Toyota dealers are low on cars. All the same, more American car shoppers consider a Toyota
than any other brand. Fully 35% of American car shoppers looked closely at buying a Toyota product last quarter, even though Toyota dealers consistently had among the lowest inventory of any car brand.
Low inventory drives high prices. In fact, Toyota has begun to publicly discuss raising prices on its products.
The numbers come from Kelley Blue Book’s third quarter Brand Watch survey — a consumer perception survey that also weaves in shopping behavior to determine how a brand or model stacks up with its segment competitors on a dozen factors key to a consumer’s buying decision.
Kelley Blue Book produces separate reports covering luxury car shoppers and those shopping for hybrids and electric cars. We expect to publish those figures shortly.
Toyota’s lead keeps growing even when they’re low on inventory
Toyota has held the top spot for most of the past five years. So its win is unsurprising in some ways.
The Japanese automaker widened its lead in the third quarter. It now leads second-place Ford
by 5%. Chevrolet came in just behind Ford at 29%. Honda
was the only other automaker close at 24%, followed by a gaggle of brands in the 9% to 15% range.
Toyota’s lead is surprising because the world’s largest automaker has been hit hard by the ongoing microchip shortage, COVID-19-related factory shutdowns in Asia, and other supply-chain challenges. Toyota dealers ended October with an average of 10 days’ supply of cars to sell, compared to 28 days for second-place Ford and 26 days for General Motors
Before 2020, it was common for automakers to try to keep at least six weeks’ supply of vehicles in stock.
The number may also represent missed opportunities for many buyers. The supply crisis is not evenly distributed. Automakers with limited supplies are still selling cars for close to sticker price, while some with more cars to sell have returned to heavier discounts.
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The 10 most considered brands
Percentage of Shoppers Who Considered It
High gas prices still driving some decisions
High gas prices have driven more shoppers to consider hybrids, electric cars, and even old-fashioned sedans in 2022.
Quarterly consideration growth for the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid soared by 21%, at least partly due to high gas prices. It is consistently the most-shopped electrified vehicle and returned to the top 10 most-shopped of all non-luxury vehicles in the quarter after dropping off at the end of last year. In addition, the Camry, the regular RAV4, and the Tacoma ranked in the top 10.
Shopping consideration for cars has now rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. SUVs and trucks still dominate, but shoppers have been taking a new look at sedans and coupes. Of all non-luxury shoppers, 40% considered a car. A year ago, less than a third considered a car.
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Still, SUVs remained the most popular vehicle style. Of all non-luxury shoppers, two-thirds consider an SUV, a level that has held steady for some time. Higher gas prices have shoppers looking at smaller, more fuel-efficient SUVs dominated by Honda and Toyota. Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and RAV4 Hybrid were the most-shopped SUVs, in that order.
The 10 most-considered models:
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Affordability, fuel efficiency growing more important
The survey also asks shoppers to rank the factors that drive their decision-making. Normally, we see very little shift from quarter to quarter.
Reliability retained the top spot but slipped a bit in importance — possibly because the reliability of most vehicles has been improving in recent years so the risk of buying an unreliable car is fairly low.
Affordability grew in importance as car prices soared and recession threats grew in the third quarter. Fuel efficiency rose in importance, narrowly missing the top five.
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Considerations most important to new car shoppers
This story originally ran on KBB.com.