June 15, 2004

Ford, General Motors dominate R. L. Polk’s mid-year Consumer Loyalty Rankings

Southfield, MI – Owners of Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation vehicles are leading the industry in remaining loyal to their chosen brands, according to mid-year consumer loyalty rankings prepared by R. L. Polk & Co. The results are published as a precursor to the Polk Automotive Loyalty Awards, held annually in Detroit.

Since 2000, General Motors has rated the highest in manufacturer loyalty. The first six months of the 2004 model year also show GM in the lead with 65.7 percent of its customers returning to the automaker when they make future purchases. “GM’s high loyalty rates are partially driven by a wide range of vehicles available among its seven makes,” said Melissa Travers, manager of Polk’s Loyalty Solutions team.

At the make level, Ford continues to retain the highest percentage of its consumers with 57.5 percent of its buyers remaining loyal. Ford has enjoyed the top seed in the make category since 1996.

Eight of the 2003 winners in Polk’s segment loyalty categories did not make it into the 2004 mid-year findings. Notably, GM nameplates surged to replace Ford Motor Company vehicles in four segments. At the halfway point, Saturn Ion replaced the Ford Focus in Small Car, Buick Century replaced Mercury Sable in Midsize Car, Buick LeSabre replaced Mercury Grand Marquis in Large Car, and Cadillac DeVille replaced Lincoln Town Car in the Luxury Car segment.

However, three Ford Motor Company light trucks maintained their leads in the Compact Pickup (Ford Ranger), Full Size Pickup (Ford F-Series), and Full Size SUV (Expedition) segments.

“Some of the ‘new’ leaders in model loyalty may not have won in 2003, but have in the not-too-distant past,” said Travers. “In many cases, Polk has found that models can briefly surge to the top of loyalty rankings due to attractive redesigns and particularly enticing incentive offers.”

The Buick LeSabre, leading the Large Car segment halfway into 2004, won for three consecutive years before being ousted by the Mercury Grand Marquis in 2003. Current leader Cadillac DeVille had the highest model loyalty in the Luxury Car segment from 2000 to 2002, before bowing to the Lincoln Town Car in last year’s annual results. Lexus LS 430 grabbed top honors in the Prestige Luxury Car segment in 2001 and 2002, was overtaken in 2003 by the BMW 7 Series, but is now leading again at 2004’s midpoint.
Entirely new to the loyalty race this year is the Range Rover in the Prestige SUV segment and the Ford Mustang in the Sports Car segment. Meanwhile, the Saturn Ion has dislodged the formidable Ford Focus — winner for four consecutive years — from the top spot of the Small Car segment.

“Reflecting the fluid nature of the automotive business, there are both relatively new models leading segment categories, as well as models returning to the top spot after briefly slipping out of the lead,” said Travers. “The last half of the 2004 model year is going to be interesting to see if the new leaders can retain their edge, and if the array of Ford trucks and General Motors cars will remain strong.”

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