Study: More car shoppers move toward Asian brands

DETROIT -- The trend of U.S. new-car buyers shopping for Asian brand vehicles more than for American vehicles picked up momentum this year, said a study released on Wednesday, Sept. 24.

Until 2007, more people shopped for American vehicles, according to an annual survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, of Westlake Village, Calif.

But in 2007, Asian vehicles took the lead on consumers’ shopping list, with 60 percent looking at Asian cars and 58 percent at American autos.

The Asian edge grew in 2008, with 63 percent of buyers considering Asian cars and 55 percent American cars.

Buyers consider European vehicles 14 percent of the time, a rate that has stayed mostly constant since 2003, said Tom Gauer, senior director of the study.

In a survey of nearly 30,000 new-car buyers conducted between May and July, J.D. Power found that Asian vehicles won out for 58 percent of buyers who considered both American and Asian new cars, up from 55 percent in 2007. Only 40 percent of consumers looking at cars from both regions chose American autos, down from 43 percent last year.

Those who decided on American products cited a desire to buy American and the incentives that U.S. carmakers offer as their top two reasons for choosing an American brand.

Those who bought an Asian vehicle cited better retained value, reliability and gas mileage as their top three reasons for choosing a car from that region, according to the survey.

“People are becoming increasingly concerned with the quality of the product that they’re buying,” Gauer said. “That is why you see the advantage of the Asians because that is what they’ve been focusing on, instead of rebates or … more horsepower.

“The domestics have done an amazing job of improving product quality over the last 10 years or so, but the ability to change the public’s perception is something that takes a long time to do.”

Among car buyers who were considering multiple vehicles, four out of five took vehicles off their potential-buy list only after they visited a dealership. Consumers cited high prices, high monthly payments and low gas mileage as their top three reasons for rejecting a vehicle, the survey found.

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