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.

  • SCE to AUX Good summary, Matt.I like EVs, but not bans, subsidies, or carbon credits. Let them find their own level.PM Sunak has done a good thing, but I'm surprised at how sensibly early he made the call. Hopefully they'll ban the ban altogether.
  • SCE to AUX "Having spoken to plenty of suppliers over the years, many have told me they tried to adapt to EV production only to be confronted with inconsistent orders."Lofty sales predictions followed by reality.I once worked (very briefly) for a key supplier to Segway, back when "Ginger" was going to change the world. Many suppliers like us tooled up to support sales in the millions, only to sell thousands - and then went bankrupt.
  • SCE to AUX "all-electric vehicles, resulting in a scenario where automakers need fewer traditional suppliers"Is that really true? Fewer traditional suppliers, but they'll be replaced with other suppliers. You won't have the myriad of parts for an internal combustion engine and its accessories (exhaust, sensors), but you still have gear reducers (sometimes two or three), electric motors with lots of internal components, motor mounts, cooling systems, and switchgear.Battery packs aren't so simple, either, and the fire recalls show that quality control is paramount.The rest of the vehicle is pretty much the same - suspension, brakes, body, etc.
  • Theflyersfan As crazy as the NE/Mid-Atlantic I-95 corridor drivers can be, for the most part they pay attention and there aren't too many stupid games. I think at times it's just too crowded for that stuff. I've lived all over the US and the worst drivers are in parts of the Midwest. As I've mentioned before, Ohio drivers have ZERO lane discipline when it comes to cruising, merging, and exiting. And I've just seen it in this area (Louisville) where many drivers have literally no idea how to merge. I've never seen an area where drivers have no problems merging onto an interstate at 30 mph right in front of you. There are some gruesome wrecks at these merge points because it looks like drivers are just too timid to merge and speed up correctly. And the weaving and merging at cloverleaf exits (which in this day and age need to all go away) borders on comical in that no one has a bloody clue of let car merge in, you merge right to exit, and then someone repeats behind you. That way traffic moves. Not a chance here.And for all of the ragging LA drivers get, I found them just fine. It's actually kind of funny watching them rearrange themselves like after a NASCAR caution flag once traffic eases up and they line up, speed up to 80 mph for a few miles, only to come to a dead halt again. I think they are just so used to the mess of freeways and drivers that it's kind of a "we'll get there when we get there..." kind of attitude.
  • Analoggrotto I refuse to comment until Tassos comments.