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Old 10-21-2009, 02:40 PM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default For Car Buyers, the Brand Romance Is Gone


When Chris Allen, 24, was growing up near Detroit, his family always had G.M. cars. For his first car, he bought a VW GTI.

Quote:
DETROIT — To sell a car in the 1980s, dealers had to do little more than open their doors, and loyal buyers would show up to trade in their Chevrolet for a new Chevrolet, or their Toyota for another Toyota.

Nearly four in five Americans were repeat buyers back then, staunchly faithful to brands that they knew, trusted and were part of their self-image. The allegiance often continued through generations of families, like party affiliations in politics.

Now, partly as a result of increasingly fickle consumer tastes and the industry turmoil in Detroit, that hard-won loyalty is largely gone.

So far this year, only about 20 percent of car shoppers stayed with the same brand when they purchased a new vehicle, according to a study by the Oregon-based firm CNW Marketing Research.

As a result, the industry is seeing the kind of churn it hasn’t witnessed since Japanese manufacturers began making inroads in the American market more than 30 years ago.
“The days when people bought a Toyota car or a General Motors product for 25 years are over,” said Art Spinella, CNW’s president. “There really isn’t any brand loyalty any more.”

Chris Allen is a case in point. Mr. Allen, 24, grew up in a suburb north of Detroit. His father works for an auto supplier, and his family’s garage was always full of G.M. products.

“We had Saturns, Oldsmobiles, Buicks and a string of Chevys,” said Mr. Allen. “My first two vehicles were hand-me-downs — a GMC Sonoma and a Pontiac Grand Am.”
After graduating from Michigan State University, Mr. Allen moved to Los Angeles, where he works for a market research firm. And when he bought his first car, he chose a Volkswagen GTI.

“If G.M. produced a vehicle I wanted, it would have been at the top of my list,” he said. “But they don’t.”
Just five years ago, Chevrolet and Ford sat comfortably atop the United States market, each with more than a 16 percent share. Chrysler had three brands — Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep — in the top 10.

Today, the Toyota brand leads the pack with slightly more than 14 percent, followed by Ford, Chevrolet, and the Honda and Nissan brands. The Chrysler brand and G.M.’s soon-to-be-discontinued Pontiac brand have fallen out of the Top 10 — replaced by two South Korean brands, Hyundai and Kia.

Each percentage-point movement represents tens of thousands of sales, and underscores how car buyers, armed with reams of data from the Internet, are comparison shopping as never before. And because most cars have become more reliable, choice becomes more a matter of taste.

“Brand loyalty has shrunk because of widespread improvements in the products,” said James Farley, Ford Motor Company’s head of marketing. “The ‘trust factor’ is more or less the same for most cars.”

This shift has enormous implications for the way automakers advertise.

In the glory days of Detroit’s Big Three, the companies and their advertising agencies invested heavily to market slogans that covered a wide range of products. Ad campaigns like Chevrolet’s “Heartbeat of America” and “Have You Driven a Ford Lately?” were used to market everything from small cars to big pickup trucks. Even Toyota followed suit with broad messages — “I Love What You Do for Me” — that covered everything it sold.

Now, one size no longer fits all. Toyota, for example, found that the rock-solid quality that made its Camry sedan the top-selling car in America did not lure many buyers to its full-size Tundra pickup.

“This is not the age anymore of meaningless slogans,” said Jack Trout, president of a consulting firm, Trout & Partners, in Old Greenwich, Conn. “What you’re after is differentiation of your products.”

Hyundai has carved out a 4 percent share of the American market because its vehicles are less expensive than Toyota’s but are perceived as just as reliable, said Mr. Spinella of CNW Marketing Research. The company differentiated itself further this year when it offered to take back cars if the owners lost their jobs and could not afford to make payments.

“Today, people are very focused on value,” said Jeremy Anwyl, president of the car-research Web site Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, Calif. “Hyundai took a unique position to address that.”

Ford tried to excite consumers with ads a few years ago that extolled its heritage. But the current marketing campaign for its fuel-efficient Fusion sedan does not even mention the Ford name until the end of the ad.

The lesson Ford learned, Mr. Farley said, is that today’s car buyer has little use for nostalgia.

“I can’t tell you how many car clubs I have been to where they own old Mustangs and vintage T-Birds, but they drive Camrys,” he said.
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Old 10-21-2009, 03:04 PM   #2
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“If G.M. produced a vehicle I wanted, it would have been at the top of my list,” he said. “But they don’t.”
Quote:
“Brand loyalty has shrunk because of widespread improvements in the products,” said James Farley, Ford Motor Company’s head of marketing.
It's slapping them in the face and they don't even realize it. It's not (lack of)loyalty that is driving people away, its the cars they are(n't) producing.
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Old 10-21-2009, 03:10 PM   #3
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Welcome to 21st century.
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Old 10-21-2009, 03:26 PM   #4
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so you mean to tell me that a consumer isnt going to buy my product if its not what they want??? consider me dumbstruck!
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Old 10-21-2009, 03:43 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Tim-H View Post
It's slapping them in the face and they don't even realize it. It's not (lack of)loyalty that is driving people away, its the cars they are(n't) producing.
No, they produce a lot of cars that people want. They just don't sell most them here. And when they do decide to sell them here, it seems that they aren't marketed enough or correctly. Take for example the Saturn Astra. I think I saw maybe 2 commercials that included it, and those commercials were more or less a general Saturn commercial, not one highlighting the Astra itself.
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Old 10-21-2009, 04:01 PM   #6
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^ yeah but I think you know what I mean.

Also when they bring them over they use lower quality components.
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Old 10-21-2009, 04:33 PM   #7
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Times have changed from one each company was renowned for a given type of car. Now each manufacturer offers almost every type of vehicle, from sporty to minivan. It is almost impossible NOT to cross shop in this day and age.
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Old 10-21-2009, 04:52 PM   #8
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Using this article as an example, what hatch does GM have in the US that competes with the GTI in attractiveness and comfort. Nothing, neither does Ford.

They have every flavor of car nobody asked for.
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Old 10-21-2009, 09:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim-H View Post
Using this article as an example, what hatch does GM have in the US that competes with the GTI in attractiveness and comfort. Nothing, neither does Ford.

They have every flavor of car nobody asked for.
I sort of agree. I view today's market as pick ups, sedans, SUV's and everything else is just whole bunch of niches
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Old 10-21-2009, 10:31 PM   #10
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I think many people still have a little flicker of brand romance for certain brands. Its just like the article says, that brand doesn't make what they want any longer, there is something better, more of a value, or even more so what they want. I have nostalgia for GM as well, and have bought a few new cars in the last few years that I still own--a 2003 Subaru WRX (GM didn't even make a fun/affordable car in 2003), a 2008 Toyota Tundra (GM didn't offer the "big motor" and a 6spd auto in a 1/2 ton work truck trim), and a 2009 Pontiac G8 GT (GM offers a badass, RWD, V8 sedan for the price of a V6 Camry or Accord) that reminds me of my first Pontiac... which is now too little too late... .

Last edited by daveyboy; 10-21-2009 at 10:36 PM.
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Old 10-21-2009, 10:54 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by daveyboy View Post
Its just like the article says, that brand doesn't make what they want any longer, there is something better, more of a value, or even more so what they want.
Yes.

A customer goes into the Ford dealership looking for a nice 4 door wagon and they point him to a Fusion. Then the guy leaves and buys an Audi or BMW.

Conversation at the dealership goes something like this:
"Guys, people that want a wagon wont buy our 4 door sedan, are we doing something wrong?" "No way! People just aren't loyal anymore!"

Of course I'm just using Ford as an example. Substitue Ford with Chevrolet and Fusion with Malibu, or Mazda and 6, I could go on and on.

All it boils down to is these guys are still blaming the customer for not wanting their cars, and not themselves for their ****ty lineup.
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Old 10-21-2009, 11:15 PM   #12
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in my immediate family we've had the following brands over the last 15 years:

Plymouth
Ford
Nissan
Honda
Jeep
Nissan
Acura
Ford
Subaru
Toyota
Mazda
Nissan
Piaggio
Audi
Honda

interesting how GM and Chrysler seem to be generally under-represented. we certainly exhibit very little of the brand loyalty that the article reminisces about.
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Old 10-22-2009, 12:12 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim-H View Post
Using this article as an example, what hatch does GM have in the US that competes with the GTI in attractiveness and comfort. Nothing, neither does Ford.

They have every flavor of car nobody asked for.
ford focus RS.
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Old 10-22-2009, 12:23 PM   #14
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ford focus RS.
WHAT?! What's a Focus RS??? I've never heard of that before EVER.

Yes everyone knows about the Focus RS. It doesn't exist in the US.
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Old 10-22-2009, 12:26 PM   #15
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ford focus RS.
Screw that. Bring back the XR4Ti!
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Old 10-22-2009, 12:40 PM   #16
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I consider myself a Toyota + Subaru man, but it's mostly older models that I desire.

Whenever I think about buying a car Subaru is always near the top of my list. (it probably has a lot to do with where I live with the canyons, dirt roads, and snow.)
Right now though the STi is the only current Subaru I covet. I just have very little interest in the automatic only FXT, the too big Legacy/Outback, or the non-flared WRX.

I've had 2 MR2s (have one now), an '87 Corolla, and a '94 Supra TT, but sadly Toyota hasn't made anything to bring my business to them in over a decade. (the last Celica was just not right for some reason and the MR-S barely had enough storage space to bring a backpack and a CD case.)

I'm realy looking forward to the FT-86.


I like to think I have some brand loyalty, but I'm positive I'd jump ship if a car piqued my interest.
I generally buy older cars though. To me they just have more soul. I drive them, not a computer.
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Old 10-22-2009, 01:08 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Ghosthound View Post
ford focus RS.
Maybe you really meant the 2002-2004 Focus SVT, which competed very handily with the MkIV GTI. But was killed off in 2005 when the Focus was cheaply restyled (neutered), and development money went into awesome ( ) vehicles like the Ford Excursion & Lincoln Blackwood instead.
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Old 10-22-2009, 02:04 PM   #18
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This is how it should be. Informed consumers buying based on the merit of the product. For some it will be style and price, others performance and power and some just reliable and comfortable.

There is still brand loyalty out there but it's a little tempered now as long as the brand offers something the buyer is looking for.

When went looking for another car I wanted 4 doors, AWD because I was tired of changing out tires each season, manual transmission, less than $35k preferabbly $30k and faster than a Mustang GT. My options were limited to the STI, Evo and a used S4.

If something had been offered by other brands I would have considered them as well. I'll do the same for my next car.
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Old 10-22-2009, 03:07 PM   #19
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I'm glad of this, blind brand loyalty for the sake of loyalty is retarded and doesn't encourage companies who make shifty products to improve or correct their mistakes. Cars should be purchased on the merits of their quality, reliability and capabilities first, brand should be near the bottom of the priority rankings.

Plus ppl who need brand loyalty to give themselves self-identity (Im a MOPAR man! or Subaru forever!!) are frankly, pretty sad.
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Old 10-22-2009, 06:28 PM   #20
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I have very little brand loyalty whatsoever. I try and buy the best product that meets with mine and my family's needs. May the best product win my business !
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Old 10-22-2009, 06:46 PM   #21
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i had 5 subarus in a row and lost my brand loyality to subaru because they can't keep up with what i need.

19 city 30 highway doesn't "cut-it" anymore and i was tired of waiting for a gas/electric hybrid.

it had nothing to do with the dealership. matter of fact liberty subaru and all the employees we're the only reason keeping me from switching. it was a hard "break-up".


i bought a prius

maybe i'll be back when they have something real to offer.
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Old 10-22-2009, 07:10 PM   #22
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Some auto mfg's simply spend too much money on their brand. It sometimes amazes me how much gets spent on branding and marketing when the cars behind those brands are very mediocre. That money should be invested where it counts.
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Old 10-22-2009, 07:47 PM   #23
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Brand Romance = BROmance?
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Old 10-22-2009, 08:03 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teh POD View Post
Screw that. Bring back the XR4Ti!
Yeah baby. Merkur XR4Ti forever!!! Gosh I remember a colleague of mine had two Merkur models, XR and Scorpio.
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Old 10-28-2009, 02:33 PM   #25
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Totally agree with the article - brand loyalty these days has to be related to some tangible differentiating feature, it can't just be nebulous feelings.

I am pretty loyal to Subaru because I know exactly what they build and it's what I like. Boxer motor, AWD, and I know where to find everything for service and maintenance because they stick to what continues to work for them over the years.

My parents are on their 3rd Subaru now - ever since they got the first one they have never gone to any other dealership.

GM's Onstar is another great example. I know a lot of people that love their Onstar so much they won't consider any other brand.
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