By on July 18, 2019

2019 Subaru Forester green - Image: Subaru

J.D. Power’s annual Automotive Brand Loyalty Study came out for 2019 this week. According to the outlet, Subaru outranks every other brand when it comes to consumer loyalty. That meshes with any anecdotal evidence I’ve accumulated by just speaking with people. Despite some nagging quality concerns stemming from the company’s swift sales growth, most people I know that have driven a Subaru still want one.

Subaru also has been running some of the best advertisements within the industry with the broadest possible appeal (as they often feature dogs) over the last few years. Almost every woman I’ve spoken with feels positively about the brand and, while I can’t say the same about the men, it’s not a nameplate that receives much ire with laypersons — minus the odd tale of a tragic timing chain mishap (I told you to take it in, Sean). 

The J.D. Power study says Subaru ranks highest among mass-market brands and highest among all automakers with a loyalty rate of 61.5 percent. Toyota is in second with a 59.5 percent rating, while Honda comes in third with 57.7 percent. Ford and Ram, were the only other two mainstream brands that managed to stay above 50 percent.

However, you probably want to know which marques have settled at the bottom of the bowl. Mitsubishi, Buick, and Mini were all hovering around 30 percent. Digging a little deeper through the muck, we uncovered Dodge, Fiat, Chrysler and Smart. None of those brands broke the 17 percent loyalty barrier. Odd, considering FCA’s domestic nameplates have been getting more favorable reliability and quality rankings from outlets like Consumer Reports and J.D. Power of late. Dodge also has a pretty slick marketing team and, you know, Mopar fans — unfairly maligned by other auto communities for their deep-seated passion (don’t worry, brothers, the heretics will pay for their crimes against us). Though we suppose true advocates likely don’t factor in much when considering broader loyalty inclinations. It’s not like the general industry trend has had much to do with courting enthusiasts lately, anyway.

For luxury brands, J.D. Power placed Lexus at the top with 47 percent — followed by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, and Audi. Land Rover was up next but the entire field was middling. No brand stood out as performing terribly well or poorly in terms of customer loyalty, with Jaguar being the only exception. It had a loyalty rate of 20 percent, when every other company managed 32 or better.

If you want to call J.D. Power out, which you are welcome to do, note that it states that the study’s findings are based on the percentage of vehicle owners who choose the same brand when trading in or purchasing their next vehicle using data from its own “Power Information Network.” As it relies heavily on trade-ins, brands that are more-likely to have been sold privately likely performed worse than those that aren’t. The 2019 U.S. Automotive Brand Loyalty Study calculations are based on transaction data from June 2018 through May 2019 and include all model years traded in.


[Images: Subaru; J.D. Power]


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32 Comments on “J.D. Power Releases Brand Loyalty Study for 2019, Subaru Takes Top Honors...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    How does Tesla not qualify as a “mass-market” brand when it is outselling Cadillac, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Acura, Volvo, Infiniti, Lincoln, Land Rover, Porsche, Mini, Jaguar, Genesis, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and especially Smart for 2019?

    Maybe nobody trades them in? (Actually, we know that’s not true).

    I’m guessing the answer is that Tesla doesn’t have traditional dealers, so JD Power doesn’t have any data.

    As for Jeep, they could learn some lessons from Subaru.

    • 0 avatar

      Because Tesla is a luxury brand and not included on the Infographic.

      In addition the data is based on dealer trade-ins and sharing that data. Tesla doesn’t have dealers, and likely doesn’t share the data.

  • avatar

    “with Jaguar being the only exception. It had a loyalty rate of 20 percent, when every other company managed 32 or better.”

    Not surprising. The brand sh*t all over the people that liked their old cars, and outside of the F-type the new ones are so generic their drivers probably forgot what marquee they even owned at trade-in time.

  • avatar

    fact-free, knee-jerk reactions:

    Dodge: would be higher a bit higher if the Journey wasn’t a hot mess and it had a ladder of small/med/L/XL CUVs?

    Buick: It’s still the last vehicle that many buy?

    Mitsu: You’re upside-down, so you can’t afford a new car?

    Hyundai-Kia: Good for them…I see a lot of multi-Hyundai driveways. Multi-Kia not so much for whatever reason.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      FWIW, I have 2 Kias and a Hyundai in my driveway at the moment. Believe it or not, I was sold on the brand after having a *very* used 01 Elantra that we owned from 138k to 201k miles.

      • 0 avatar

        What happened with the Elantra? Did it finally have a very expensive repair, wrecked, or ??? Just curious. Some friends of ours owned an ’01 Elantra (bought it new, mainly with a company profit-sharing check), and got many years and miles out of it.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX


          When I discovered a hand-sized hole in the frame in 2014, I welded it up. Then I thought better of keeping it and traded it for scrap value at the Kia dealer, in favor of a new 13 Optima Hybrid.

          We had the 01 for 5 good years. I think it had a rough childhood, but I took good care of it until it left us. Pittsburgh winter salt is the devil.

          H/K cars have a handy transmission drain plug, but this Elantra is only car I’ve worked on with a *spin-on* transmission filter (on top, no less).

          • 0 avatar

            I believe Saturn also had the external spin-on filter. A great idea that is mostly not seen. Shame, just like articulating trunk hinges, some great ideas get bean counted out. Too bad.

          • 0 avatar

            Yes, the spin-on transmission filter was one of the cool things about Saturns.

  • avatar

    “Subaru also has been running some of the best advertisements within the industry with the broadest possible appeal (as they often feature dogs) over the last few years.”

    The key to their success is the opposite of broad appeal, unless you’re into puns. They identified a niche demographic that is guaranteed employment by every accredited university at a time when those institutions were granted access to unlimited student debt by a redistributionist regime. They’re reaping the rewards of becoming part of the identity of people who are heavily invested in identity politics. During their time of huge growth they’ve abandoned enthusiasts, stopped featuring the components they made that worked, and avoided all demonstrations of their technologies. They’re as much of a lifestyle brand now as Jeep was when they didn’t put their name on Fiat hatchbacks.

    That lifestyle no longer includes skiing, or rallying, or children. Other companies are clueless how to compete. VW’s dumpster-diver commercials were rejected as pandering after they kept changing between the Rabbit and Golf names to try to shake their hatch’s affiliation with the non-cis-gendered. Had they waited for cultural Marxism to flourish, they could have been like Subaru today instead of Mazda. Product planners are struggling. Is everyone else making cars that are too reliable, durable and robust? Stay tuned for GM to replace all Buick back seats with dog beds and their rear seat heater controls with water dishes. The red white and blue logos will morph into rainbows. Colin KaperNike can be the spokesperson.

    • 0 avatar

      Ouch. But, “no children”? Au contraire! Some of the Subaru ads I’ve seen lately feature one child, keeping within their demographic (the Outback ad with the bearded college professor and his pregnant wife, fast forwarding to the only child, a girl), or, scandalously, *two kids* (the EyeSight ad where the guy driving the Ascent tries and fails to rear-end a Saab stopped for a wayward box truck).

      If you listen closely, you can hear the whaaaaaaaaaaales. (facepalm)

      • 0 avatar

        Sheesh – talk about stereotyping. Yes, the college educated, environmentally conscious, “left” leaning customer was originally a big part of tier base. Don’t like that base, too bad. It’s no different than the uneducated, big pickup, blue collar market. Reach to your audience and if the product is there, you win. We all know winning is all that matters; our illustrious president said so. But just like the way pickups appeal to white collar people today, Subaru’s market has broadened way beyond the “equal” stickered crowd. Good for them. I really don’t find a lot of appeal to Subaru products, but clealy many do. And most today don’t really give a damn about the old days when Subaru ads sported cars with hidden LBGTQ messages.

        • 0 avatar

          I just think think it’s funny, the whaaaaaaaales. And actually, I like Subarus, especially the boxer engines and the standard AWD. Hopefully they can fix the quality problems.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised that Buick is only the 5th lowest – remarkable for a Chinese brand.

    • 0 avatar

      … one returned for another Acura…

      • 0 avatar

        Actually, Norm, Acura’s score for brand loyalty was 36.1% in the Luxury vehicle category (Buick can’t play there) and was 2% higher than the GM – Cadillac brand score. The GM – Buick brand, located in the Mass Market vehicle category, was a stunning 28.3%, some 7.2% lower than Acura. Thanks for playing, though.

      • 0 avatar

        >>not normal

        looks like your reading comprehensive is a match for your lack of judgment as the above notes

      • 0 avatar

        Or BMW, or Mercedes-Benz, or Lincoln, or Cadillac, or…say, you don’t suppose this is a list of mass-market and, in the case of Buick, wanna-be mass-market cars, do you?

    • 0 avatar

      Speaking of Buick being a Chinese brand- I have a question for the Best and Brightest. In addition to the Envision, which is built in China, hasn’t Buick also used Chinese-made engines in some or all of its models for the last ten years or so ?

  • avatar

    Remember, this data is based upon trade-in data at dealers. That is critical to note.

    Certain brands like Chrysler, Fiat, Jeep, Buick, and Mini are going to score lower because of their limited lineup.

    Have a Chrysler 300 but now you need to tow a boat on weekends? You may stay in the FCA family but you’re almost certainly not going back to Chrysler.

    Bought a Journey because your credit was on the skids and you legit needed room for 6 or 7? Now you’re credit is better and you want more? You’re not going back to Dodge.

    Bought a Jeep but now you got it out of your system? Sure, you might look at the SUV offerings, but if you want to go pickup truck and the Gladiator isn’t the answer because it’s too much of a Jeep thing.

    The Tier I and Tier II brands for loyalty (from Subaru to Hyundai) all have full product lines or darn close to it – EXCEPT – Ram. Ram however has the loyalty of Mopar truck buyers who likely are buying another truck given the current market in the US, and will go back to RAM.

    So, this really doesn’t say much about actual, “loyalty.”

    • 0 avatar

      I tend to agree. Loyalty within parent company would mean more than loyalty within a single brand.

      • 0 avatar

        That too. If a GM Terrain owner trades it in at the Buick dealer for a Buick Enclave, is that a net loss for brand?

        Of if a Camry is traded in on an ES350?

    • 0 avatar

      Some of this “loyalty” is not loyalty, it’s “inertia” – and much of it takes place at the dealer level.

      – When Joe returns his 36-month lease vehicle to the Chrysler dealer where he has obtained vehicles for the past 12 years, he finds that most of Chrysler’s car line-up is gone. Goodbye, Joe. (Chrysler ‘loyalty’ 14.4%)
      – When Betty’s Edge lease expires, she returns to the dealer she knows and obtains another Edge, or perhaps an Escape. She doesn’t shop any other vehicles or dealers, because she will use her Z-Plan retiree pricing. See you next time, Betty! (Ford ‘loyalty’ 54.0%)

      Ask GM if customers stay loyal to the parent company when the dealer outlet disappears (Pontiac, Oldsmobile).

      Subaru is the car company for people who don’t like car companies.

  • avatar

    Subaru has had fierce brand loyalty around parts of Atlantic Canada for a couple of decades and probably for the same reasons that they are popular in the New England states. But over the past five-to-eight years I’ve noticed the demographic changing. As the population ages it seems that Subaru is taking some people who would normally gravitate to Toyotas. Maybe I’m stereotyping here, but many Subaru drivers are 65+ and look like they chose their car based on safety and reliability. While those are characteristics we all look for, Subaru seems to be attracting drivers drivers who are looking for an appliance. It’s to the point that I now include most Subarus along with most Toyotas when scanning for potential problems while driving. Ten years ago it was apt to be a Corolla making a left turn across six lanes of traffic from the right lane. These days it’s just as likely to be a Subaru.

    Hmmm… I forget my point.

  • avatar

    I think the issue with MINI is manifold:
    – only the latest generation is truly reliable; too late for many – the bad reputation is entrenched in the minds of many.
    – the semi-unique draw of manual transmissions is increasingly dwindling.
    – even though they are true BMWs now, they are perceived too expensive for what you get.
    – they lack most now-expected advanced safety kit
    – they have a very marginally diverse line-up, with very scant growth pathways for existing customers who would upgrade (unless to actual BMW-branded models).
    – too much competition in the CUV field with inferior value-for-money
    – small cars (even the Countryman is small for a CUV) have limited appeal

    Summary: the MINI brand is f*$#ed!

  • avatar

    I get the Toyota / Honda thing. While owning one, you usually have no problems. Then, when you go to trade it in, even with 90K miles, people really want them, especially the dealers, and you get some of your money back.

    When you show up with an American vehicle for a trade in, usually they “take it off your hands” then wholesale it out. However, your Honda or Toyota trade in usually shows up in the front row of their used car lot weeks after you trade it in for at least three thousand more they gave you for it, then sells quickly.

    So, if you like to own your vehicles for a short period of time, Toyota and Honda vehicles are the best if you are all about maximizing the resale which minimizes cost of ownership.

  • avatar

    I’d like to know how Tesla stacks up.

    Perhaps it’s part of the ‘conspiracy’ against them.

    The other automakers let “others” do their dirty work–ie, state auto dealership laws–to make it very hard to buy or lease a Tesla.

    Perhaps Tesla doesn’t play by JDP’s rules. How does JDP work? Who funds them? How?

    How robust is their data? Is it like Consumer Reports? Better? Worse?

    Perhaps TTAC’s diligent staff will answer these questions.

    And, for the record, I’m not keen on electric cars. But, anecdotally, Teslas are selling in credible volumes and people seem to love them. I’ve never seen an Tesla ad in Car and Driver, which is perhaps why Tesla doesn’t really get much coverage, compared to other carmakers (who buy ads).

    Just saying.

  • avatar

    I bought another Subaru after 12 good years from my Forester. Now three women close to me all want Subarus for their next car after time spent in mine. They’re just likeable cars.

    Except the new Nav system. Simply horrible. Its just there to frustrate me. You can’t zoom out when navigating, say, to see what towns are coming up on the route. The voice interface is horrible. When it does understand me, I can’t name places (like a park or airport or restaurant), I have to tell it the exact street address, which I rarely know without consulting Google maps, so, I just use Google maps to navigate instead of the Subaru system. I have a 12-year old nav system in my other car that is 10X better than Subaru’s current system. Don’t pay for it. Just use Android Auto or Apple to navigate.

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