The party may be over: What’s happening to truck owners’ brand loyalty?

Brand loyalty makes a big difference in your business.

If you have any doubt, just imagine how difficult it would be to replace as much as 60 percent of the customers who return to your store when they are ready to purchase or lease a new vehicle.

Then apply that to the fastest-growing, perhaps most competitive, segment of your business – trucks.

Photo credit: Chevrolet via Newspress USA
Is truck owners’ brand loyalty changing with the times?

“Truck owners are perceived [to be] some of the most loyal customers in the automotive industry,” said CarGurus, an online automotive marketplace, in their 2019 Truck Sentiment Survey. But that appears to be changing as brands fight for market share with forecasts of leaner times ahead.

“As pickup trucks are impacting bottom lines across the automotive industry, brand loyalty is becoming that much more important,” reported CarGurus. “The survey uncovered that brand loyalty among pickup truck owners is down compared to one year ago. This becomes especially true when truck owners are asked about their brand loyalty in conjunction with increased price.”

Impact of truck prices

The survey shows that a significant price increase – whether that’s based on lower incentives or increasing technology – would cause 70 percent of truck owners to consider switching brands. That’s an increase of 6 percent over last year’s 64 percent, according to CarGurus.

The survey also reports that 68 percent of truck owners “believe that the vehicles are overpriced.”

While price is the No. 1 reason truck owners would consider other brands (54 percent), lower fuel efficiency also plays a part, with 47 percent of truck owners citing it as a major concern.

And the CarGurus survey isn’t the only indication of softening brand loyalties.

‘Flattening loyalty rates’

Data analytics firm IHS Markit found “a flattening of loyalty rates (overall) in the industry after years of increase” because of growing competition, based on an analysis of about 17.6 million new-vehicle registrations during the last model year.

IHS Markit annually recognizes brands and models with awards for the highest loyalty rates.

The truck sentiment survey may be especially important information for dealerships with Ford, Chevrolet and Ram representing far and away the top pickup truck models in the country. Ford F-series (909,330 units), Chevrolet Silverado (585,581 units or 825,125 total if you include the GMC Sierra) and Ram (536,980 units) were the top-selling vehicles overall in 2018, Car and Driver reports.

To pickup or not pickup?

But the results matter to Toyota dealerships, as well, with their No. 14 vehicle overall and No. 4 truck, the Tacoma (245,659 units sold) – beating out mid-size models from Chevrolet, GMC and Honda – which showed the greatest loyalty, “with 41 percent not willing to consider another pickup truck brand.”

“With pickup truck prices on the rise, many owners are reconsidering their current brand, or in some cases whether they will repurchase a pickup at all,” said a spokeswoman for CarGurus. “While truck owners still have strong brand and category loyalty, the challenge for car manufacturers and dealerships is that loyalty is less reliable as a driver of sales.”

About that there seems little doubt.

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