J.D. Power Says Drivers Still Loyal to Subaru, Lexus

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
j d power says drivers still loyal to subaru lexus

J.D. Power’s Automotive Brand Loyalty Study dropped this week, with Subaru and Lexus predictably topping the charts. Subaru actually edged out Toyota by a hair in the mainstream segment by retaining 60.5 percent of its owners, and is assumed to be aided by younger generations just getting into vehicle ownership. This is something we can back up anecdotally, as many drivers look back fondly at the nameplate and are eager for a second helping.

If your author had a nickel for every person that happily reminisced about the hand-me-down Subaru Legacy or Forester wagons they drove during their formative years, he would have a jar full of coins wasting space on a shelf somewhere because nickels aren’t particularly valuable.

Speaking of not having enough money to buy things, Lexus trumped Mercedes-Benz in the premium/luxury segment with a loyalty percentage of 48. It was a close race, though. Mercedes retained 47.8 percent of its customers and was followed by BMW (45.1 percent), Porsche (44.9) Audi (43.4), Land Rover (39.6), Acura (38.3), Volvo (38.3), and Lincoln (37).

The bottom of the field included Cadillac, Maserati, Infiniti, and Jaguar — with only the British brand failing to achieve a retention rate above 21 percent.

Back in the mainstream, Toyota came in a very tight second with a customer loyalty settling in at 60.3 percent. Rounding out the top five (before the differences between brands really starts to become apparent) were Honda (58.7 percent), Ram (57.3) and Ford (54.3).

Mid-pack contenders averaged a retention rate between 51 and 39 percent, leaving a handful of brands looking like they must have done something terribly wrong to have lost so much repeat business. They included Buick with 27.4 percent, Mitsubishi (27.1), Mini (26.4), Dodge (17.8), Chrysler (14.1), and Fiat (10.4).

While most of the names are hardly surprising to see, Dodge has recently been praised for its improving quality. In fact, it tied with Kia for first place in J.D. Power’s most recent Initial Quality Study. Dodge also aced Consumer Reports’ reliability survey — making it the first domestic brand in the publication’s history to take top honors. At the same time, Subaru’s reliability seemed to slip immensely.

What gives?

We think this has everything to do with product lineup and the average consumer not being hip to the daily goings-on of the automotive industry. Dodge has some of the best marketing in the business and the kind of products Americans traditionally appreciate. But it’s becoming even more of a specialized performance brand, with the Journey and Grand Caravan being discontinued for 2021. Meanwhile, Chrysler has one luxury sedan and three(ish) versions of the same minivan on offer. They’re wonderful products, but there’s not a lot of variety, likely encouraging some shoppers to look elsewhere.

By contrast, Subaru has a more versatile lineup that caters to more mainstream tastes and boasts similarly good marketing. Framing itself as the pet-friendly automaker (as if animals cared one whit about what you’re driving) was a true stroke of brilliance. It understands it’s a brand that excels at making customers walk away with a good feeling and has leaned into that by focusing on its safety credentials and attaching itself to nature by way of (nearly) ubiquitous all-wheel drive.

“There are many factors that contribute to brand loyalty, ranging from the experience a customer has when purchasing the vehicle to how driving it makes them feel,” Tyson Jominy, vice president of data & analytics at J.D. Power, said in a statement.

“Automakers are really focused on customer retention, as evidenced by the payment plans and incentives they’ve offered since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Many have gone above and beyond to offer customers financial assistance during a period of economic uncertainty, which does a lot to bolster consumer confidence in their chosen brand and repurchase it in the future.”

[Image: Subaru]

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  • Dmulyadi Dmulyadi on Jul 17, 2020

    Hm... Let's see what I owned so far since I know how to drive. 1994 Isuzu Panther MPV. MT 1993 Honda Accord Sedan MT 1992 Honda Accord coupe AT 1990 Honda Accord Sedan MT 1991 Honda Accord Sedan AT 1993 Honda Prelude MT 1994 Acura Legend AT 1997 Volvo 850 GLT Wagon AT 1990 Toyota Previa AT 2004 Honda Element AT 2006 Scion xB AT 2005 Prius AT 1996 RAV4 MT 2012 Honda CR-Z AT 2010 Suzuki SX4 AT The worst car I owned was Volvo and that I still own SX4 was lemon. But as I noticed the list mostly I am happy with my old and new Honda and Toyota. I never bought them new and the lowest mileage that I own were 100k and the most were 380k. Yep bought and sold them amazing with all those miles I still can sell them after I used them several years.

    • See 1 previous
    • Dmulyadi Dmulyadi on Jul 17, 2020

      @Art Vandelay I don't really like the mpg because it's not as good as my Second gen Prius, but when you switch to sport mode it feels more exciting than Prius. But since it's hybrid both cars still not gonna win any race. Lol. But I am love CRZ design it look fast even when it's not moving.

  • If Chevy hadn't screwed me, that's what I would still be buying. I've had four Mazdas since, and I'm likely going to buy number five when my lease runs out, unless a small affordable pickup shows up before then. Treat me right and I'll be loyal.

  • Tassos Now as for the Z specifically, Car and Driver had a comparison test of the new Z400, a car that looks good on paper, with plenty of HP etc, but, despite the fact that the cars that win in those tests are usually brand new models that are more up to date than their aging rivals, the Z finished DEAD LAST in the test, to my ovbious surprise.
  • Arthur Dailey Sorry but compare that spartan interior to the Marks that Corey is writing about. 'A cigarette lighter'. Every Mark had 4 cigarette lighters and ashtrays. And these came standard with 'a 3.4-liter, 182-horsepower straight-six in the engine compartment and a five-speed manual transmission'. Those do not tick off many of the luxury boxes aspired to by 'the greatest generation'.Not sure about the 7 series but one of My Old Man's associates showed up once with a brand new 5 series circa 1977 and they gave him such a bad time that he traded it for a Fleetwood within a week.
  • Tassos I clearly have no sentimental attachment to any cars from the 80s. I myself drove a Dasher (passat) wagon with horrible reliability, and then a Pontiac 2000, very fuel efficient for its time with its 1.8 lt and 5 speed, but a small econobox crudely made, with no luxuries inside. But most other cars of the era were really CRAPPY, unsafe, both in terms of passive AND active safety, had very few options modern cars have, etc etc. The best car I owned then was a 1991 Honda Civic 5-sp hatch, but that was also an 80s design that was on sale from 1987-1991. Not just the domestics were crappy then, but so were m ost of the imports. As you can see, I have ZERO "nostalgia" for any of these, especially not for the unreliable, poorly made JUNK from DATSUN-NISSAN, which is widely reviled overseas as a maker of small pickup trucks that are the favorites of Gypsies selling watermelons from their bed.
  • Tassos While Acura was the first Japanese attempt to sell 'luxury' (or "premium") vehicles in the US market, and despite its original good success in the near-luxury segment with the Legend and the far smaller and less expensive Itegra (a glorified Civic), it later lost its momentum and offered a series of underwhelming vehicles. It sure is not a LUXURY maker, and as long as it offers FWD or AWD and NOT RWD vehicles, it will never be taken seriously as a serious sports cars maker. Infiniti is much worse, and if both of them go under, few will notice. Lexus was more successful, offering pimped up TOyotas for 10,000s more, but there is NO vehicle in their lineup, esp now that they scewed up the only serious entry (the LS), that I would care to consider. AND I say all this as a very satisfied owner of 5-speed Honda coupes and hatchbacks (a 1991 Civic hatch and a 1990 Accord Coupe).
  • Mike Beranek Yet another reason to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles charged with energy from wind & solar with modern, non-Monty Burns nuclear as a backup.