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Ford Tops General Motors, Toyota In Loyalty; Hybrids Gain Traction

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Ford Motor Company may not be as big as General Motors, Toyota, or Volkswagen, but when it comes to the loyalty of American customers, Ford has the competition beat. According to Experian Automotive, Ford dominated the showrooms in both corporate and brand loyalty during the last three months of 2012.

CORPORATE LOYALTY

Corporate loyalty is a consumer's devotion to a particular automaker, regardless of brand. So, for example, if a Buick owner went shopping for a new car and came home with a Cadillac, she'd be considered corporate loyal to General Motors.

Of all the Ford owners who bought new cars in Q4 of 2012, 47.9% of them drove off with a Ford or Lincoln. That put Ford at the top of the corporate loyalty heap.

Coming in a very close second was General Motors, with a return rate of 47.7%. And Toyota rounded out the top three at 46.9%.

BRAND LOYALTY

Ford was also tops in brand loyalty, meaning that owners of F-150s, Fiestas, Fusions, and other Ford models were very likely to purchase another Ford-branded vehicle. All told, 47.1% of Ford owners who shopped for another car in Q4 purchased another Ford. (Coming in a statistically distant second was Mercedes Benz, which had 43.7% return customers.)

What's behind this surge in brand loyalty? It probably has something to do with the fondness that drivers have for specific Ford models. Of the ten vehicles most likely to inspire brand loyalty in Q4, a whopping eight were made by Ford.

The Ford Fusion came in at the top of the list, with 60% of Q4 shoppers who owned Fusions opting for another Ford vehicle. (Note: They didn't necessarily purchase another Fusion, just another Ford.) The Chevrolet Sonic and Kia Forte are the only non-Ford rides on Experian's list of loyalty-inspiring vehicles: 

Ford Fusion: 60.0%
Ford Flex: 58.0%
Ford Edge: 57.1%
Kia Forte: 55.6%
Ford Five Hundred: 53.3%
Ford Fiesta: 53.2%
Ford Escape: 52.8%
Chevrolet Sonic: 52.4%
Ford Focus: 52.1%
Ford Taurus: 49.3%

In its analysis of Q4 sales, Experian uncovered some other unrelated but very interesting data. Two of the firm's biggest findings had to do with vehicle turnover and hybrid vehicle market share.

  • According to Experian, Americans now keep their vehicles for 66.2 months, or about 5.5 years. That's down slightly from the 68.1 months seen in 2011 and would seem to indicate that consumers' reluctance to purchase new vehicles -- inspired by the Great Recession -- is coming to an end.
  • In the last three months of 2012, hybrids made up 1.03% of all vehicles in operation in the U.S. That might not seem like such a big deal, but it's the first time that hybrids have ever broken the 1% mark. Given the growing range of hybrids available to consumers, we'd expect that number to continue growing in the months and years to come.
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