It only makes sense: If an automotive brand looks like it has no future, American consumers are going to avoid it. They don’t want to be driving around in the equivalent of an Edsel, and car owners are always concerned about the long-term availability of parts and service on their rides.
And now J.D. Power & Associates’ annual “avoider” study proves just how powerful a disincentive it is to car buyers if they must worry about the future existence of a brand they’re considering.
About 18 percent of new-vehicle buyers surveyed earlier this year cited their concerns about the future of the brand as a reason for avoidance. This reason was included in the study for the first time, and it instantly registered a strong fourth place, behind avoiders’ timeless turn-offs of styling, price, and perceived reliability.
The top five brands that consumers have avoided due to existential concerns are Chrysler, Dodge, Hummer, Pontiac, and Saturn. Certainly, a huge factor was that, at the time of the responses, General Motors had announced that it would be discontinuing Hummer, Pontiac, and Saturn, and Chrysler was in bankruptcy proceedings.
"New-vehicle buyers want to know that if anything goes wrong with their vehicle in a year or two that the manufacturer will be there to back up their product," said Kerri Wise, director of automotive research at J.D. Power. "While Chrysler and GM struggled to gain the confidence of some consumers, Ford actually made strides in improving perceptions of its products and reducing year-over-year avoidance in the critical areas of quality and reliability."
Among the report’s other interesting – though not exactly paradigm-bending – findings is that styling often determines whether consumers feel compelled toward a new model or want to avoid it. Audi Q5, Dodge Challenger, Kia Soul, and Pontiac G3 are among models that are “universally desired,” J.D. Power said. But other new vehicles, including Ford Flex and Nissan Cube, are polarizing when it comes to design.
"Many manufacturers would like their vehicles to be universally appealing, but ‘love it or hate it' models have the potential to create just as much buzz and move as quickly off the lot," said Wise. "It is important for launch models to hit the mark when it comes to styling, as a hot model launch may be a game changer for a brand overall."