Japanese Natural Disasters Not Changing Car-Shopping Behavior Yet, Reports Edmunds.com

Japanese Natural Disasters Not Changing Car-Shopping Behavior Yet, Reports Edmunds.com

Japanese Natural Disasters Not Changing Car-Shopping Behavior Yet, Reports Edmunds.com

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — March 24, 2011 — Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for automotive information, reports that American car buyers are showing no change in their shopping behaviors, despite reports of production problems following the earthquake and tsunamis that devastated Japan two weeks ago. The findings indicate that consumers are not showing signs of fear of upcoming price hikes and supply shortages within the auto industry.

An estimated 39 percent of all visitors to Edmunds.com researched at least one Japanese vehicle during the week ending March 20th. The figure was virtually the same as shopper consideration rates prior to the earthquake. This may not come as a shock to many industry analysts: a poll posted on Edmunds' AutoObserver.com found that 68 percent of respondents anticipated no change in consideration for Japanese cars in the wake of the disasters.

"Our shopping and sales data are telling us that not even this devastating earthquake was able to shake consumer confidence in Japanese cars," said Edmunds.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs. "In fact, the natural disasters may actually strengthen the determination of consumers to remain loyal to their Japanese brands."

Japanese car brands already enjoy a high level of loyalty among their American consumers. So far in 2011, 75 percent of Japanese trade-ins in the U.S. were swapped for another Japanese car. The level compares favorably to American (72 percent) and European (46 percent) brand retention rates.

Since the earthquake, consideration for Toyota, Japan's number one automaker, has actually moved up a bit to above 13 percent — compared to about 12.5 percent in the two weeks before the earthquake — while all other Japanese brands have remained flat. The natural disasters have had hardly the negative effects that Toyota endured during its flap with unintended acceleration issues last year, when consideration for the brand tapered off significantly.

Meanwhile, concern over increased Prius demand in reaction to speculative supply shortages and price hikes appear unsubstantiated, at least for now. While the popular hybrid, which is produced exclusively in Japan, has enjoyed a disproportionate surge in consideration on Edmunds.com since the beginning of the year, those levels have flattened in step with gas prices during the last two weeks.

"Production issues are certainly a concern for automakers right now, but consumers aren't thinking about that yet," said Krebs. "Consumers are most influenced by factors that affect them directly, like safety issues and gas prices. Until there's a tangible impact on the buying experience, we're not likely to see any changes in shopping behavior."

For more updates on automotive industry news and analysis, please register to receive the AutoObserver.com newsletter at http://www.edmunds.com/newsletter or visit www.autoobserver.com.

About Edmunds (http://www.edmunds.com/help/about/index.html)

Edmunds publishes Web sites that empower, engage and educate automotive consumers, enthusiasts and insiders. Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for automotive information, launched in 1995 as the first automotive information Web site and hosts the most established automotive community online. Its mobile site, accessible from any smartphone at www.edmunds.com, makes car pricing and other research tools available for car shoppers at dealerships and otherwise on the go. InsideLine.com is the most-read automotive enthusiast Web site. Its mobile site, accessible from any smartphone at www.insideline.com, features the wireless Web's highest quality car photos and videos. AutoObserver.com provides insightful automotive industry commentary and analysis. Edmunds is headquartered in Santa Monica, California, and maintains a satellite office in suburban Detroit. Follow Edmunds.com on Twitter@edmunds and fan Edmunds.com on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/edmunds.

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