That is, of course, the punch line to the Aesop fable about the slow, compact tortoise and the sleek, swifter hare. Interestingly, the allegory seems to be playing itself out in the real world of automotive sales.

Rising gas prices, improved designs, and pent-up demand has fueled sales of smaller cars. So much so, the higher demand for compact and subcompact cars pushed April vehicle sales up 18%. Sales for the year are running at an annual rate above 13 million vehicles—for the third consecutive month.

Improved design and gas efficiency can go a long way to engaging customers these days, but ultimately it’s how well the brands meet – or even exceed – expectations consumers hold for their Ideal car. And if you want to help drive sales, loyalty and engagement metrics provide predictive measures of what customers really want. Oh, and what they are willing to believe about a brand. Here’s how the most recent rankings match up with most recent reported change in sales:

1 Hyundai +40.3%
2 Ford +16.3
3 Kia +56.7
4 GM +26.6
5 BMW +19.6
6 Chrysler +22.5
7 Nissan +12.2
8 Volkswagen +18.7
9 Honda +9.8
10 Toyota +1.3

For those of you without a statistical app on your GPS, those engagement assessments and sales increases correspond to one another with a whopping 0.72 correlation, which is marketing mileage any CMO would like to drive.

And the moral of this story: If you know what customers really expect and you are able to manage your brand to better meet those expectations you’ll always end up winning. If you don’t, the nap you took may well be a very long one.