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What Non-Luxury and Luxury Car Shoppers Consider

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The auto market in recent months has been described as “insane” and “gonzo” — and for good reason. Used vehicles are scarce, meaning price tags have shot up, while computer chip shortages severely impact the supply of new cars.

But despite these high prices and inventory challenges, the Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch report for the second quarter of 2021 revealed that pickup truck and electric vehicle shopping increased. Here are further insights from the report, which broke up findings by non-luxury and luxury vehicles.

SUVs make up the majority of most-shopped non-luxury cars

More than 6 in 10 non-luxury shoppers (64%) considered non-luxury SUVs in the second quarter of 2021, down from the first quarter but still nearly double that of cars. From 67% in the previous quarter, the drop is partly because of a shortage of compact and midsize SUVs.

The percentage of non-luxury shoppers who considered other vehicle types included:

  • Cars (33%)
  • Pickup trucks (31%)
  • Minivans (5%)

Broken down by brand, Toyota remained the leading contender among non-luxury cars for the third year straight, at 33%. This was a slight dip from the 34% in the first quarter.

Ford occupied the second spot for the most-shopped non-luxury brand at 31%, narrowing its gap with Toyota.

Consumers ranked durability/reliability as the top factor in shopping for a car

Non-luxury shoppers were asked to rate certain factors considered when choosing a new vehicle. Here were the full results, in order of importance:

  1. Durability/reliability
  2. Safety
  3. Driving comfort
  4. Affordability
  5. Driving performance
  6. Reputation
  7. Fuel efficiency
  8. Interior layout
  9. Technology
  10. Exterior styling
  11. Ruggedness
  12. Prestige/sophistication

These rankings have largely remained the same over the past five years, but affordability and fuel efficiency have dipped in importance.

Toyota reigned supreme on durability and reliability, as well as reputation, according to the report, while Subaru finished at the top for safety. Honda, meanwhile, placed in the top three in eight of the 12 categories examined.

BMW dominates as the most-shopped luxury brand

Among luxury shoppers, BMW held on as the most-considered brand for the third year straight. In the second quarter of 2021, 23% of luxury consumers shopped for BMWs — a bump up from 20% in the first quarter.

Lexus and Audi tied for the second spot at 19%, followed by:

  • Mercedes-Benz (15%)
  • Tesla (14%)
  • Cadillac (13%)

As with non-luxury shoppers, luxury shoppers cared most about durability and reliability, followed by:

  • Safety
  • Driving comfort
  • Driving performance
  • Reputation

Technology is becoming more important for luxury shoppers, which comes amid a rise in comfort features and technology developments, including electrified propulsion and driver-assist systems. And though fuel prices are on the rise, affordability and efficiency were less critical to luxury shoppers.

In the second quarter, Tesla led in two categories — technology and fuel efficiency — though it’s been the top brand in those categories for more than four years. Mercedes-Benz was the top-ranked luxury car brand in interior layout and prestige/sophistication, placing second for safety, reputation and technology.

As the “Great American Car Shortage” most likely won’t be over for at least several months, consumers shopping for a new car can prepare by doing their research ahead of time. Shoppers should research lenders to find their best auto loan rates. It also never hurts to factor in other costs, including insurance, repairs and maintenance.

Methodology: Kelley Blue Book parent Cox Automotive commissioned an online survey with 3,000 U.S. respondents, fielded between April 1 and June 30, 2021. Cox Automotive has conducted more than 135,000 interviews on brands since 2007 and more than 84,000 interviews on models since 2012.


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