Ford, Toyota, and Chevrolet lead in car-brand loyalty

Survey shows owners are becoming more willing to cross-shop brands

Published: February 06, 2014 08:00 AM

The top-ranked brands in our 2014 Car-Brand Perception Survey—Toyota, Ford, Honda, and Chevrolet—are also the leaders in brand loyalty and purchase intent, based on a survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

Making a good impression on a car owner is the straightforward path to selling him a new car. And clearly, these brands are doing that.

Six in 10 current Toyota drivers are likely to purchase another Toyota for their next new car. Compared against last year’s study, Toyota brand loyalty fell six points, from 66 percent.

Ford and Honda drivers finished in a close heat in terms of projected loyalty, at 56 percent and 54 percent, respectively. Those brands are likewise seeing a slight downturn from the previous year.

Chevrolet slid from 54 percent last year to 41 percent this year. Dodge took a bigger hit, dropping from 44 percent to 25 percent. That is surprising, as Dodge saw a surge last year.

As these popular brands demonstrate, car-brand loyalty is becoming less common, with consumers becoming increasingly willing to move to new brands to seek their desired balance of form, function, and value.

There were limited demographic differences in the responses, but it stood out that men are more likely to focus on Ford, while women gravitate toward Honda.

When asking all survey respondents about their future purchase intent, the brands separated out into two groups. The top tier composed of Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet, and Honda collectively represents the purchase intent for more than five in 10 respondents. All other brands are vying for the remaining 47 percent.

The top three brands benefit from broad product portfolios, with few overt gaps for existing customers to fall through. Honda, with the narrowest product line of that top tier, may lose some buyers to competitors looking for a true off-roader, large pickup truck, large SUV, or high-performance car—models it doesn’t offer. Interestingly, all four top brands produce the bulk of their vehicles for this market right here in the United States.

Likely to purchase    
Brand 2014 (%) 2013 (%)
Ford 17 16
Toyota 14 13
Chevrolet 13 14
Honda 9 9
Nissan 4 6
Dodge 4 6
Subaru 2 2
Jeep 2 2
GMC 2 2

All brands with 2% or more for 2014

These are among the findings from a random, nationwide telephone survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center from Dec. 6 to Dec. 15, 2013. The survey collected data from 1,578 adults in households that had at least one car.

Brand loyalty has its natural attraction, as familiarity with a car and identifying with a brand can draw consumers back for more of the same. In addition, a positive dealership sales and service experience can help keep shoppers returning. But this emerging trend serves to remind that there is no need for blind brand loyalty. When it comes time to buy that next new car, choose what is best for you factoring safety, reliability, owner costs, and road test performance.

Read our complete story on the 2014 Car-Brand Perception Survey to see how the brands measured up in the seven categories, how they compare against last year’s results, and the best and worst in overall scores.

Jeff Bartlett

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