Ford tops US auto charts

04 April 2011

DETROIT: Ford is the leading US automaker in terms of overall customer loyalty, figures from a new study show.

Polk, the specialist consultancy, assessed data covering the buying activity of 5.2m households across America last year, to find how many of the featured residences bought a new car, and then either also purchased or hired a vehicle from the same manufacturer.

Ratings for Ford concerning both its eponymous marque and the Lincoln brand came in at 63.1%, an improvement of 3.9 percentage points from last year.

This total rose by 4.5 points, to 60.3%, for the actual Ford range, which incorporates offerings such as the Fiesta, Fusion, Mustang and Taurus.

Having avoided filing for bankruptcy protection at the recession's peak, Ford is seeking to use digital appliances and environmental technology in creating the next generation of cars.

"Are we going to revert back to our old habits and forget all the lessons that we learned during the past few years? Or are we going to take what we learned and redouble our efforts to be a relevant company in people's lives?" said chairman Bill Ford.

"I believe we can do that, and will. And I think a way to do that is to be humble and be aware of the fact that we haven't won anything yet. All we've won is the right to survive."

General Motors, which topped Polk's charts in the equivalent study published last year, registered an average of 59.9% across its portfolio, with Chevrolet securing 53%.

"We were producing less-than-world-class vehicles in part because we had a cost-cutting mentality," Chris Liddell, the firm's outgoing chief financial officer, said. "We would 'de-content' cars to save money, but the more we de-contented them the more people didn't want to buy them."

Liddell added: "We are now spending more on cars because we believe we can achieve higher volumes and/or have people willing to pay for that higher content."

As General Motors and Ford, numbers one and two by US sales respectively, continue their recovery from the crisis, they are expected to draw closer together when discussing purchase rates.

"The GM and Ford race will be really tight," said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at research group

"GM came out really strong in the beginning of the year with incentives. When you do that, you're going to pull ahead sales from later months."

Elsewhere in the Polk rankings, Toyota posted 58.8% at the corporate level, while its namesake brand scored 56.4%, a 0.4%increase, despite several high-profile vehicle recalls.

Other industry players performing strongly included high-end range Mercedes-Benz, logging 56.7% and the Japanese operator Honda on 56.6%.

"Loyalty measurements are an important aspect of any customer-retention strategy," said Brad Smith, director of Polk's loyalty management practice.

"But the real value is derived from the various consumer marketing and field training strategies created from the measurements."

Data sourced from Reuters, Bloomberg, Polk; additional content by Warc staff