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Head of the Class: Ford, Mercedes-Benz Named Valedictorians in New Retail Brand Scorecards Study

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Article Highlights

  1. Top scoring brands in the new study include Acura, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota.
  2. Study measures and compares six areas of performance relevant to a franchise dealer’s ability to succeed.
  3. The Retail Brand Scorecards, an annual study launched today at NADA, are compiled by Cox Automotive in association with Automotive News.

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 24, 2019 – As auto dealers from across the country gather in San Francisco for the annual NADA convention, top honors were given to Ford and Mercedes-Benz in the non-luxury and luxury categories, respectively, in a new study released today. The comprehensive study measures and compares core brand attributes that most impact dealer performance.

The Retail Brand Scorecards are compiled by Cox Automotive in association with Automotive News. Scorecards provide a comprehensive and data-driven framework for comparing auto brands, using multiple performance metrics relevant to a franchise dealer’s ability to succeed. Considering both non-luxury and luxury brands, the study indicates which automakers are best in class, above average, or just getting by. The underlying metrics cover key performance indicators across a range of attributes, from consumer brand perceptions and loyalty to product range, shopping traffic and geographic sales consistency.

“This study represents a comprehensive review of brands from a unique perspective—how well they support the success of dealers,” said Cox Automotive Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke. “As we assembled the data and began to see how the brands performed differently, we started looking at the results as grades in high school, where the most well-rounded and high-achieving students are those who perform well across a wide range of disciplines. With that scorecard framework, we found a clear set of brands that are honor-roll worthy, as they are in essence the hardest-working, most successful students.”

In developing the Retail Brand Scorecards, Cox Automotive’s industry analysts assembled data and created metrics to grade automotive brands across six core subjects:

  1. Best Customers: Analyzing segmentation data from Claritas, the team identified a brand’s ability to capture ideal customers—those who, among other traits, are most likely to buy new; buy frequently; obtain financing from the dealership; and return to the dealer for parts and service.
  2. Range of Offerings: Assessing the strength of a brand’s products across the segments driving volume and growth in the market. The more complete the offerings, the more likely a brand will attract the best customers.
  3. Age of Offerings: Grading the “newness” of a brand’s vehicle line-up by looking at specific models and their life cycle. As is well documented in the industry, a fresh product line drives interest and traffic and more profitable sales.
  4. Digital Traffic: Measuring website traffic from Autotrader.com and KBB.com, two of the largest consumer shopping sites – both Cox Automotive properties. This data set grades consumer interest by measuring average new car shopping activity by model.
  5. Shopper Loyalty: Assessing shopper loyalty on KBB.com developed by observing consumers who price a trade-in from one brand and then price a new vehicle from the same brand. Higher shopper loyalty increases the likelihood of satisfied customers and repeat purchases.
  6. Attitudinal: Using data from Kelley Blue Book’s Brand Watch study, all brands are rated in the key attributes that most drive purchase behavior, including reputation, durability, affordability, and safety.

In the study, 20 non-luxury and 14 luxury brands were considered. In either category, the brands were ranked top-to-bottom and then graded on a curve relative to the other brands in the category. As in school, the top grade assigned is an A, the bottom an F. All six attributes were then equally weighted to develop a final score, presented as a grade-point average (GPA). A “straight A” brand would receive a score of 4.0.

Additionally, the analysis identified two other ways in which brand performance could have a positive or negative impact on a dealer. These attributes were judged less important as the subject areas, but extreme performance differences merited bonus or penalty points for the top and bottom brands. The bonus attributes considered were:

  1. Geographic Consistency — Not all brands are consistent in their market share across the country. Some show extreme variation, which can positively or negatively impact dealer performance.
  2. OEM Mandates and Restrictions — Data from the Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index was used to measure the likelihood for dealers to report issues in working with their auto manufacturers.

The Grades are Posted
In the final rankings, strong brands with diverse product lines and consistent performance across the country scored best. Five brands out of the 34 studied—BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota—received straight A’s across the six attributes, although Chevrolet, Ford and Mercedes-Benz received a few A- rankings. Only BMW and Toyota were perfect, 4.0 students.

While all six attributes were equally weighted in the final scores, the analysts at Cox Automotive noted the importance of “Best Customers” and “Attitudinal” scores.

“Customers who are loyal in nature, who are new-car buyers and likely to return for parts and service are key to any dealers’ long-term success,” noted Smoke. “The best customers will always be a consistent source of revenue for a dealer, in good times and bad.”

Additionally, the Attitudinal score measures consumer perception of the brand and the overall strength of the product line. Strong product across many segments, Cox Automotive analysts note, can overcome many shortcomings in the market.

Best Non-Luxury
Toyota landed in second place with an adjusted GPA above 4.0. Toyota receives an A in every subject but falls short of being named valedictorian by not receiving bonus points for Geographic Consistency. Toyota is exceptionally strong in Range (#2), Loyalty (#3) and Attitudinal (#3).

Ford lands best-in-class—valedictorian—in the non-luxury category. The Blue Oval earned an A or A- in every subject, with its highest finish at #4 in Range. What pushes Ford to the top were the extra credit points for both Geographic Consistency and a low number of dealer complaints concerning OEM Mandates and Restrictions.

Best Luxury
Lexus is second-best in the luxury class, receiving an A in every subject except Range, where it received a B+. Lexus is exceptionally strong in Attitudinal (#2), and the brand ranks well in Range (#3) and Loyalty (#4).

On top of the luxury class is Mercedes-Benz. The brand earned perfect A’s in all subjects except Range, where it was awarded a solid A-. Range is also ironically where the brand had its highest finish at #2.

Full detail of the Retail Brand Scorecards, with the top and bottom finishers in each category, can be downloaded here: https://www.coxautoinc.com/market-insights/new-brand-scorecards-study-debuts-at-nada

About Retail Brand Scorecards with Data Powered by Cox Automotive
The annual Retail Brand Scorecards Study measures and compares six performance metrics relevant to a franchise dealer’s ability to succeed. Retail Brand Scorecards are created with data powered by Cox Automotive in association with Automotive News. In the study, 20 non-luxury and 14 luxury brands are considered. To select an overall best-in-class non-luxury and luxury brand, all brands are also assessed in two additional attributes – Geographic Consistency and OEM Mandates and Restrictions.

About Cox Automotive
Cox Automotive Inc. makes buying, selling and owning cars easier for everyone. The global company’s 34,000-plus team members and family of brands, including Autotrader®, Clutch Technologies, Dealer.com®, Dealertrack®, Kelley Blue Book®, Manheim®, NextGear Capital®, VinSolutions®, vAuto® and Xtime®, are passionate about helping millions of car shoppers, 40,000 auto dealer clients across five continents and many others throughout the automotive industry thrive for generations to come. Cox Automotive is a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises Inc., a privately-owned, Atlanta-based company with revenues exceeding $20 billion. www.coxautoinc.com

Media Contacts:
Mark Schirmer
734 883 6346
mark.schirmer@coxautoinc.com

Dara Hailes
470 658 0656
dara.hailes@coxautoinc.com

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