Trust is Next Frontier in Luring Car Shoppers

If carmakers establish trust customer loyalty and advocacy follow

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Most of us feel comfortable buying products from companies we trust. When shopping for a big-ticket item like an automobile, car buyers would certainly prefer to trust the manufacturers and dealers purveying the vehicles. But according to the just-released “Trusted Automotive Brand Study” from AMCI, the level of trust is tenuous. The study honors brands in four separate categories. But at the same time, the auto industry seriously lags other industries in garnering consumer trust, the study found.

Building trust can build car sales

“The auto industry has been chasing satisfaction for decades now,” said Ian Beavis, AMCI’s chief strategy officer. “But the industry is still putting $4,000 on each car to persuade people to buy. What we’ve found is satisfaction is not nearly the driver of loyalty and advocacy that trust is.”

Trust a powerful human emotion, and an emotion that is closely tied to buying decisions. If consumers don’t trust the product, the maker of the product or the retailer of the product, they are far less likely to buy than if they have trust in those three aspects. It has never been more important to the auto industry than now, Beavis said. The role of an automotive brand is changing as electrification, autonomy and mobility services become more and more important aspects of each brand’s mission.

Auto industry lags other industries in trust

After viewing the results of the survey, it is obvious that the auto industry has a great deal of work to do. The study found the “Trust Indices” of the top automotive brands are below 50 on a 100-point scale with 1 being least-trusted and 100 being most-trusted. This means carmakers lag behind many other consumer product and retail categories, not a winning position as they seek to sell high-cost vehicles. Worse still, the study saw an erosion of trust this year versus the previous year, particularly among luxury brands and with both luxury and non-luxury dealers. In a time when the consumer seeks trustworthy brands more than ever, the auto industry appears to be backsliding.

“Trust is an emotional measure,” Beavis said. “The industry builds things; it is used to working with things. But to build trust it must rely on the human element.”

In spite of the general trend, some brands make positive strides. The recipients of AMCI’s 2018 Trusted Automotive Brand Study® awards are:

Most Trusted Luxury Brands – Genesis, Infiniti, Tesla

Most Improved Luxury Brands – Acura, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz

Most Trusted Non-Luxury Brands – Chevrolet, GMC, Kia

Most Improved Non-Luxury Brands – Chevrolet, Honda, Volkswagen

This is the second year Genesis and Kia have been industry trust leaders.

2018 Kia Soul
2018 Kia Soul

“Genesis is doing a number of things that is setting the brand apart,” Beavis said. “They are doing things on consumers’ terms. Kia has been on a longer path for some time now. They are managing product expectations, and Kia dealers are exceeding expectations, as does the product.”

Chevrolet’s performance in 2018 shows that large, established brands who focus on trust can achieve great results, Beavis said.

“Chevy has improved a lot,” he said. “Their advertising has been very consumer-focused. It breaks a mold.”

Building trust has already been demonstrated to deliver positive business results. Most companies strive for owner loyalty and customer enthusiasm, and trust is a keystone to building those behaviors, Beavis said.