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Consumers in study identify distastes with new vehicles

November 23, 2010
High prices, bland styling and a lack of incentives are some of the key factors for newvehicle shoppers to reject models they initially considered, a new J.D. Power study found. The 2001 Escaped Shopper and Owner Loyalty Study, released this month, sought to determine what causes people to reject one vehicle model in favor of another.
It also provides a comprehensive look at consumer perceptions of brands and specific models, as well as how brand loyalty and the salesperson influence consumer decision making.
"While many of our studies focus on what consumers think of a vehicle they've already purchased, this new study taps into the reasons why new-vehicle buyers ultimately cross certain vehicles off their shopping lists," said Chris Denove of J.D. Power.
Overall, price is the most frequently mentioned reason for rejecting a particular model. Vehicles with the highest closing ratios tend to be priced lower than the direct competition and/ or offer large incentives (rebates, low-interestrate financing, etc.).
Incentives are a key factor for many shoppers when they decide which vehicle to purchase. For example, 79 percent of Isuzu Rodeo buyers rejected another vehicle because it did not offer low-interest-rate financing like they found on the Rodeo.
"Incentives are mentioned more frequently than most vehicle-specific attributes such as ride, handling or performance," said Denove. "Manufacturers have painted themselves into a very expensive corner with zero-percent financing.
Whoever is able to hold on the longest will certainly gain market share, but at a cost that may make them wish no one ever thought up interest-free financing in the first place."
Other consumers, defined in the study as "passionate buyers," are drawn to a vehicle primarily for its style or image. These buyers did not seriously consider any other model and said they chose their model because they "fell in love with it."
Sports cars, as a group, have the most passionate buyers, but the study found that even practical cars like the Chrysler PT Cruiser can attract very passionate buyers if they offer unique styling that makes an owner want to show off his vehicle. Bold styling, however, is a hit or miss proposition.
Although the Pontiac Aztek ranked as most appealing in its segment among actual owners, the J.D. Power study determined more than half of all Aztek shoppers rejected the model because of its exterior styling. Exterior styling was one of the most frequently mentioned reasons for deciding not to purchase a model. 
Sixteen percent of survey respondents said they opted not to purchase a model because they didn't feel the dealership staff acted professionally. The study shows that when a shopper rejects a dealership because of poor customer service, both the dealer and the brand suffer. 
"Most people aren't completely committed to buying one specific model, so when they reject a dealership because of poor customer treatment, they are likely to walk across the street to buy a different brand, not drive across town to another  dealer that sells the same brand," said Denove.