Tesla's the Best at Retaining Customers, but Many Others Struggle

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

When we talk about car sales, we typically look at units sold and profit made, but automakers and analysts look at deep metrics. S&P Global recently an overview of customer retention metrics in the industry, and it showed that many brands are having trouble holding onto customers beyond a single vehicle purchase. 

According to the organization, Acura, Audi, Dodge, GMC, Mercedes-Benz, Ram, and Volkswagen are all struggling with “one-hit-wonder” syndrome, where buyers dip their toe into the brand for a vehicle purchase and then move on to other brands. Of course, some people move on out of habit and won’t stick with a brand no matter what they do, but it’s in automakers’ best interest to keep customers coming back.

Many so-called “nomad buyers” live in urban areas and have disposable income to support chasing the latest and greatest vehicles. Automakers try to hold on to those customers with loyalty incentives and other promotions, but a record number of car buyers switched brands last year, with 58 percent jumping the fence.

Tesla, BMW, Kia, Hyundai, and others have not had the same trouble keeping people coming back. Tesla did an excellent job holding onto buyers, with the lowest nomad rate of just 39 percent. Toyota and Ford performed decently, clocking low one-and-done rates with buyers.

[Image: Tesla]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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7 of 21 comments
  • El scotto El scotto on Jan 24, 2023

    Toyota builds vehicles that stand up to third-world conditions. Been there, done that. Ford consistently sells the best selling vehicle in North America. Been there, done that. Toyota and Ford consistently rank high in brand loyalty. From what I've read, Tesla has this EV stuff down, ergo brand loyalty.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jan 24, 2023

    I bought 5 Ford sedans in row. Don't ask me why.

    • Johnds Johnds on Jan 26, 2023

      I have neighbors that have fleets of fords, whether it’s a focus or navigator, the similarity in parts makes them easy for the owner to switch between vehicles. Having a few back ups also helps when one is in the shop for a transmission, engine, or head gasket replacement.

  • FormerFF FormerFF on Jan 24, 2023

    Bought a new Aerostar in 1991, drove it until I bought a new Focus in 2002, drove it until I bought a new PHEV Fusion in 2014, still driving it. I do have a Porsche on order, but am beginning to wonder if I will ever get it.

    My youngest daughter wants to work on her manual transmission skills and try track driving, so we'll need something for that. Most likely, it will be a Focus ST.

    • 95_SC 95_SC on Jan 26, 2023

      Fiesta ST's are more difficult to find in good shape. The FOST is good though. I could have purchased my 12,000 mile Fiesta ST off lease for 11k (I leased it at the end of the run and there was 5 grand on the hood). But oh no, my dumb@%% wanted a Challenger. One of my biggest automotive regrets...the ST was an absolute blast. The Challenger just didn't do it for me. Still, I drove the Fiesta like the 2 year rental it was. I did maintain it well, but that car probably saw redline daily. It was an absolute hoot to drive. I can't find one for less than I paid for mine new nowadays.

  • VoGhost VoGhost on Jan 26, 2023

    #1 CR customer satisfaction. #1 JD Power APPEAL. And now #1 at customer retention. I sense a trend. Maybe, just maybe, the actual human beings who put their own money down to buy Tesla actually like what they buy?