The firm says regional percentages vary. The highest numbers of purchase intenders were in the Plains states and lowest in the Great Lakes region.
"With all the doom and gloom in the U.S. auto industry, it's encouraging that consumers are indicating that they plan to buy a vehicle in the relative near term," said Lonnie Miller, Polk's director of industry analysis. "In fact, more than a quarter of consumers we talked to as of the end of March plan to buy a new car or truck within the next year -- even better news for automakers struggling to move excess inventory from dealer showrooms."
Sixty-two percent of consumers polled in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota plan to purchase a new or used vehicle within the next two years, with 32% planning to buy in the next year. The firm notes that the percentages track unemployment rates, since -- per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics -- the March unemployment rate in six of the seven states in this region was below the national average of 8.5%.
Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota reported March unemployment numbers below 5 percent.
By contrast, only 51% of consumers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin intend to buy a new vehicle in the next two years, per Polk. The Great Lakes states had March unemployment rates at or above the national average, with Michigan topping the U.S. rate by more than four percentage points.
The firm also asserts that there will be business for the domestic automakers in the numbers of consumers who feel a moral responsibility to buy domestic. Extrapolating from the firm's survey, half of U.S. consumers would be "very or extremely likely" to consider a domestic vehicle for their next purchase to support the national economy.
The regional breakdown for that sentiment, however, tracks traditional domestic-automaker strongholds. The highest numbers came from the Rocky Mountain region comprising Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. Sixty-two percent of respondents from the region said they would consider a domestic vehicle.
Consumers in the Great Lakes region and the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas) had what Polk categorized as an above-average willingness to "buy American." On the other end of the spectrum, and not surprising given the region's preference for imports, only 44% percent of consumers in the West said they would consider a domestic vehicle.
"The domestic manufacturers have long struggled to change the mindset of consumers in California and other Western states regarding American vehicles. Now that the U.S. automakers are facing so many challenges, getting these consumers to consider an American vehicle is even more of an uphill battle," said Miller.