Brand also high on list for future auto buyers
Beijing -Turning so-called intenders - consumers who plan to buy a car in he next 12 months - into actual buyers is the crucial challenge for the marketing departments of automakers, according to the JD Power Asia-Pacific 2010 China New Vehicle Intender Study released early this month.
"The biggest growth opportunity in the China market lies with these vehicle purchase intenders," said Jacob George, managing director of JD Power Asia Pacific in Shanghai. "If successfully converted into buyers, they represent a multi-billion yuan opportunity for the most successful automakers."
Now in its second year, the study examines pre-purchase perceptions and considerations among consumers in China who intend to purchase a new vehicle within the next 12 months.
The study provides insights into brand awareness, purchase considerations, rejection reasons, media usage and psycho-graphic segments, as well as consumer perceptions of various automotive models.
For the first time, the study also includes brand influence, which measures not only how many intenders are aware of a brand, but also how much they favor a brand.
Among the 38 vehicle brands and 105 models included in the study, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz demonstrate particularly high brand influence. Among non-luxury vehicle brands, Buick and two Volkswagen joint-venture brands - FAW-Volkswagen and Shanghai Volkswagen - performed particularly well in brand influence.
Coverting to purchase
"Brands that command high awareness levels and strong favorability tend to have the greatest consideration rates among consumers who intend to purchase a vehicle," said Mei Songlin, general manager of research at JD Power Asia Pacific.
"For automakers to effectively convert purchase intenders into buyers, brand awareness is only a first step - continuously building a strong brand identity to generate favorability among purchase intenders is also essential."
The study found that for consumers who intend to purchase a new vehicle, the top three considerations overall are vehicle comfort, whether the vehicle is easy to handle and the vehicle's exterior styling.
Vehicle safety and reliability also rank among the top 10 considerations overall.
But there is variation between vehicle segments, with intenders who are considering compact and premium compact models placing more importance on price and gas mileage than future buyers who are considering models in other segments.
Intenders who are considering midsize, premium midsize and SUV models place more importance on exterior styling than potential new buyers in other segments.
But in all segments, the most influential consideration is negative word of mouth from family and friends.
The study also finds that the Internet and auto shows are the most effective channels for connecting with and influencing vehicle purchase intenders.
In particular, the Internet is the media most frequently used by purchase intenders to view vehicle advertisements.
When searching for vehicle information on the Internet, purchase intenders most often seek reviews and advice from other consumers. In 2010, reviews and recommendations surpassed price as the searched for type of vehicle information.
Promotions staged at auto shows top other marketing methods because intenders have the opportunity to not only view the actual model they are considering, but also to sit in and perhaps operate the vehicle.
"Understanding which marketing messages click for Chinese vehicle purchase intenders - and what the optimal platform is for delivering those messages - is essential for marketers," said Mei.
"A brand's future success may rely on understanding the selection criteria of intenders and converting them into buyers through a good mix of marketing and brand-building activities."