December 15, 2005

Vehicle styling can offset quality deficiencies and spur sales, study shows

Southfield, Michigan – Vehicle styling is emerging as a key differentiator for consumers as they decide on the make and model of their next purchase, a recent study shows.

The study, conducted by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, found that new and dynamic body styling can serve as a positive substitute for quality deficiencies in the short term. Consumers in recent years have come to expect a satisfactory level of quality in most new vehicles, and subsequently it has become less of a factor in purchasing decisions, while styling has grown in importance.

“A clear trend indicates that sales generally increase for vehicles with new or freshened styling,” says Paul Carrannanto, a principal at A.T. Kearney who co-authored the study. “In case after case, this has held true even when quality ratings for these vehicles are less than stellar.”

Carrannanto noted that increased sales for vehicles with new styling continue for about two years; after that time period, sales fall to previous levels and in some cases, decline even more. “To maximize consumer interest and subsequent sales, exterior styling should be new or freshened every two to three years,” he says.

Over the past five years, brands with high styling scores, such as BMW, Lexus, Acura, Nissan, Volvo, Cadillac and Chrysler tended to be sales growth leaders. The study also revealed that interior design is often more important than exterior styling and in many instances may be the key factor in the purchase decision.

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