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SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Ford's strengthening retail position received another boost Wednesday when Experian Automotive released its customer brand loyalty analysis for the third quarter of 2009.

Of the top five vehicles highlighted, Ford had four units in this contingent with a brand loyalty percentage of 56 percent or higher. The four vehicles in this cluster included the Fusion (61.8 percent), Edge (57.8 percent), Flex (57.6 percent) and Five Hundred (56.3 percent).

Meanwhile, Experian Automotive mentioned one other Ford vehicle as having strong brand loyalty. The Freestyle had a percentage of 47.6, which ranked 10th in the firm's analysis.

The force of that brand loyalty resulted in Ford gaining a 1.1 percent market share in the quarter according to Experian Automotive's calculations. Analysts also found that new Ford vehicle registrations grew by 5.1 percent in the time span.

Besides the performances of individual Ford vehicles, Experian Automotive also spotted a significant rise of interest in Hyundai.

Analysts revealed that Hyundai gained 2.2 percentage points in overall market share. The nameplate also enjoyed a 30.1-percent increase in new vehicle registrations.

"Given the extraordinary challenges in the current economy, Ford and Hyundai showed positive growth," explained Jeff Anderson, director of consulting and analytics for Experian Automotive.

"Both were able to pick up market share gains and improve on their customer loyalty," Anderson continued.

"This gain in momentum should see these companies well-positioned for success when the market turns around," he added.

As much attention as the performances by Ford and Hyundai stirred, a mainstay in brand loyalty still had a strong foothold in Experian Automotive's analysis.

The overall No. 1 vehicle for brand loyalty was the Toyota Venza, which came in at 63.2 percent. The nameplate that's gone through so much turmoil recently because of recalls also had two of its popular models among the top 10 with the Prius coming in seventh at 51.8 percent and the Camry in ninth at 48 percent.

In terms of corporate loyalty, Experian Automotive found that Toyota managed to take away the top position from General Motors. Ford's recent performance pushed the automaker into a close third.

Furthermore, Hyundai's corporate loyalty jumped into fifth place, surprising firm analysts that it's now tied with Honda. Both Hyundai and Honda stand at almost 40 percent.

Other statistics Experian Automotive shared from the third quarter of last year included a mention about Cash for Clunkers. Analysts said the program resulted in 25 percent of new registrations during the time span. Toyota led brand loyalty among participants with 41 percent of those who disposed of a Toyota purchasing another vehicle from that automaker.

In terms of vehicle segments, the firm learned that crossovers and small economy units were the fastest growing. Analysts revealed that 50,747 crossovers and 49,698 small economy vehicles were registered in the third quarter.

The vehicle segment that had the greatest drop in vehicle registrations was full-size trucks. Experian Automotive declared there were 114,613 fewer full-size truck registrations in the third quarter of last year as compared to the same span in 2008.

"For several quarters now, the industry has worked diligently to better understand the ever-evolving landscape of consumer tastes in vehicles," noted Scott Waldron, president of Experian Automotive.

"The recent shifts in consumer loyalty, corporate market share and vehicle class preferences show that building future success will come from increased knowledge of the changes in consumer buying habits today," Waldron added.

Experian Automotive also mentioned that more analysis can be found online at http://www.experian.com/automotive/auto-resources.html.