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Ford, Hyundai Ace Loyalty Studies From Polk, J.D. Power

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Customer retention is a huge focus in the automotive world -- in fact, earlier this week at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, General Motors' Mark Reuss listed it among his top three priorities*. However, two recent studies show that Ford and Hyundai currently do the best job of keeping customers in the fold.

The Polk Automotive Loyalty Awards for model year 2011 were based on data from 5.5 million U.S. new-vehicle purchases and leases registered between October 1, 2010 and September 30, 2011. Ford nabbed the title for Overall Loyalty to Manufacturer, with 62.9% of current Ford, Lincoln, or Mercury owners investing in another vehicle from the Ford family. Ford also won Overall Loyalty to Make, with  61.7% of current Ford owners motoring off the lot in new Ford vehicles. Loyalty to Ford was particularly strong among African American consumers, with 61.4% of that demographic opting for another Ford ride.

Jeep drove off with the award for Most Improved Loyalty to Make, with a surge of 7.4 percentage points above last year.

As far as individual vehicles were concerned, only one model scored above the 40% return rate, and that was the Lincoln MKZ, which was purchased by 44.2% of previous owners. The Lexus RX came in a respectable second (39.5% return buyers), and the Ford F-Series was right behind at 39.2%. The Land Rover Range Rover followed at 38.4%.

Polk gave a special nod to Hyundai, whose compact Elantra saw a 27% return rate. This marks the first time that Hyundai has appeared among Polk's top finishers. For a complete list of winners, click here.

In J.D. Power's 2012 Customer Retention Study, the results were slightly different. Power found Hyundai to be the big winner, with 64% of Hyundai owners coming back for another vehicle from the automaker. Ford and Honda tied for second place, each ending with a customer retention rate of 60%. As in Polk's study, Jeep saw the greatest improvement in customer retention over 2010, though Power found the brand jumping 17%. For a summary of the study's results, skip to the bottom of this PDF.

Why the difference between Polk and J.D. Power? Perhaps the biggest reason is that J.D. Power's survey size was much smaller than Polk's. While Polk looked at 5.5 million consumer transactions, J.D. Power studied just 117,001. Also, Polk's survey spanned the entire 2011 model year, while Power's was conducted over six months: between February - May 2011 and from August - September 2011.

But even with the discrepancies, the surveys' findings are close enough to tell us what we need to know -- namely, that Ford and Hyundai are doing bang-up work, and Jeep has clearly got its head in the game. We'll see if Reuss' focus pays off for GM in next year's studies.

* The president of GM North America was asked "what keeps him up at night". Without missing a beat, he responded, "Customer retention". He listed customer satisfaction and the revitalization of the city of Detroit as two other key priorities.

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