Creating and maintaining brand loyalty in the auto industry is an extremely daunting challenge. But for General Motors, ever since it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, the 110-year-old company has been moving smoothly.

And when it comes to brand loyalty, it’s been life in the fast lane. For the third consecutive year, General Motors earned top manufacturer recognition at HIS Markit’s Loyalty Awards. Meanwhile, for the eighth year in row, Ford strolled away with the top spot in customer loyalty for a specific vehicle make.
 
In the past decade, General Motors has become one of the most technologically advanced carmakers in the world.
 
And that critical brand loyalty piece doesn’t happen overnight. For General Motors, it doesn’t happen without loyal customers staying in the GM family of brands. The company’s customer-centric focus drives its customer loyalty prowess through a combination of products and people.
 
Automotive manufacturers and brands were recognized for superior customer retention and conquest efforts during the 2017 model year (October 2016 through September 2017). IHS Markit analysis found that, with approximately 17.5 million new vehicle registrations during the 2017 model year, 53.6 percent of customers returned to market to purchase or lease another new vehicle from the same manufacturer they already owned.
 
Howard Schneider, Vice President of Loyalty Strategy at Kobie Marketing, talked to Loyalty360 about the difficulty of maintaining long-term brand loyalty in the auto industry.
 
“Cultivating customer loyalty in the automotive industry requires a multifaceted approach centered around the customer experience,” Schneider explained. “It’s critical to create a memorable experience with the brand beyond the initial vehicle purchase, especially for automakers. While it’s not unusual to see a dealer have some form of loyalty program, it is less common for automakers to have a formal program, which makes GM fairly unique in the industry. Through its ‘Preferred Owner Program,’ members earn rewards for every transaction they make at certified GM dealers and can then redeem those points for everything from parts to service to a new vehicle. GM creates affinity with the customer by easing the two biggest pain points for car owners—the initial car purchase and service visits.”
 
Evan Magliocca, brand marketing manager for Baseman Insights & Marketing, told Loyalty360 that General Motors maintains its massive brand loyalty because of the most basic component: The product.
 
“What we often forget about with customer loyalty is that the product is still the main driver of repeat purchases, not marketing, messaging, or creative,” Magliocca explained. “If car models offer long-term value, reliability, and a great experience, customers will be back. GM and Ford both took that idea to heart over the past decade and they’ve invested heavily on those attributes.” 

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