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Fuel for Thought: Vehicle loyalty grows in share and importance; Some brands top 60%

20 April 2021

Automotive Monthly Newsletter and Podcast
This month's theme: Vehicle loyalty grows in share and importance; Some brands top 60%

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During the past several years loyalty has emerged as one of the most watched metrics in the US new vehicle industry, along with market share and profitability. There are at least three reasons for this increased focus on loyalty. First, during the 2020 calendar year, a third of all US new vehicle retail registrations were for loyal households. Second, loyalty begets loyalty, meaning that a loyal household becomes more loyal with its next acquisition, and the growth continues after that. Lastly, the industry is no longer growing as it did several years ago, and in fact total new vehicle registrations declined year-over-year in both 2019 and 2020. To stem this trend and protect share, a top priority needs to be retaining existing customers.

One of the highest visibility loyalty metrics is brand loyalty, measuring the percentage of return-to-market households that acquire the same brand again. IHS Markit registration data indicate that at least three strategies drive this metric, including the breadth of a brand's product portfolio, the brand's retail lease penetration (% of retail transactions that are leases), and the degree of collaboration between a brand and its captive finance arm. The influence of product portfolio is illustrated by the chart below, in which brand portfolio (number of nameplates) and brand loyalty for mainstream brands are both charted; the correlation coefficient between these two metrics is a robust .74.

Although brand loyalty is probably the most closely watched loyalty metric, IHS Markit registration data provide loyalty at many other levels as well. These include manufacturer loyalty, model loyalty, fuel type loyalty, body style loyalty, and segment loyalty. The leaders in each of these additional loyalty levels in the 2020 calendar year are shown below.

  • Manufacturer loyalty - GM - 69%
  • Model loyalty - Ram - 46%*
  • Fuel type loyalty - Gasoline - 91%
  • Body style loyalty - Sport Utility - 71%
  • Segment loyalty - Mainstream Compact CUV - 52%

*Models with RTM < 100 not included

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