Ford Wins Auto Loyalty Award, Strong Showing for Toyota and Mercedes

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Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) topped the Polk Automotive Loyalty Awards for 2013 models. It is a testament to the strength of the turnaround started by CEO Alan Mulally as Ford struggled through the recession and into 2013, which was a one of the strongest years in U.S. auto industry history. Among the awards for individual models, Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) and Mercedes dominated.

Ford took the top prize for “Loyalty to Manufacturer” and “Loyalty to Make” as, in both cases, it did the year before. Polk said the ratings:

… are based on actual model year purchase/lease activity and recognizes manufacturers for superior performance in owner retention — a critical aspect of building and maintaining market share. Owners had such a positive overall experience that they came back to buy another vehicle of the same model, make, or manufacturer.

In theory, people who return to a brand or model over and over are less costly to retain compared to the cost of winning customers from other brands. If the customer is always right, hundreds of thousands of people have confidence in the quality of the products made by the company to which they return for a new car.

Among the cars that received the most awards, Mercedes had four models on the list: the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, E-Class, SL-Class and G-Class. The German car company did remarkably well in the luxury category. Toyota’s Lexus finished with three model awards, for the RX, LS and CT200H. No other luxury car company had multiple winners.

As has been true in many awards programs that measure quality and appeal, Toyota placed the most models on the list: the Prius, Avalon, Tacoma and Land Cruiser. Combined with its luxury nameplate Lexus, Toyota’s strength was unmistakable.

The other two winners on the list were Cadillac, which won “Most Improved Loyalty to Make.” Apparently, it has been able to pull some customers from other brands in the luxury market, and keep its own customers as well. The news is critical to General Motors Co.’s (NYSE: GM) Cadillac, which continues to chase market leaders Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Lexus. Audi won the award for “Highest Conquest Percent of Registrations.” So, Audi has eaten deeply into a market once dominated by its German rivals.

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