Study:Coronavirus Pandemic Increased Loyalty to Brands, Dealers

Chris Teague | Jul 15, 2021

According to the 2021 J.D. Power U.S. Automotive Brand Loyalty Study, the coronavirus pandemic caused new vehicle buyers to rely heavily on existing relationships with dealers and on trust in a familiar vehicle brand. The study measures the percentage of vehicle buyers who choose to purchase the same brand of vehicle they are trading in, and during a year of uncertainty, consumers were more brand-loyal in general and brands with an already robust fan base improved as well.

Subaru Logo

Among all brands, Subaru ranked highest for loyalty for the third consecutive year. Acura and Mazda were most improved since the previous year’s study, with 7.1 percent and 5.9 percent gains, respectively.

The top five mass-market brands for customer loyalty ranked as follows:

  • Subaru: 61.8%
  • Toyota: 61.1%
  • Honda: 59.3%
  • Ram: 56.8%
  • Ford: 53.9%

The top five premium brands for customer loyalty ranked as follows:

  • Lexus: 51.6%
  • Porsche: 50.2%
  • Mercedes-Benz: 47%
  • BMW: 45.6%
  • Audi: 45.5%

Among premium brands, Lexus topped the field for the third year in a row.

There’s no real mystery in the reasons behind the increase in brand loyalty. The coronavirus pandemic made it difficult – sometimes impossible – to visit dealership lots but did not stop online or remote purchases. Faced with these difficulties, buyers gravitated to the dealers – and ultimately the brands – they already knew.

“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. “The bottom line is finding a vehicle required working closely with a dealer and, when presented with obstacles, shoppers turned to the dealer they already knew. As a result, the level of increased loyalty this year is remarkable.”

This is the third year for the study, which uses data from the Power Information Network. J.D. Power calculates whether a vehicle’s owner purchased the same brand when trading a vehicle in and bases its customer loyalty score on the percentage of buyers who opted for the same brand when purchasing a new vehicle. Calculations made for the 2021 study use transaction data from June 2020 to May 2021 and include all model-year vehicles traded in by consumers.

J.D. Power is the source of information for this article. It was accurate on July 15, 2021, but it may have changed since that date.

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