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A Study on Why We Love Some Cars

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author photo by Autotrader December 2010

There are car marques whose dealers we drive right past to get to another. Compulsive pollsters J.D. Power and Associates think they know why, and have published the results in their 2010 Avoider Study.

One of the major factors that make us choose one car over another is the look. Of the 25,000 new-car buyers questioned, 35 percent – the largest single slice – gave styling as the reason why they would avoid certain brands.

“Styling is the number-one hurdle to consideration,” said Kerri Wise, director of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates. “If consumers don’t like a vehicle’s styling, they just won’t put it on their shopping list.” However, if someone likes a certain vehicle’s looks, they are more likely to ignore other possible faults. “Styling encourages passion and makes them overlook the negative,” said Wise.

The kinds of cars with passionate fans are the Corvette, Mustang and Porsche 911. But it isn’t just sports cars. That would be too predictable. The Mini Cooper inspires similar feelings. And there’s also the Nissan Cube.

Cars like the Cube have something else going for them – call it the polarizing effect. The past-generation BMW 5 Series is another example. “It’s love it or hate it,” said Wise. “They are both avoided and loved because of styling.” Cars like these “create buzz and move up the consideration lists.”

Once cars are on the buyer’s list, the next big obstacle is purchase price, an issue for 23 percent of respondents and proof that survey companies are adept at stating the obvious and making it sound important. Among premium brands, the overall cost of ownership also plays a part, despite companies like BMW, Jaguar and Volvo offering free scheduled maintenance programs.

Close behind, at 20 percent, comes reliability. Then interior design with 19 percent. Considering people spend most of their driving-related time in a car rather than looking at it from the outside – and given that comfort and ergonomics are important – it’s perhaps surprising that this figure isn’t higher.

In fifth place is reputation, a problem for 16 percent of buyers. “Recent safety recalls have clearly caused some consumers to be hesitant in considering certain brands,” said Wise, who wasn’t mentioning any names.

All this bears out in the real world. Two brands with bumper sales in the United States in 2010 are Audi and Hyundai. Both are perceived to have been much improved in terms of reliability in yet another J.D. Power survey, but it’s interesting that each company’s designs are fresh and generally well liked. The Audi A5 has one of the best resale values according to Kelley Blue Book, underlining its desirability. And the Sonata, a prime example of Hyundai’s current styling approach, is selling at a 64-percent higher rate than this time last year.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
A Study on Why We Love Some Cars - Autotrader