Everybody loves awards, because who doesn't enjoy beating out competitors and winning things? The automotive industry has a plethora of magazines, news outlets and bloggers, and that means there is no shortage of awards for vehicles and automakers. However, one set of awards investors should look to with great interest is IHS Automotive's loyalty awards because it's based on hard facts, rather than the opinions that many awards are based on.
The 20th Annual Automotive Loyalty Awards brought from IHS Automotive had some interesting winners, to be sure. Let's take a look at the methodology behind the awards, highlights from winners. and what it all means for investors.
How it works
The Automotive Loyalty Awards judge the manufacturers and brands for customer retention and conquest efforts for the 2015 model year (October 2014-September 2015). According to IHS Automotive, this year's awards are based on its analysis of nearly 17.5 million new vehicle registrations, and consumer loyalty is determined when a household that owns a new vehicle returns to the market and purchases or leases another new vehicle of the same make, model, or manufacturer.
Taking home Overall Loyalty to Manufacturer was General Motors, while Ford owned the top spot for Overall Loyalty to Make. What's interesting was that IHS Automotive's analysis showed that Ford was the only brand that achieved a loyalty rate of more than 60% during the 2015 model year. Ford couldn't extrapolate that success to win Overall Loyalty to Manufacturer because its Lincoln brand scored lower, and the average of GM's four brands ended up higher.
In total, Ford took home four category awards, including the F-Series winning Non-Luxury Full-Size Half-Ton Pickup and the Mustang winning Non-Luxury Sport Mid-Size Car. GM also took home four categories, including its Corvette winning for Luxury Sport car and its Colorado winning Non-Luxury Mid-Size Pickup.
Even Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) got in on the action this year. Tesla was honored for Most Improved Conquest Percentage and Most Improved Loyalty to Make. That's noteworthy to investors of the relatively new manufacturer and shows the electric vehicle automaker can indeed compete in the mainstream market by conquesting customers from mainstream automakers while retaining its own. This will be a really intriguing development to watch going forward as the Model X, and eventually its Model 3, will be able to compete for individual awards, and as the company attempts to move from Most Improved awards to Overall winner.
Not to be left out as the third Detroit automaker -- yes, I still refer to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE:FCAU) as a Detroit automaker -- FCA's Jeep brand did quite well. The Jeep brand took home four awards on its own, including the award for Highest Conquest Percentage with a 27.8% conquest rate. That essentially means more consumers traded in their vehicle for a Jeep than any other brand. Jeep's Wrangler and Grand Cherokee also won the awards for Non-Luxury Compact SUV and Non-Luxury Mid-Size SUV, respectively. What's interesting here is that in recent years, Jeep has consistently checked in at the low end of vehicle quality surveys, but this shows that consumers really don't mind the quality issues because they keep trading their vehicles in for Jeep vehicles.
What's the big deal?
"With the number of consumers returning to market expected to peak in 2017, and conquest efforts and competition on the rise, an increased level of focus will be required to continue driving higher volumes of loyal customers in the market," said Steve Had -- vice president, sales and marketing solutions from IHS Automotive, according to a press release.
Investors know that incentives and discounts are a part of selling vehicles, that's just how the automotive industry works. When those incentives rise because of increasing competition to gain sales over competitors, or because a lack of consumer demand forced automakers to dish out larger discounts, it means profits can erode quickly.
Savvy investors should take note which brands hold a higher loyalty rate, because it should give those automakers a slight advantage when it comes to keeping incentives in check, and that indirectly means more bottom-line profits. That's important at a time when many analysts are saying the U.S. automotive industry is near, or already at, peak annual automotive sales.