DETROIT -- General Motors extended its run as the top manufacturer to a fourth year in IHS Markit's Loyalty Awards program, with Ford customers again showing the most loyalty to a specific make.
IHS cited GM's focus on customer experience and a diverse product lineup.
"GM has a broad product portfolio that supports the longevity of their customers," said Kristen Balasia, vice president of automotive advisory services at IHS Markit, adding that the distribution of entry-level vehicles, family haulers, big trucks and luxury models keep GM products on the consideration list for customers over their lifetimes.
Balasia also credited the My GM Rewards program launched last year. Customers are awarded points for new-vehicle leases or purchases and for service visits; the points can be redeemed for services and accessories. Ford has said it will also launch a loyalty-based rewards program this year but has not disclosed any details.
GM customers returning to market in 2018 selected a new GM vehicle at a rate of 68.3 percent. For the Ford brand, the rate was 63 percent, the highest of any single make.
The awards, in their 23rd year, were presented Tuesday night at the Automotive News World Congress.
The loyalty rating honors manufacturers based on customer retention and conquest efforts. The awards are tabulated from new-vehicle registration data and the rate at which new-vehicle buyers returned to the market.
Among the approximately 17.6 million new-vehicle registrations during the 2018 model year, 53.7 percent of customers returned to market to purchase or lease another vehicle from the same make they owned, IHS Markit said in a statement. That score, while still a record loyalty rate for the study, was just one-tenth of a percentage point above year-earlier scores, according to Balasia. The cause, according to IHS Markit analysts, is a crowding of competition at the top, with brands such as Toyota and Ford rapidly catching up to GM's loyalty lead.
Jeep won the highest conquest award for the second year in a row, and Lincoln won for highest loyalty to dealers.
Most improved awards went to Tesla Inc., which was recognized in loyalty to make and conquest percentage for 2018. Loyalty rates jumped 8.7 percentage points as its sales volume soared amid production of the Model 3 sedan, and its conquest of new customers improved 2.3 percentage points from its rate in 2017.
IHS Markit analysts also surveyed various factors that drove loyalty rates, such as increases attributed to financing through a captive, or switching a customer from used to new vehicles.
Service departments bolster loyalty rates as well. Customers that stayed within a branded dealership for service drove a 4.5 percentage point lift in loyalty.
"As technology increases in the vehicles, dealer education of the consumer and ability to inspire confidence in the service department is key," Balasia said. "If you can make it part of the overall ownership experience, that's critical and really leads not just to the manufacturer or make but really dealer loyalty as well."
Here are this year's winners, with repeat winners denoted by an asterisk: