US auto buyers shun Chinese marques

14 November 2014

NEW YORK: Close to half of those US consumers in the market for a new car would consider a foreign brand but Chinese marques come far down their, list new research has shown.

According to the Barometer of Automotive Awareness and Imagery Study from researcher GfK, 44% of those intending to buy a new vehicle in the future said its country of origin would influence their purchase decision. Most (91%) would consider a US brand, while those from Germany (67%) and Japan (66%) were also popular options.

But just 18% would consider a vehicle made in China; only Russia and India (both 16%) came below China in the estimation of US buyers. But these views varied widely according to age: 7% of those over the age of 55 said they were 'very' or 'somewhat' open to a Chinese vehicle, compared to 33% for those under 35.

That trend was evident more generally, with intenders in the 55-plus age bracket more likely to care about country of origin than those under 35 (49% v 39%). Country-sensitive buyers were also more likely to be found in the Midwest, where 49% said place of origin mattered, and the Northeast, where the figure was 46%.

"Chinese vehicles clearly have a lot to prove in the US market," said Jeff Campana, svp/Auto at GfK. "Verbatim comments from our respondents show that negative publicity about Chinese products in other categories – such as pet food and toys – have spilled over to create concerns about Chinese vehicles." 

Qualitative research indicated that product quality and safety were the main reasons for the rejection of Chinese vehicles. Labour conditions, environmental regulations and economic competitiveness between China and the US also emerged as strong themes driving consumers away from considering Chinese vehicles.

"Auto makers in China have reason to take action," said Campana. "A concerted campaign demonstrating their commitment to safety could be essential to opening the US market to Chinese vehicles."

Data sourced from Business Wire; additional content by Warc staff