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Consumer Reports finds that car buyers are thinking American, but not all brands are equal

Posted Sunday, September 6, 2009

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Survey finds interest in Ford and GM products up, but down for Chrysler products

Yonkers, NY — “Buy American” resonates strongly with new car shoppers—81 percent of respondents looking to buy a new car are likely to consider a domestic brand, according to a nationally representative survey by Consumer Reports.

The interest in buying American was significantly higher than the percentage of new car shoppers considering Asian (47%) and European (46%) models.

Respondents did not view all domestic brands the same. Ford has benefited the most from the recent turmoil in the auto market, with the largest gain in new-car buyers who say that they are likely to consider buying a Ford model—up 17 percentage points compared with a year ago.

Those considering buying a GM model were up six percentage points, but those considering a Chrysler model were down 25 percentage points among new-car buyers and 28 percentage points among all respondents. With relatively few new models in the short-term pipeline, it may be some time before the restructured Chrysler can improve on the attributes that now matter most to consumers.

“The Detroit 3 have been in the spotlight all year,” said Rik Paul, automotive editor, Consumer Reports. “Ford was the only one of the Detroit 3 that did not seek federal assistance, and this has likely helped bolster its reputation among car buyers.”

A full story detailing the survey results will be available at www.ConsumerReports.org and at http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars.

Only nine percent of those interviewed are likely to buy a car in the next year. That’s less than half of the percentage (19%) of new-car buyers in a June 2008 survey, suggesting that the market may not rebound for some time. Overall, four in 10 consumers said they have put off purchasing a new vehicle, a percentage that reflects the national sales decrease. Among those considering a purchase, 61 percent are looking specifically to buy a used car.

Among respondents who said that they were less likely to consider buying a model from a Detroit automaker, the top reasons for Chrysler and Ford were that the company’s products aren’t appealing. By contrast, the leading reasons for not considering a GM model were concern about the company’s future and the economic condition of the company, even though GM had emerged from bankruptcy weeks prior
to the survey.

The most important factors to consumers

For most respondents, the most important consideration in deciding which vehicle to buy is price, followed by fuel economy, safety, and quality. But among active new-car buyers, fuel economy was the most important factor, with quality and safety also rising above price. These are considerably more important than brand, styling, an automaker’s stability or incentives.

In these lean times, however, automakers are becoming increasingly creative in addressing the age-old question, “What can I do to sell you this car today?” With a broad range of offers available, new-car shoppers who consider manufacturer incentives important to their choice of vehicle cite a long warranty, discounted price, and low interest rate as most influential to their purchase decision. These are considered more important than cash rebates or programs involving a “job-loss protection” promotion and free or discounted gasoline.

Help for car buyers

Consumer Reports offers a wide range of tools to help guide car buyers in making smart decisions:

  • Ratings and recommended vehicles: Subscribers to www.ConsumerReports.org can access all Consumer Reports road-test reports, as well as test scores and ratings for reliability, owner cost, owner satisfaction, and overall safety.
  • Price reports: Car buyers who want to get the best deal can take advantage of Consumer Reports’ New Car Price Reports and Used Car Price Reports.
  • Free auto buying advice: Car buyers interested in learning a step-by-step strategy on the smart way to buy a new or used car, from ‘how to do your homework’ to ‘negotiating at the dealership,’ are welcome to read Consumer Reports' new- and used-car buying advice.

This latest Auto Pulse survey was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center using a nationally representative probability sample. Telephone interviews were conducted with 1,777 adults (aged 18+) whose household owns at least one vehicle. Interviewing took place from July 30 to August 3, 2009. The full Auto Pulse survey report is available online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site and owns and operates a 327-acre Auto Test Center in Connecticut. The organization’s auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To subscribe, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645 or visit www.ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this newspaper's web site.

 
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