Share of U.S. buyers shying away from imports rises, J.D. Power says
DETROIT -- The share of new-vehicle buyers steering clear of imports because of their origin has risen to a historic high, J.D. Power and Associates said today.
Conversely, the percentage of new-vehicle buyers avoiding domestic vehicles because of their origin fell to a historic low, according to the market research firm's 2012 Avoider Study.
The annual study reveals the top reasons why car buyers avoid certain vehicles.
"The decline in avoidance of U.S. models due to their origin reflects a buy-American sentiment that surfaced after the economic recession led to domestic job losses and adversely affected major U.S. institutions such as the Detroit 3," Jon Osborn, research director for J.D. Power, said in a statement.
The share of buyers avoiding import vehicles rose five percentage points from 9 percent in the previous year to 14 percent in the 2012 study -- the highest since J.D. Power began the study in 2003.
The percentage of buyers avoiding a domestic vehicle purchase declined to six percent, a historic low.
"For many years, domestics were largely abandoned but now it's gone back and they're competing head on with the imports," Osborn said in a phone interview. "They're meeting the demands the American consumer is producing."
Osborn noted Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" tag line as an example of a company addressing the issue head on.
Exterior styling remained the top reason why buyers avoided purchasing a vehicle, according to the study. Other reasons, in order, were purchase price, reliability, interior design and information from online ratings and reviews.
Osborn said Jaguar was the most avoided brand because of its perceived reliability problems. But that reason could be unfounded, he said, noting that Jaguar finished among the top brands in J.D. Power's 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study.
Moreover, 43 percent of consumers who named reliability as a reason for avoiding a brand said they based their reasoning on conventional wisdom that "the brand's vehicles, in general, are known to have poor quality/reliability," according to a statement by J.D. Power.
Said Osborn: "This perception of Jaguar has been long-standing but they have very good accountability scores" in other surveys.
"There's clearly a disconnect between perception and reality," he said.
Osborn said this poses a challenge for automakers.
"The fact that so many new-vehicle buyers may be basing their opinions about quality and reliability on preconceived notions, rather than concrete information and data, demonstrates how important it is for automakers to promote the quality and reliability of their models," he said in a statement.
Acura, Lexus, Infiniti and Honda were least avoided because of reliability concerns, Osborn said.
Fuel economy was the most influential reason for buying a vehicle, the study found, surpassing reliability, the deal and exterior styling -- three factors considered the most important in the previous study.
With a focus on fuel economy, the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius captured the most attention from new-vehicle buyers. Volt buyers cited the image the model portrayed as the most prominent reason for purchase, while low maintenance costs were most important for the Leaf and reliability for the Prius.
J.D. Power's 2012 study is based on responses from 24,045 owners who registered a new vehicle in May 2011. It was conducted between August and October 2011.