5 Top Car Brands for Driver Loyalty

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- Evidently, all of those people who are buying Hyundai cars have now decided they feel loyalty to the brand.

In a new survey of buyer behavior, Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com said Hyundai, whose Sonata is pictured below, ousted traditional mainstays Honda ( HMC) and Toyota ( TM) to become the No. 1 brand for consumer loyalty during the second quarter.

Following up the top three are fourth-place Ford ( F) and fifth-place Subaru.

Kelley Blue Book said consumers' brand loyalty "has waned during the past year for the majority of vehicle makers, due to the economic downturn and consumers becoming much more aware of issues such as fuel prices, safety recalls, available vehicle options and additional models within their intended price points."

On the brand loyalty scale, Hyundai registered a 52.3%, which is the percentage of Hyundai owners who, during the quarter, shopped for the same brand as their next vehicle. Kelley Blue Book surveys owners who visit kbb.com to research trade-in or private party vehicles by brand as they seek to make a purchase.

Read on for the top five brands.

No. 5: Subaru (Outback)

Subaru features a brand loyalty rating of 44.8%.

The Subaru Outback is an outdoorsy, full-size family wagon that costs $23,195 and gets 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Like the other vehicles pictured in this story, this is the model most often shopped on kbb.com by the brand's current owners.

Through the end of May, Subaru sales were up 7.6% to 112,255, while Outback sales were up 25.2% to 43,325, making Outback the brand's best-selling U.S. model. Second was the Forester with 31,676 units sold.

Subaru expects that 2011 will be its second-best year ever in the U.S., despite production slowdowns due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

No. 4: Ford (Explorer)

Ford rang in with a brand loyalty rating of 45.4%.

The Ford Explorer is not only the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., but also is the best-selling vehicle in 35 of the 50 states. It is also the vehicle most often shopped by Ford owners on kbb.com.

In fact, loyalty to Ford defines many people. In the 1981 anthem, "Are the Good Times Really Over For Good?" Merle Haggard used the brand as a symbol of American values, singing: "Wish a Ford and a Chevy could still last ten years, like they should."

A recent increase in quality at Ford has also boosted loyalty. Among the 50 vehicles, both cars and others, rated in the 2011 J.D. Power dependability study , Toyota received the most awards with seven, while Ford was second with four. (The Lincoln nameplate, counted separately, had two awards, while Lexus and Scion had two each.)

No. 3: Toyota (Camry)

Toyota hit third place, with a brand loyalty rating of 52.3%.

The Toyota Camry is the most popular Toyota, with first-half sales of 147,469. It is also the vehicle most often shopped on kbb.com by Toyota owners.

But Camry is suffering due to Toyota production woes. In June, sales fell 27.7% to 21,375. During the first half of the year, sales fell 5%.

No. 2: Honda (Accord)

Second place in brand loyalty goes to Honda, with 49.7%.

The Honda Accord is the vehicle most often shopped on kbb.com by Honda owners.

Like Toyota, Honda has suffered from production shortages. Accord sales in June declined 42% to 23,955. For the first half of the year, Accord sales declined 35.9% to 131,043. The declines at Honda and Toyota, along with the demand for high mileage cars as gas prices rose, created an opportunity for Hyundai.

No. 1: Hyundai (Sonata)

Hyundai finished first in brand loyalty, as 52.3% of Hyundai owners on kbb.com shopped the same brand for their next vehicle.

Hyundai also finished first in February 2010, but the second quarter marked the first time that Hyundai finished first for an entire quarter.

In the first six months, sales of the Hyundai Sonata rose 28% to 115,014. In June, Sonata sales rose 4% to 18,644.

"Hyundai's product renaissance is benefitting the company not just by attracting an all-new customer base, but by helping them to retain current loyal Hyundai owners, as well," said Arthur Henry, market intelligence manager for Kelley Blue Book, in a prepared statement. "This latest brand loyalty analysis from kbb.com is a testament to the power of attractive vehicle designs and intriguing marketing in the minds of in-market car shoppers as they consider their next vehicle."

Hyundai has benefitted from aggressive marketing campaigns as well as innovative product redesigns for vehicles such as the Sonata and Elantra, the publication said.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed