It's more or less what many would expect, but JD Power's 'Avoider' study confirms that it's the younger buyers in the US who tend to go for import models over domestics.

While older buyers who purchase domestic vehicles are more likely to avoid purchasing certain models because they are imports, younger consumers who purchase import vehicles are more likely to avoid models because they are of domestic origin, according to the JD Power and Associates 2007 Avoider Study released today.

The study, now in its fifth year, examines the reasons consumers fail to consider particular models when shopping for a new vehicle, and finds that pro-domestic and pro-import purchase sentiment is strongly tied to the buyer's age.  Among import buyers for example, the younger the person is, the more likely they are to avoid models because they are of domestic origin.

The study also finds that the North Central region of the United States (as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau), contains the highest proportion (41%) of domestic vehicle buyers who do not consider import brands during the shopping process.  Vehicle styling and cost are the two most frequently reported reasons that consumers give for avoiding import brands.

Conversely, the Northeast and the West regions contain the highest proportions of buyers of import vehicles who say they avoid specific models because they are domestic in origin.  The most frequently cited reasons given for avoiding a domestic brand are concerns about reliability, poor quality and depreciation.  A greater proportion of these import buyers also mention poor gas mileage as a reason for avoiding domestic models.

"Many buyers continue to have unfavourable impressions of domestic models due to concerns about quality, reliability and depreciation issues, even though the quality of many of these domestic products is on par with or exceeds that of their import counterparts," said Jon Osborn, research director at J.D. Power and Associates. 

"Domestic manufacturers need to get this message out in front of younger buyers and convince them to put their models on their shopping list."

The study finds that gas mileage is the most frequently mentioned reason for purchasing a vehicle, while it remains the seventh most frequently cited reason for avoiding a particular vehicle model. Buyers tend to avoid non-premium brands more often due to poor gas mileage, compared with premium makes. However, customer perceptions of poor gas mileage, rather than actual data regarding fuel economy performance, may influence these avoidance decisions.

"As an example, the HUMMER H3 is the most-avoided model in its segment, with 21 percent of buyers saying that they would not consider buying this model and many citing poor gas mileage as a reason," said Osborn. "However, EPA fuel economy estimates for the HUMMER H3 are very similar to those of other midsize utility vehicles, such as the Jeep Commander and Chrysler Aspen, which have much lower rates of avoidance. The perception that the HUMMER model gets worse gas mileage than other comparable models may be strongly influencing consumer decisions to exclude it from consideration—especially since gas prices have remained high. Changing customer perceptions by educating buyers about this model's fuel efficiency performance may help to lower its avoidance rates."

The study results include the following key findings:

  • Buyers are making avoidance decisions based on consumer-generated information found on the Internet, with consumer reviews most often cited as a source leading to avoidance, followed by expert reviews and manufacturer site information.
  • While gas mileage is a prominent reason for vehicle purchase decisions, wanting an environmentally friendly vehicle is one of the least-cited reasons for purchasing.
  • Younger buyers are more apt to indicate gas mileage as a reason for purchasing, compared with their older counterparts.

The 2007 Avoider Study is based on responses from more than 35,000 owners who registered a new vehicle in May 2007.