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I wanted to analyze sales trends and look at the impact that GM's decision to discontinue the Saturn brand will have on customer loyalty. More specifically, have Saturn owners defected from GM at a higher rate this year? What are Saturn owners likely to purchase when they return to market for their next new vehicle purchase?

From January 2004 – December 2008 over 56% of Saturn owners were loyal to GM, with nearly 30% defecting to Asian brands. During this same time period Saturn maintained a make loyalty rate of 41%. Incidentally, the Saturn ION won a Polk Automotive Loyalty Award for 4 years straight for the 2004-2007 model years.

While Saturn owners have previously demonstrated strong loyalty towards both the brand and GM as a manufacturer, the story changed dramatically in the first 6 months of 2009. Defections to Asian brands are up 22% and loyalty to GM is down 16%, driven largely by a sharp decline in Saturn brand loyalty. Honda and Chevrolet occupied 3 of the top 10 defection destinations with the Honda Civic being the primary destination of Saturn owner defection.

If the results from the first six months of 2009 are any indication of what we can expect in the future, then less than 50% of current Saturn owners will remain loyal to GM and more than a third will defect to Asian imports with a significant percentage of them choosing Honda.

Posted by Lonnie Miller, Director of Industry Analysis, Polk (11.16.2009)

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