Polk Honors Brand Loyalty Winners


The 17th annual Polk Automotive Loyalty Awards were doled out earlier this week in Detroit and earning top honors once again was Ford, which has earned this distinction for three straight years.

Ford was honored with awards for Overall Loyalty to Manufacturer and Overall Loyalty to Make. The Ford F-Series also won in the mid/full-size pickup category for the 15th time. The awards were presented Tuesday evening at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit.

A Polk analysis attributed Ford’s owner loyalty success this year to its shorter product refresh cycles, a customer-focused lease-end process and the company’s competitive product lineup across most vehicle segments.

“We are honored that our customers continue to choose Ford and Lincoln products.  Each day, we and our dealers strive to earn their loyalty by providing exceptional sales experiences and a great consumer value proposition driven by high fuel economy, smart technology and safety,” said Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president of marketing, sales and service.

Additional highlights from the awards program included Volkswagen being honored for the first time in the Most Improved Loyalty to Make category. Officials said this win is based largely on VW’s emphasis on customer engagement spanning the length of ownership, as well as the carmaker’s aggressive vehicle pricing strategy in the U.S. market without compromising its product offering.

“Volkswagen has made headlines with historic sales growth in the U.S. market and it begins with the company’s commitment to the consumer,” said Robert Martell, vice president of customer experience at Volkswagen of America, who was on hand to accept the award. “Polk’s Automotive Loyalty Award recognizes our commitment to an industry-leading consumer experience that turns first-time Volkswagen owners into lifelong Volkswagen enthusiasts.”

Honda was honored in the Compact Car segment for Civic, a first time winner in the category, and won the compact SUV category for CR-V.   

“As manufacturers work to retain customers in this incredibly competitive market, we’re seeing increased activity surrounding customer engagement, which is beginning to resonate with consumers,” said Brad Smith, director of Polk’s loyalty management practice.

“Our automotive OEM and agency customers are developing new loyalty programs within their organizations, and as a result we’re seeing increases in repurchase loyalty,” Smith continued.

Ford also was a repeat winner in the African-American Market Loyalty to Make category, sweeping the segment since 2010. Honda and Toyota rounded out the ethnic loyalty honors with respective wins in the Hispanic Market Loyalty to Make and Asian Market Loyalty to Make categories. 

With ethnic buyers representing 19 percent of all owners returning to buy again in 2012, according to Polk’s analysis, the manufacturers that succeed in building loyalty among this audience will strengthen brand position as the number of multi-cultural consumers continue to increase their buying power and influence in the automotive marketplace.

The Chrysler Town & Country won its 12th consecutive Polk Automotive Loyalty Award in the minivan category, while the Ford Mustang came back to win the Sports Car segment after losing out to Dodge the past two years.

The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class made its debut on the list of Polk Automotive Loyalty Award winners for the luxury sports car category.

The luxury SUV segment has been dominated by Land Rover Range Rover since the segment’s inception in 2008, and was a winner again this year.

In the luxury car segment, the Lincoln MKZ won its second award, the Lexus RX was honored for the fourth time in the mid/full-size SUV category, and the Subaru Outback won the mid/full-size car award for the second year in a row.

Smith reiterated that Polk’s Automotive Loyalty Awards are presented annually to OEMs that demonstrate a manufacturer’s ability to retain owners over repeat buying cycles. 

“Our program is unique in the industry as it recognizes an OEM’s success in its approach to customer loyalty, which is becoming more important as the dynamics of the consumer base are changing,” Smith said. 

“OEMs are increasingly measuring store-level results as well, working with their dealers to use the metrics to improve their retail networks,” he went on to say. “They’re starting to see tremendous value and business results from their loyalty programs.”

Polk analysts have found the length of time an individual owns a vehicle may have an adverse impact on consumer loyalty, which tends to peak after three years of ownership and decline after the fourth year. Additionally, new-vehicle launches from competing brands have an impact on loyalty.

Polk analysts anticipate more than 100 new vehicle launches and major refreshes in 2013, likely leading many consumers to defect from their current brands. They mentioned the behavior reflects a population of owners who choose to hold their vehicles longer for various reasons.

Polk’s analysis found overall owner brand loyalty for 2012 was 48.04 percent, up nearly one percentage point from 2011.

How Polk Measures Loyalty

Loyalty is determined when a household that owns a new vehicle returns to market and purchases or leases another new vehicle of the same model or make. 

Polk tracks owner loyalty throughout the year and regularly works with its customers to effectively manage owner loyalty through in-depth analysis of automotive shopping behaviors, related market influencers and development of retention strategies. 

This year’s awards are based on an analysis of more than 5.9 million new-vehicle owners who bought new vehicles again during the 2012 model-year, which ran from Oct. 1, 2011 through Sept. 30, 2012.

A complete list of those honored during the program is as follows: 

—Overall awards with winner loyalty percentage
—Overall Loyalty to Manufacturer: Ford, 62.2 percent
—Overall Loyalty to Make: Ford, 61.2 percent
—Most Improved Loyalty to Make: Volkswagen, plus 5.9 percentage points
—Hispanic Market Loyalty to Make: Honda, 55.9 percent
—Asian Market Loyalty to Make: Toyota, 51.9 percent
—African American Market Loyalty to Make: Ford, 60.0 percent

And vehicle category awards with winner loyalty percentage included:

—Compact Car: Honda Civic, 27.0 percent
—Mid/Full-size Car: Subaru Outback,  32.9 percent
—Luxury Car: Lincoln MKZ, 49.5 percent
—Sports Car: Ford Mustang, 18.1 percent
—Luxury Sports Car: Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, 24.9 percent
—Minivan: Chrysler Town & Country, 31.2 percent
—Mid/Full-size Pickup: Ford F-Series, 38.8 percent
—Compact SUV: Honda CR-V, 34.7 percent
—Mid/Full-size SUV: Lexus RX, 40.1 percent
—Luxury SUV: Land Rover Range Rover, 37.4 percent

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