To sell a car in the 1980s, dealers had to do little more than open their doors, and loyal buyers would show up to trade in their Chevrolet for a new Chevrolet, or their Toyota for another Toyota.
Nearly four in five Americans were repeat buyers back then, staunchly faithful to brands that they knew, trusted and were part of their self-image. The allegiance often continued through generations of families, like party affiliations in politics.
Now, partly as a result of increasingly fickle consumer tastes and the industry turmoil in Detroit, that hard-won loyalty is largely gone.
So far this year, only about 20 percent of car shoppers stayed with the same brand when they purchased a new vehicle, according to a study by the Oregon-based firm CNW Marketing Research.
As a result, the industry is seeing the kind of churn it hasn’t witnessed since Japanese manufacturers began making inroads in the American market more than 30 years ago…
Just five years ago, Chevrolet and Ford sat comfortably atop the United States market, each with more than a 16 percent share. Chrysler had three brands — Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep — in the top 10.
Today, the Toyota brand leads the pack with slightly more than 14 percent, followed by Ford, Chevrolet, and the Honda and Nissan brands. The Chrysler brand and G.M.’s soon-to-be-discontinued Pontiac brand have fallen out of the Top 10 — replaced by two South Korean brands, Hyundai and Kia.
“Today, people are very focused on value,” said Jeremy Anwyl, president of the car-research Web site Edmunds.com…
That change in the marketplace goes back to the arrival of the Japanese. Now, other Asian manufacturers – soon to be followed by more – arrive with the same ethic.
It took U.S. manufacturers years to lose the foolishness of planned obsolescence. Most U.S. consumers figured that crap out before they did.
There still are fools who prate about cheap Chinese this-or-that as they did about flimsy Japanese this-or-that. But, anyone who buys a brand-name TV set or computer has already made a decision that took them beyond politically-satisfying myths.