Demand for luxury vehicles weakens on bleak financial outlook

Oct 17, 2011

Almost one in three luxury car owners have a more negative attitude toward purchasing another luxury vehicle in the future — this according to a recent survey conducted by TNS, a global leader in market information. With the unknown future of the European debt crisis, continued economic concerns throughout the U.S. and the potential of slower growth in global auto supplier markets, consumers’ fears are building concerns that past sales growth could wane.

Among luxury vehicle owners whose attitude toward the segment has been negatively impacted, the most common reason cited focuses on the current and future affordability of ownership (74%), with insurance and maintenance (43%) also being cited as a pivotal concern for future purchase. “Clearly the high visibility of the recent debt crisis and the ensuing mayhem in the financial markets is causing negative sentiment toward the luxury vehicle segment,” says William Bruno, vice president for TNS. “What is most telling is the similar level of negative attitudes expressed by a large portion of existing luxury vehicle owners, as well as non-owners who aspire to own luxury vehicles.”

It’s more than an emotional connection: perceptions may not equate with reality

According to the survey, 19% of luxury vehicle owners showing negative attitudes cited the lack of fuel economy in most luxury brands as being the reason they were shifting away from a future purchase. “The high focus on fuel economy is surprising to us, because according to our research, many luxury brands offer competitive gas mileage when compared to similarly equipped, non-luxury, mid-sized vehicles,” said Bruno. “The overall perceptions aren’t matching up with reality and this is great opportunity for marketers and manufacturers to continue demonstrating the real economics associated with luxury brands.”

Based on the results of TNS’ recent study, this strong reliance on perception is only likely to grow, as 13% of respondents cite an inappropriate or “out-of-tune” image as being the main reason for steering clear of buying a luxury brand vehicle. “The consumer mind-set has changed. While car manufacturers may have historically reached potential consumers by meeting the emotional needs and lifestyle desires of their consumers, basic performance measures are making a stronger impact on future purchase decisions. Manufacturers will need to continue reinforcing their economic and functional product advantages in the minds of consumers,” concluded Bruno.