By on March 9, 2018

2018 Chrysler 300 Limited - Image: FCA

If German automakers keep calling SUVs and five-door liftbacks “coupes,” maybe we’ll see a reversal of this trend. For now, however, American car buyers have never been quite so unimpressed with “cars” come trade-in time.

According to Edmunds’ annual Trade-In Loyalty Report, passenger cars just don’t have what it takes to lure buyers back into the three-box lifestyle. Sport utility vehicles, on the other hand, have all the appeal of a WWII pinup model parachuting into an overseas USAF base.

The 2018 report, tabulated from new vehicle transactions in the U.S. (and broken down by segment), shows SUVs pulling ahead of pickup trucks for the first time. This loyalty is quite the opposite of the industry’s now long-gone status quo.

A full three-quarters (75 percent) of SUV owners picked up another SUV at trade-in time, compared to the 74 percent of pickup owners who just couldn’t part with a cab-and-bed chariot. In the grim years of the recession, this SUV loyalty rate stood just above the 50-percent mark. Blame skyrocketing gas prices and the federal government’s Cash For Clunkers program, in some measure, for that downturn in SUV fortunes.

Loyalty in the car segment fell below that of the truck segment in 2013 and never looked back. The following year, cars nosedived below the SUV segment. Going by the latest data, only 57 percent of car owners pick up another sedan, coupe, wagon, or convertible at trade-in time.

“There’s been a dramatic shift in the last 10 years in the tastes of car buyers, and with auto sales on the decline, maintaining customer loyalty has arguably never been more important,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds. “Trade-in customers are a critical group for automakers to keep in the brand family, as in theory they should be among the easiest to retain.”

For SUV owners who drive to the dealer in search of a new ride, fewer than one in five pick up a car. A car purchase is even less likely if you’re moving on from a pickup.

So, is there a single glimmer of light in this gloomy, car-hating tunnel? There is, but sorry, American manufacturers, it’s not for you. Japanese automakers enjoy a loyalty their U.S. counterparts can’t match in the car segment. Last year, 83 percent of Japanese car owners who traded their ride in for a new car stuck with a Japanese brand. Compare that country-of-origin loyalty to the 53 percent of American car owners who stuck with the stars and stripes.

The chances that a Japanese or Korean car owner would trade their vehicle in for an American car model stand at 7 and 9 percent, respectively. For owners of American cars, there’s a 29-percent chance they’ll go Japanese and a 14-percent chance they’ll head to Seoul for some Korean fare.

Leaving segments behind, what does mainstream brand loyalty tell us about a customer’s next vehicle? If it’s a Japanese brand they’re trading in, chances are they’ll leave the dealer in a Japanese vehicle. Toyota, Subaru, and Honda top the list, with brand loyalty rates of 63, 61, and 60 percent, respectively. Ram and Chevrolet rounded up the top five with 54 percent.

Not surprisingly, America’s favorite two-model brand — Chrysler — showed the least loyalty among mainstream brands, with just 16 percent of returning Chrysler owners choosing another Chrysler. That’s down from 29 percent in 2007. It’s a similar story at Dodge, which saw only 19 percent of trade-in buyers choose another Dodge (down from 37 percent a decade earlier).

Edmunds blames the rock-bottom loyalty rates at Dodge and Chrysler on the automaker’s decision to phase out small and medium-sized cars, thus giving returning buyers less variety to choose from. Still, Fiat Chrysler axed the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 in response to declining sales, so it’s unlikely these statistics will sway the automaker back into the passenger car game. As these numbers show, new SUVs is the potion buyers want to drink.

The segment where brand loyalty is weakest is among luxury vehicles, Edmunds found. On average, only 37 percent of luxury trade-ins resulted in the buyer sticking with the same brand. Lexus, Audi, and Land Rover saw the highest loyalty rates in this field, with customers returning to the brands 51, 47, and 40 percent of the time, respectively. Close runners-up were Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.

Infiniti posted the lowest loyalty rate, with just 22 percent of customers returning to the fold.

Just like in the mainstream category, SUVs are king. Of the luxury vehicle owners who traded in a vehicle last year, 59 percent of them chose a luxury SUV. The growing subcompact luxury segment shares some of the credit for luring more and more car owners out of their sedans and coupes.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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59 Comments on “Trade-in Time? Chances Are Better Than Ever You Won’t Pick Up a ‘Car’...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I rate my chances of buying a SUV on my next go-round as roughly the same as my Jewish butt occupying the papal bedroom at the Vatican.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    First off, the OEMs made a mistake by eliminating true “coupes” (2-door fastbacks and ‘notchbacks’) from their stables. I, for one, have never purchased a four-door “car” for myself, though I have purchased a few SUVs (3, to be exact, out of 15 vehicles owned.) Every car purchased had only two doors plus either a real trunk or what they today call a “liftback” and every truck purchased only had two doors. I simply have no need or desire for four full doors, especially since the back seats in every SUV owned have been folded down far more often than they’ve been upright. Even the back seat in my ‘liftback’ spent more time down than up.

    So, a four-door ‘coupe’? No. Though I did come close once to getting a 2-2/2 door model (I do understand the benefits of the shorter front-seat doors.

    Next purchase? Very likely a mid-sized pickup but even then it won’t have four obvious doors (meaning GM and RAM full-sizers are out, even though they do offer some nice-looking extended cab models.) I’m highly tempted by the coming “Scrambler” by Jeep, but not if their only version is four full doors.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I see a poor showing for Dodge and Chrysler but what’s Jeep’s loyalty rate?

    I’m sure “It’s a Jeep thing.”

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Jeep’s loyalty rate seems to be pretty high. I’m currently on my second Jeep. Still, if their truck isn’t what I want, my chances of purchasing one do go down.

      Meanwhile, Dodge and Chrysler (not counting RAM) suffer from a dearth of variety. Dodge now only offers two models, the big Charger and the almost as large but highly specialized Challenger. Chrysler itself isn’t much better, with the 300 and the Pacifica. Problem is, the brands are not only suffering from their own obsolete reputations but now also Fiat’s, despite the fact that people are buying Fiat-built Jeeps left and right.

      But at least part of the problem is that with current CARB/CAFE rules, they can’t really develop the unique body styles that would separate them from all those other brands in the more popular classes. You look on the road today and you honestly can’t tell one CUV from another without grossly-exaggerated front-clip treatments that in themselves make you either love or hate them. Aerodynamics are good when trying to improve fuel mileage but they won’t be as important if their fuel is electricity and they can still get 100% or better economy over a fuel-burning ICEV. In fact, once BEVs become more ubiquitous, I expect we’ll see some serious new body work as much retro-styled as futuristic. We could even see treatments reminiscent of 40s and 50s-model cars (I’d love to see a modern take on the ’59 Chevy, for instance.) And yes, I could even see them getting larger, to where a full-sized luxury sedan is twenty feet long again and what we now call ‘full-sized’ would be a ‘compact’, as it was in the 60s.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Dodge
        Challenger
        Charger
        Journey
        Durango
        Grand Caravan

        More than 2.

        I think you are thinking of Chrysler
        300
        Pacifica

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Either way, PD, there’s nothing “small” in the Dodge lineup. Jeep’s Renegade is the smallest rig in FCA’s American lineup outside of the 500 series. (Would really love to see the Ram 700 here, though.)

    • 0 avatar
      Goatshadow

      I went back to a Jeep JKU last weekend. Life is too short, and my pickup was both unreliable and dull as rocks to drive anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I’m surprised you didn’t go for the JLU; the reviews all seem to be quite positive compared to the JKU.

        • 0 avatar
          Goatshadow

          The price increase for a JL (plus the markup at this time) does not seem to match the improvements. I would rather spend the difference on fun stuff from the Quadracrack I mean Quadratec catalog.

          Plus, never buy the first year of any new model…

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I had more luck with a first-year Saturn Vue than I’ve had with ANY used car I ever purchased. I put 130K miles on it in ten years with no major repairs while I’ve never gone past my first year in a used car without adding from $2K to $5K to what I spent for it.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    In the world of incompetent, texting drivers and morons in brodozers who drive like they’re part of the Indy 500, I simply do not feel like my kids are safe in a traditional, low-slung sedan.

    Hence my move from a Volvo wagon to a Toyota SUV.

    Plus, as congested as the roads of SW Florida have become over the last decade or so, it’s not as if “pleasure driving” exists here any longer.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Thing is, there’s a lot more to car safety than crash results. Cars tend to be better at avoiding accidents than trucks or SUVs.

      To wit:
      0-70 braking distances
      Tahoe: 209 ft
      Expedition: 196 ft
      Corolla: 183 ft
      Civic: 160 ft

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Colossal grain of salt, as I haven’t read any articles or looked at any numbers recently, but early in the Canyonero craze, SUVs were definitely less safe than cars, even though most people perceived them as safer. As stability control became more common (and eventually mandatory) and the median Canyonero transitioned from a BOF SUV design to a unibody CUV design, that gap closed. Perversely, I think CUVs now may be slightly safer because a badly driven CUV is more likely to kill a car driver than a badly driven car is to kill a CUV driver. Absent other vehicles, a car is safer.

        I think vehicles on the whole have gotten safer, which frankly is an amazing testament to safety technologies’ counteracting the effects of cell phones, infotainment, designs with worse visibility, and a driving public that’s stupider and more selfish. (That last one’s anecdotal.)

        – – – –

        @ Steph – During WWII, it would have been a USAAF base, not a USAF base.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          While those ‘nannies’ in some ways have made trucks and SUVs ‘safer’, they’re still pretty much #1 in fatalities, either caused by them or to passengers within them (in the case of single vehicle crashes especially.)

          But worse, those ‘nannies’ have crippled many of those trucks for their original design purpose–most notably on soft surfaces like dirt roads and farm/ranch land. As an example, I sold a 1990 F-150 2wd long-bed to a friend and he swears that thing can go anywhere on his farm with fewer hassles than his nearly-new Denali 4×4 which gets ‘stuck’ in the least little soft spot and has to be pulled free. It’s not that it doesn’t have the power but rather that the power is removed as soon as the system detects wheel slip, preventing it from powering through what the older truck simply splashes through on one-wheel drive. Granted, there are supposedly ways to turn off those nannies for the short term but when they re-activate at such a low speed (between 25-30mph) it’s a hassle to keep hitting the disable button EVERY time your speed creeps a little above that limit. Honestly, the system needs to know the difference between pavement, snow, ice and dirt. In the latter three it’s much more efficient to simply power through with all four wheels churning than cutting power because ANY reduction in power and speed could literally strand the vehicle on the spot.

      • 0 avatar
        e30gator

        I’ve been involved in several accidents that couldn’t be avoided even if I were driving a Ferrari.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          I hear you, e30gator. I’ve been rear-ended three separate times while stopped at a red light – and not rear-ended because I braked abruptly (which still would have been the other driver’s fault) but rather hit mid-light while I was completely stopped. That’s how bad some other drivers are. The third offender was on his way to a fifth(!) DUI arrest. At least the scratch on my bumper resulted in actual jail time for that guy.

      • 0 avatar
        The Ghost of Buckshot Jones

        Every accident I have ever been involved in has involved my vehicle being stationary. Not a lot of “accident avoidance” at zero mph.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Makes me think of female coworker at least a decade ago who’s rationale for buying an Expedition was that she was a bad driver and therefore needed something “safe”.

      • 0 avatar
        e30gator

        I’m neither female, nor a bad driver. However, the safety of my family is way more important to me than how I’m perceived by dudebros. I don’t like the idea of looking out the window and seeing the bumper of someone’s F-250 at eye level. If that somehow makes me less macho then so be it. I couldn’t care less.

      • 0 avatar
        e30gator

        I’m neither female, nor a bad driver. However, the safety of my family is way more important to me than how I’m perceived by dudebros. I don’t like the idea of looking out the window and seeing the bumper of someone’s F-250 at eye level. If that somehow makes me less macho then so be it. I couldn’t care less.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Beyond the vagaries of fashion, SUV/CUV sales are likely increasing in direct proportion to the aging of the Baby Boomers, who increasingly find it difficult/painful to get in and out of cars. We replaced my wife’s car with a CUV last spring for that very reason. As much as I would love to take advantage of decreased demand for cars to get a bargain when I need to replace my station wagon, I expect that it will be replaced with a CUV as well. Plus, the higher seating position that makes entry/exit easier also means slightly improved visibility, which appeals to those with, let’s say, diminished vision.

      • 0 avatar
        e30gator

        A good point on ease of entry. Moreover, they’re a hell of a lot easier to get kids/carseats in/out of.

        That said, a minivan is still probably a better choice overall, but at $40k+ not exactly a good value proposition for cash-strapped young families or pension-poor boomers.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    My next car list does not – surprise! – include a CUV. Maybe an honest to goodness truck.

    For anyone who cares, my list of mostly used cars I want to check out:
    Challenger R/T
    Mustang EB
    Camaro? (though I suspect I’ll hate the sight lines)
    Ford Focus ST (probably new)
    VW GTI (probably new)
    Porsche Cayman/Boxster
    BMW 335i
    previous gen Toyota Tundra – back when you could get it with a manual
    Toyota Tacoma
    and maybe a Silverado/Ram/F150 with lower miles

    • 0 avatar
      The Ghost of Buckshot Jones

      The only first gen Tundra you’re getting with a manual is the 3.4 V6 in the regular cab. Enjoy that rip roaring 190 HP in a full size used 15 year old work truck.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I like having a crossover in the fleet but I cannot daily one myself. But my wants are extreme. The only car I’ve owned that wasn’t lowered was my 350Z. Next car is either going to be a 335i/340i or a 997 Carrera.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I will, in all likelihood, replace my Charger R/T with another one. That may change if a reasonable facsimile of a Barracuda surfaces. Or if someone wants to donate a ‘70 GTX with the 440, preferably a manual.

  • avatar
    vvk

    When people see mostly SUVs and pickups around them on the road, they naturally want the protection of being less vulnerable in a crash. Hard to justify putting your kids in danger when everybody else is driving a two ton monster that will override your car’s crumple zones and kill everybody inside.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I have long maintained that the Pickup Truck is single handedly destroying this country, starting with sedans. As pickup trucks grow ever more abundant and comically large, the rest of the world has had to adapt. Pickups have spurned the crossover segment because anyone driving anything near the ground, such as a sedan, can no longer see the world around them, the road in front of them, oncoming traffic, the sun, etc, etc. When a pickup truck’s bumper is literally at your head when sitting in your own vehicle, what are people to do? I vow to keep fighting. Never will I buy a pickup, you will never hear me say “nice truck” to anyone…ever. You are likely to hear me say something like…”Sweet truck man….is that the Super-Douchy? I bet it is and I bet that you have been sitting in your garage powerstroking it all night that sweet ride.” Sorry, the subject brings out some rage in me.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        You may never buy a pickup but that is a sentiment not widely shared in America as pickup trucks are the most popular vehicles. Pickup truck-based SUVs like the Sequoia are a natural extension of choice for people who do not need a bed.

        Two people from my church are now in the process of retiring their worn-out Panthers and we have discussed options and possibilities for them. None included sedans.

      • 0 avatar
        e30gator

        Good points. I’ve always been a “car guy”, currenty having a Z3 in my own driveway for personal weekend use.

        But I would NEVER buy another sedan as a family vehicle for all the reasons you stated above.

      • 0 avatar
        CKNSLS Sierra SLT

        thegamper

        Can you afford a $50,000.00 pickup?

        Just asking……..

        • 0 avatar
          e30gator

          Does it matter to you if he can/can’t? Why? Looking for a sugar daddy???

          Let’s face it, most of the coal-rollers I see don’t tow jack with them and only seem to care about peacocking around town to impress other dudes.

          • 0 avatar
            CKNSLS Sierra SLT

            Yea e30gator

            I cruise forums frequented by “old people” (like this one obviously is) and look for a sugar daddy.

            And yes-one often criticizes what one CANT AFFORD.

          • 0 avatar
            e30gator

            CKNSLS Sierra SLT

            Pffft…I see plenty of brodozers parked in front of trailers. It’s more of a sign of financial ineptitude than wealth.

            And we can certainly use the same argument about wayward idiots piloting full size trucks that we can for guns: It’s not the trucks that are causing problems, it’s the type of people who use them dangerously who cause the problems. A 6000lb brodozer driven by a selfish idiot is 3X more dangerous than the same idiot driving a Fiesta. And since that special type of idiot is opt to seek attention from anyone they can, a big rig is more often than not their showboat of choice for peacocking high jinks behind the wheel.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Here’s a trick from the people who actually use pickup trucks as pickup trucks:

          ..Buy one at the end of the model year when the discounts are high..

          My former foreman recently bought a 2017 F350 4-dr 4×4 DRW from Shamaley Ford in El Paso, TX for an eye-popping discount.

          So he passed his old Silverado 3500 CrewCab Duallie to his son who is now in business with him.

          End of the year discounts! Save some money. Get a lot more for your money.

        • 0 avatar
          The Ghost of Buckshot Jones

          You know full well he can’t.

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          I could afford I big rig if I wanted. I’ll say I’m in the top 10% of household income in the US, if just barely. I’m not really comfortable going above 50k as there are a lot of things pulling at my money. I have 3 kids and I spend over a grand a month on swim teams, club fees, travel soccer, tutoring, etc. I have retirement funds, college funds, etc. So just not my priority. I like to joke that my kids are eating my Porsche. So, my ability to afford it is not the issue. It’s really more that pickups destroy my driving enjoyment. I know it’s a selfish reason but I feel that my grievances are very real not just annoyances. My wife actually wants a Yukon XL for her next car. So I really have my work cut out for me fighting my battle against farm equipment right here at home.

          • 0 avatar
            CKNSLS Sierra SLT

            Thegamper

            I find people who “ruin my driving enjoyment” own various types of models and types of vehicles. This include-but are not limited to Trucks/SUVs/Sports Cars/Econo Cars/CUVs and big Semis.

            I am an equal opportunity hater.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            thegamper,

            with easy financing what it is today, just about anyone can afford to buy a $50K pickup truck if they wanted.

            The guy who fixes my burritos in town just bought himself a $50K Tundra. And he still lives at home with his mom and dad.

            I know he can’t be making a whole lot of money making burritos for a living. He doesn’t even own the place.

            Maybe he made a large down payment, whatever, but he drives a fancy $50K truck these days, proudly parked outside the burrito place every day.

        • 0 avatar
          e30gator

          CKNSLS Sierra SLT

          Pffft…I see plenty of brodozers parked in front of trailers. It’s more of a sign of financial ineptitude than wealth.

          And we can certainly use the same argument about wayward idiots piloting full size trucks that we can for guns: It’s not the trucks that are causing problems, it’s the type of people who use them dangerously who cause the problems. A 6000lb brodozer driven by a selfish idiot is 3X more dangerous than the same idiot driving a Fiesta. And since that special type of idiot is opt to seek attention from anyone they can, a big rig is more often than not their showboat of choice for peacocking high jinks behind the wheel.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “I have long maintained that the Pickup Truck is single handedly destroying this country,”

        Why do you think I call them Road Whales™?

      • 0 avatar
        The Ghost of Buckshot Jones

        No you won’t

  • avatar
    Fred

    So does this mean I can get a deal on a used SUV that they too many of? Or can I find a nice new sedan they are having trouble of moving?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      There are still plenty of 2017 Lacrosse on dealer lots (and 2017 Maximas) dealers are dealing on those. I actually got bombarded with ads for 2017 Regals when I started looking at 2018 Regals on Buick’s website.

      I’m also turning up a few 2017 Durangos on dealer lots in my area. It depends on what you want.

      Heck there are probably still a few last gen Camrys on dealer lots.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Oh hey look TTAC wrote an article about me!

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I don’t think chances are really better than ever that I won’t pick up a car. It’s still a long shot. When I was younger I was in great shape, I lifted weights like an animal and played sports. Cars were heavier back then though. So I’m not in as good shape but cars are lighter, so the chances are pretty much the same. When I was say, between 18 and 30, I might have been able to get part of a Smart For Two off the ground, but they didn’t make them yet. I went to school with a guy who deadlifted the front end of a VW Bug off the ground.

  • avatar
    TwoBelugas

    I do own one of the biggest class 2b truck on the road, but I also do enjoy driving road trips in my 300. That thing is stupid quiet, and extremely comfortable and still returns over 30mpg at 70.

    I pity all the people in their top heavy CUVs bobbling like a jack in the box trying to pretend they are still in a car and taking turns way too fast.

  • avatar
    gasser

    70 year old semi retired here. I drove an SUV for 10 years, but I am now in year two of a three year auto lease. I wanted a smoother ride and less of the tossing about that TwoBelugas speaks of. Next vehicle will be back to an SUV because it really is easier to get my 70 year old butt in and out. Also traffic is horrendous, not aided by all the ride sharing vehicles being driven by folks with one eye on the map screen. Also, as bones become more brittle, the eye level bumpers of mammoth SUVs become more intimidating. Sadly, no more sedans for me.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Our next purchase will be another SUV. We already have the two seat roadster and a newish mid-sized sedan but our current SUV is a 2000 and has 194k miles on it. It is due for being supplemented or replaced with a new Durango. Can’t afford the SRT though :(.

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