November 30, 2007

Age affects decision on import versus domestic, says J.D. Power

Westlake Village, California – Older buyers who purchase domestic vehicles are more likely to avoid certain models because they are imports, while young consumers who purchase imports are more likely to avoid domestics, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates.

The 2007 Avoider Study, now in its fifth year, examines the reasons consumers fail to consider particular models when shopping for a new vehicle, and finds that pro-domestic and pro-import purchase sentiment is strongly tied to the buyer’s age. Among import buyers, the younger a person is, the more likely he or she is to avoid models because they are of domestic origin.

The study also finds that the North Central region of the U.S. contains the highest proportion of domestic vehicle buyers who do not consider import brands when shopping. Vehicle styling and cost are the two most frequently reported reasons consumers give for avoiding import brands.

Conversely, the Northeast and West regions contain the highest proportion of buyers of import vehicles who avoid specific models because they are domestic, with the most frequently cited reasons given are concerns about reliability, poor quality and depreciation. A greater proportion of these import buyers also mention poor gas mileage as a reason for avoiding domestic models.

“Many buyers continue to have unfavourable impressions of domestic models due to concerns about quality, reliability and depreciation issues, even though the quality of many of these domestic products is on par with, or exceeds that of their import counterparts,” said research director Jon Osborn. “Domestic manufacturers need to get this message out in front of younger buyers and convince them to put their models on their shopping list.”

The study finds that gas mileage is the most frequently-mentioned reason for purchasing a vehicle, while it remains the seventh most frequently-cited reason for avoiding a particular vehicle model. Buyers tend to avoid non-premium brands more often due to poor gas mileage, compared with premium makes.

However, customer perceptions of poor mileage, rather than actual data, may influence these avoidance decisions. “As an example, the Hummer H3 is the most-avoided model in its segment, with 21 per cent of buyers saying they would not consider buying this model and many citing poor gas mileage as a reason,” Osborn said. “However, EPA fuel economy estimates for the Hummer H3 are very similar to those of other midsize utility vehicles, such as the Jeep Commander and Chrysler Aspen, which have much lower rates of avoidance. The perception that the Hummer model gets worse gas mileage than other comparable models may be strongly influencing consumer decisions to exclude it from consideration, especially since gas prices have remained high. Changing customer perceptions by educating buyers about this model’s fuel efficiency performance may help to lower its avoidance rates.”

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