Trust. It’s one of the most powerful human emotions, said global automotive marketing agency AMCI.
“We are biologically wired to make our decisions based on trust,” the company said in a news release.
But trust has been a challenge for the auto industry. Building trust is important as OEMs and dealers deal with various factors such as disruption, the company said. Also, consumer preferences and the role of the automobile are changing. And the industry is transitioning from traditional retail sales and service to various digital, subscription and mobility services.
AMCI focused on trust as it released its annual “Trusted Automotive Brand Study.” According to the study, the most trusted luxury brand was Alfa-Romeo, while the most trusted non-luxury brand was Honda. Alfa-Romeo was also chosen in the category, “most trusted luxury dealers,” while Mazda won in the category of “most trusted non-luxury dealers.”
Many brands “have made great strides” in the study, according to AMCI. Honda is one of those brands, as it appears the automaker has mostly “put the drag of the Takata recall behind them,” AMCI said. Mazda is the most improved of any auto brand in 2019. It is now the No. 3 non-luxury brand in addition to being tops in the non-luxury dealer category.
AMCI said three factors drive the level of trust that a consumer has for a brand or dealer: Competency, Integrity and Empathy. The company said Alfa Romeo is starting with a clean sheet and is in the top luxury position because of a small lineup and retail footprint and by focusing on all three of those pillars of trust.
By not keeping pace with significant competitor improvements, Kia has dropped from the top non-luxury position in the last two studies, AMCI said.
Tesla also showed a significant drop, AMCI said, and that drop is evidence of the pressure consumers often experience when any OEM pushes volume over customer experience. And that is whether or not you control your retail operation or are a franchise.
“Complete control and ownership of your retail network as the Holy Grail is clearly a myth,” AMCI said.
The marketing agency described Buick as an example that high satisfaction does not translate to high levels of trust or an emotional connection.
The annual study again confirmed that trust accounts for more than 50% of a consumer’s decision to repurchase or recommend an automotive brand or their dealers. AMCI said the study is unique in its ability to identify consumer preferences at the OEM and dealer levels.
“The auto industry has improved in satisfaction over the years but now needs to understand and execute on the emotional drivers of consumer behavior," AMCI Global Client Services president Dave White said. “The traditional focus on quality, satisfaction and the elimination of problems does not create reasons for customers to trust a brand. In this rapidly changing market, satisfaction alone is not enough.”
White said AMCI is pleased that more automotive brands are focusing on trust. However, as the market makes dramatic shifts, more work is necessary, he said.
“The top automotive brands’ trust indices are still hovering around 50 on a 100-point scale and lag many other familiar consumer product and retail categories,” White said.
Non-luxury brands by trust index:
Luxury brands by trust index:
— Alfa Romeo
— Land Rover