What’s behind these changes in buying habits is the steady improvement in reliability across all the brands selling vehicles in the U.S., the research firm said.
Shoppers who in the past might have gravitated to brands with the highest reliability ratings now have enough confidence to choose from many brands, the study said.
“Improved actual and perceived reliability has leveled the playing field, allowing many manufacturers to be considered among new vehicle shoppers that may not have been considered in the past,” said Jon Osborn, research director at J.D. Power and Associates.
“The study findings suggest that marketing a brand image is just as important as building reliable vehicles,” he said.
With they reliability concerns satisfied, new-vehicle shoppers considered an average of 3.3 vehicles in 2013, compared with 3.1 in 2012 and 2.9 in 2010.
In its research, J.D. Power looked at survey responses from approximately 31,000 owners who registered a new vehicle in May 2012. The study was fielded between August and October 2012.
The study found that only 17% of new-vehicle shoppers avoid a model due to its reputation for reliability, compared with 19% in 2012 and 21% in 2009.
This reflects a measurable improvement in vehicle quality, J.D. Power said. Its other studies have found that the average number of problems per 100 vehicles after three years of ownership has decreased to 132 in 2012 from 170 in 2009.
In other findings, the research firm said the styling of a particular car model and the image it portrays are among the primary reasons new-vehicle shoppers avoid particular models.
One-third of shoppers reported avoiding a model because they didn’t like its exterior look or design. Another 19% rejected a vehicle because of its interior look or design. And 17% said they rejected a car because of its brand image.
“The impact that design and brand image have on new-vehicle shoppers is substantial,” said Osborn. “Shoppers are concerned about what the vehicle says about them as people and how it can express their individual tastes, just as much as it is about being reliable or holding its value throughout the tenure of ownership.”