How has the move from cars to SUVs impacted buyer loyalty?

Edmunds’ 2018 Loyalty Report offers a historic perspective on the shift from cars to SUVs, showing how that change has affected buyer loyalty rates. The results are not always straightforward, as some companies that have dropped passenger cars have watched buyers defect to competing brands.


Just before the recession of 2008, gas-guzzling SUVs had a fairly loyal following, Edmunds says. But then gas prices spiked, and automakers were forced to start making more fuel-efficient SUVs. Today, car-based cross over utility vehicles that are still roomy, but get better gas mileage than full-size SUVs, have created a segment that can’t seem to stop growing.

New-vehicle buyers started trading in their cars for crossovers, and the trend accelerated. Last year, passenger cars made up just 36 percent of all new vehicles sold, a record low.


Automakers that want to keep selling large quantities of cars do so by appealing to buyers’ emotions rather than describing cars as “the pragmatic, cost-effective choice,” the report says. Toyota and Honda have been especially successful with this strategy, reporting the highest model-to-model loyalty rates in many segments. The Camry and Accord are prime examples in the midsize car segment.


Loyalty for SUVs, including CUVs, is very high, with 75 percent of SUV owners trading in their SUV for a new one. On the other end of the spectrum, loyalty among luxury buyers has hit new lows. In 2017, only 37 percent of luxury buyers traded in their vehicle for one from the same brand.


Edmunds cites subcompact luxury as a successful experiment, both for cars and SUVs. It is the only portion of the luxury market bringing in mainstream-brand buyers.

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