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Survey: Toyota tops in buyer loyalty, beating Ford

More than any other brand, Toyota owners who trade in their cars buy same brand again.

January 19, 2006; Posted: 1:47 p.m. EST (1847 GMT)

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Ending a nine-year run, Toyota ousted Ford as the car brand with the most-loyal customers in R.L. Polk & Co.'s annual survey of new vehicle purchases.

Almost 55 percent of Toyota owners who bought a new car during the 2005 model year purchased another Toyota. The average owner loyalty for all brands is about 44 percent, according to Polk's data. Ford had a slightly lower buyer retention rate last year at 53.4 percent.

General Motors had the highest customer loyalty for an overall manufacturer, according to Polk. Just over 63 percent of GM owners who traded in or sold a car last year purchased another GM vehicle. This survey marked the sixth year in a row that GM had top loyalty marks for a manufacturer.

GM's success was, in part, due to the sheer size of the company's product line and the number of brands it encompasses. A smaller company simply wouldn't have as much to offer a customer who was looking for a new type of vehicle, said Lonnie Miller, director of industry analysis for Polk.

Owner loyalty is effected by a range of factors, said Miller. While some brands may simply appeal to customers who tend to be less fickle in their tastes, things like the dealership experience, a broad product selection and vehicle quality are big factors.

"I don't think loyalty has to do just with the car or just with the type of customer," said Miller.

Quality and reliability are probably major reasons that Toyota owners stick with the brand, said Miller. "They don't have to worry about the biggest aspect of what's under their butt when they're driving," he said.

The dealership experience, particularly a customer's experience in the service department, is also an important factor, Miller said. Experience with the dealership carries about a third of the weight when deciding whether to stick with, or turn away from, a current vehicle brand, he said.

Polk also measured loyalty to specific vehicle nameplates. For example, the Lincoln Town Car topped the luxury car category among nameplates, with 37 percent of Town Car owners who sold or traded in that car last year getting a new Town Car. (Fleet purchases are not included in Polk's customer loyalty data.)

The Ford F-series pick-up had the most loyal customers of any vehicle, with 39 percent of F-series owners who traded in last year buying another F-series.

Vehicles with most loyal owners

Percent of owners who bought the same vehicle, by name, after selling or trading in.

Small car: Saturn Ion, 24.6 percent

Midsize car: Toyota Camry, 27.1 percent

Large car: Mercury Grand Marquis, 36.1 percent

Luxury car: Lincoln Town Car, 37.2 pct

Prestige luxury car: Lexus LS 430, 32.0 percent

Sports car: Ford Mustang, 17 percent

Prestige sports car: Mercedes-Benz SLK-class, 24.5 percent

Minivan: Chrysler Town & Country, 26.9 percent

Compact pick-up: Toyota Tacoma, 19.5 percent

Full-sized pick-up: Ford F-series, 39 percent

Compact SUV: Subaru Forester, 27.1 percent

Midsized SUV: Lexus RX 300/330/400h, 31.0 percent

Full-size SUV: Chevrolet Suburban, 21.1 percent

Prestige SUV: Land Rover Ranger Rover, 32.9 percent

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