Car Brands with the Most Loyal Drivers

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For some automakers, building a base of new customers is very important. These are often new brands with smaller market shares. For other automakers, often the more established, larger makes as well as luxury brands, getting customers to stick to the brand is the top priority.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed trade-in data from automotive online site Edmunds.com for the first five months of this year. For five brands, more than half the people purchasing a car through trade in were trading in the same make. These five makes include mainstream brands such as Chevrolet, as well as smaller brands like Lexus. These are the five car brands with the most loyal drivers.

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While maintaining a strong customer base is important, Edmunds.com analyst Jeremy Acevedo explained that it is often important for automakers to have a good mix of people trading in other models to get their models, which is known as a conquest. “If your loyalty is too high, it could be that you’re not gaining enough customers. If your conquest is too high, you don’t have people sticking around your brands — you don’t have that repeat business.”

Three of these brands are among the largest in the country, which is one of the primary reasons their loyalty is so high. Honda, Toyota and Chevrolet had the fourth, third and second largest market share, respectively, as of May. Their many long-term, loyal customers typically far outweigh any new customers they might attract.

Some car types are also far more likely to keep customers loyal than others, and this is contributing to higher loyalty for brands such as Chevrolet. In the brand’s case, noted Acevedo, larger trucks represent a very large proportion of brand sales, “and large trucks is one of the most fiercely loyal segments.”

The other two brands on this list, Lexus and BMW, do not have the same high market share. Lexus is 18th in the United States for 2013, while BMW is 17th. However, these are both luxury brands, a segment that is much more likely to thrive on a smaller, loyal customer base. Acevedo explained that luxury brands like BMW often have incentives like loyalty leases. “If you already own a BMW, they have special incentives for you as a buyer to stick with the BMW family. That’s all part of their business model to get people in the door and keep them there.”

Some brands have very low loyalty simply because they are new. Ram and Fiat, for example, which are new brands in the United States, cannot have many people trading in models to get them because they were only introduced in the country in the past several years.

Based on data provided by Edmunds.com, 24/7 Wall St. determined the five best brands for customer loyalty. Each of these brands generated at least half its trade-in sales from buyers that wanted to exchange one of the make’s vehicles for another. Sales and market share data also come from Edmunds.com and are current as of May, 2013.

These are the car brands with the most loyal drivers.