Study Shows New-Car Buyers Avoid the Hard Choices

January 30th, 2012

Volt showroom

Buyers want quality and reliability, but only 38 percent were basically influenced by ratings, analysis and reviews when buying a new car. Some 43 percent avoided particular models and brands by following their preconceptions, hearsay and “common knowledge.”

J.D. Power’s ninth Avoider Study also found that 14 percent of buyers avoided imports “because of their origin,” the highest level in the history of the study. Only 6 percent refused to buy “American” cars, again the lowest figure in the study’s history. Gas mileage was the most important reason buyers cited for buying a particular vehicle.

So my takeaway is that new-car buyers are generally influenced by perception rather than reality; they are xenophobic; and they’re basically uninformed when they go to make a $20,000-plus purchase.

Buyers are clearly out of touch with the realities of where and how cars are produced (“Buy American” means next to nothing these days), what cars are in fact dependable, and how to make an informed decision. What influences them most is styling (biggest factor for 35 percent), says an L.A. Times story on the study.

Jon Osborn, J.D. Power’s research director, says this “demonstrates how important it is for automakers to promote the quality and reliability of their models,” meaning they need to market better. It also means they need to do better branding. We need fewer cutely creative Super Bowl image ads and more commercials with meat in them.

Some brands are doing better than others:

Consideration of the Ford brand by new-vehicle shoppers rose four percentage points to 37% last year from 2010. Ram was up 12 points to 35%, Chevrolet up 4 points to 33% and Chrysler’s Jeep brand rose 7 points to 21%. Hyundai was up 5 points to 21%.

Nissan LeafSo buyers may be dumb, but they’re not always stupid. Since fuel economy has become so important to them, they had interesting things to say about the Volt, Leaf and Prius. On the plus side, besides mileage and impact on the environment, buyers praised the Volt for its image factor, the Leaf for low maintenance costs and the Prius for reliability.

On the negative side, they avoided the Volt because of purchase price and the Leaf and Prius for their styling.

In future posts, we’ll talk more about car marketing and how most manufacturers could do a lot better job of it.

When you last considered buying a new car, what made you avoid a particular model or brand? How did you get your information?

—jgoods

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Chevrolet Volt
Used Nissan Leaf
Used Toyota Prius

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