Automakers have been competing for the attention of U.S. car buyers for a hundred years.
Getting someone to walk into a dealership is hard enough, but getting him or her to come back has proved to be much harder. Loyalty cannot be bought, but a brand that isn't afraid to be a little flashy or flexible can catch and keep a customer's eye.
American consumers are a fickle bunch. According to R.L. Polk & Co., the U.S. industry average for loyalty - getting current customers to buy the same make again - was about 45 percent for calendar year 2003. That means 55 percent of a make's current owners purchase a different brand when they return to the market.
Some automotive brands such as Ford (with 56 percent loyalty for 2003) and Chevrolet (with 55 percent loyalty for 2003) excel at keeping customers. Others, such as Suzuki and Infiniti, have been particularly adept at drawing customers away from their competitors.
But only two brands - Cadillac and Honda - enjoy the best of both worlds: They are exceptional at maintaining customer loyalty and conquesting customers.