COSTA MESA, Calif.—Subaru ranked highest among mass-market brands—and overall—in loyalty, while Lexus topped luxury brands in the first J.D. Power U.S. Automotive Brand Loyalty Study.
Owners of foreign-brand vehicles were more likely than owners of domestic marques to buy or lease a vehicle of the same brand as they traded in, the study found.
Subaru retained 61.5 percent of its owners, followed by Toyota at 59.5 percent and Honda at 57.7 percent. Rounding out the top five mass-market brands were Ram at 56.2 percent and Ford at 54 percent.
"Subaru meets its owners where they are and provides reliable and affordable transportation," said Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics at J.D. Power. "In many ways, Subaru transcends economics. Celebrities, academics, outdoorsy types, your cousin back East all drive Subaru. But in reality, only one Subaru model even starts above $30,000 MSRP—the recently launched Ascent. The rest are all $27,000 or below."
He added: "At a time when most SUVs are designed to look like they cross a river to get to the mall, Subaru exudes authenticity with owners who need all-wheel drive to reach destinations far from pavement."
Aside from Ram, Ford and No. 7 Chevrolet, several domestic mass-market brands were toward the middle or bottom of the loyalty rankings, including Buick at 28.3 percent, Dodge at 16.8 percent and Chrysler at 14.4 percent.
The study measures whether an owner bought or leased a new vehicle of the same brand as the customer's trade-in. Loyalty is based on the percentage of owners who choose the same brand. The study's calculations are based on transactions from June 2018 through May 2019 and include all model years traded in.
J.D. Power's study is similar to IHS Markit's annual Automotive Loyalty Awards program, which has been recognizing brand loyalty by automaker and nameplates for 23 years, including General Motors' four-year winning streak recognition in January.
In J.D. Power's study, Lexus ranked highest among luxury brands at 47.6 percent loyalty, followed by Mercedes-Benz at 44.2 percent, BMW at 43.6 percent and Porsche at 43.5 percent.
Lexus was led by its ability to retain SUV and crossover customers, said Jominy, and it's the only brand to feature three models in the top 10 in loyalty—the RX, NX and ES.
"Remarkably RX loyalty, with addition of the third-row variant, is nearly twice as high as the next closest competitor," Jominy said. "Consumers appreciate the blend of luxury and value that brand offers. While Lexus doesn't offer as many niche products as its competitors or anywhere near the optional powertrains and body styles found in the luxury space, consistency is a common theme for the brand."