Study: Younger Buyers Aren't Much Into Domestic Vehicles

by , Nov 30, 2007, 5:00 AM
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As hard as domestic car and truck manufacturers have been trying to win younger buyers on the coasts with messages about vehicle quality, reliability and youth, they aren't swaying younger buyers just yet.

According to J.D. Power and Associates' "2007 Avoider Study," released Thursday, pro-domestic and pro-import vehicle buyers are divergent in age and region. The study found that the younger a buyer is, the more he or she is likely to avoid domestic cars and trucks. Conversely, buyers who purchase domestic vehicles are more likely than younger buyers to avoid a vehicle because it's an import.

Younger buyers also give more importance to gas mileage as a reason for purchasing, versus older buyers. Generally, domestic-vehicle buyers say styling and cost are the biggest reasons they avoid import vehicles.

The study, in its fifth year, is based on responses from over 35,000 vehicle owners who registered their cars and trucks in May this year. The study takes a contrarian look at consumer choices, focusing on the ones that got away: cars and trucks that consumers didn't consider and why.

The study found that the highest number of domestic-vehicle buyers (41%) who do not even consider import brands during the shopping process live in the North Central region of the United States, per J.D. Power.

Their opposites--younger import buyers--are concentrated in the coastal areas, per the consultancy, with the Northeast and the West Coast populated by the largest numbers of import vehicle buyers who eschew domestic vehicles entirely. The most common reasons: concerns about reliability, fuel economy, quality and depreciation.

Says Jon Osborn, director of media/marketing research at J.D. Power and Associates: "Import buyers seemed to have a list of substantiated reasons for not buying domestic, such as reputation and quality, depreciation and gas mileage."

Gas mileage, or in some cases perceived gas mileage, is the most frequently mentioned reason for purchasing a vehicle, while it remains the seventh most frequently cited reason for avoiding a particular vehicle model. In all regions, compact cars and SUVs were the most popular vehicles, followed by mid-sized vehicles.

Osborn says Hummer H3 is the most-avoided model in its segment due to fuel economy. But he says EPA fuel economy estimates for the vehicle are around the same as for Jeep Commander and Chrysler Aspen, which don't have the same stigma, and enjoy lower avoidance rates.

Also, the study found that buyers are basing their decisions not to buy a vehicle on consumer-generated content online, particularly consumer reviews, followed by expert reviews and manufacturer site information.

Among all new-vehicle buyers, the top reasons for buying or avoiding a vehicle were reliability and fuel economy, at 34% each. Then comes exterior styling, performance, and quality of workmanship. The most frequently mentioned parameter in the Northeast and West was reliability, while fuel economy was the most mentioned in the North Central region of the U.S.

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