it may be some time before the restructured company can improve on the attributes that now matter most to consumers.
General Motors purchase intent has remained relatively even among our respondents, although it is up six percentage points among new-car buyers.
Percentage-point difference in respondents’ propensity to purchase compared to one year ago:
|Brand||All respondents||New-car buyers||Used-car-only|
Among respondents who said that they were less likely to consider buying a model from a Detroit automaker, the top reasons given for Chrysler and Ford were that the company’s products aren’t appealing. By contrast, the leading reasons for not considering a GM model were concern about the company’s future and the economic condition of the company, even though GM had emerged from bankruptcy weeks before the survey.
See how these automakers compare in What’s coming from Detroit.
Our survey results show good news for the American automakers, if they can deliver the attributes that matter most to consumers.For most respondents, the most important consideration in deciding which vehicle to buy is price, followed by fuel economy, safety, and quality. But among active new-car buyers, fuel economy was the most important factor, with quality and safety also rising above price. These are considerably more important than brand, styling, or an automaker’s stability.
Most-important considerations when buying (factors that respondents cited as one of their top three when deciding on their next car):
|Factor||All respondents||New-car buyers||Used-car-only buyers|
There has been no shortage of sales incentives as automakers have tried to move the metal in these lean sales months. And with automakers becoming increasingly creative in addressing the age-old question “What can I do to sell you this car today?” there is a broad range of offers available.
In our survey, 71 percent of new-car shoppers said that manufacturer incentives were an important consideration in their choice of vehicles. But which incentives have the most pull? A long warranty was the top consideration among all respondents and for active new-car buyers. For both groups, a low interest rate and a discounted price are also more influential than a cash rebate or niche programs, such as “job-loss protection” and free or discounted gasoline.
Automaker incentives considered important to consumers:
|Program||All respondents||New-car buyers|
|Low interest rate||74||65|
|Free or discounted gas||38||30|
There are many diverse factors that consumers consider when buying a car. And our latest auto-pulse survey provides a snapshot of what’s most important in today’s economic climate. To help guide car buyers in making smart choices, Consumer Reports provides several car-buying tools:
To find the best vehicles in each category, Consumer Reports tests about 80 vehicles per year, putting each through more than 50 evaluations and ranking them within their category by overall score. Those that meet our stringent requirements earn our recommendation. Subscribers to ConsumerReports.org can access all road-test reports, and our test scores and ratings for reliability, owner cost, owner satisfaction, and overall safety. See our best new-car deals on recommended models.
Car buyers who want to get the best deal can take advantage of Consumer Reports’ New Car Price Reports and Used Car Price Reports. The Bottom Line Price, included in every New Car Price Report, factors in the dealer-invoice price and behind-the-scenes dealer incentives to give you a good starting point in your negotiations.