Style, reputation are big factors in buying a car

Auto makers tout gas mileage and safety to sell cars. But a big reason most buyers choose one model over another is reputation and perception. Here, the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro convertible at the 2011 Washington Auto Show Jan. 27, 2011.

Kai Ryssdal: People who're in the market for a new car usually offer up a fairly standard list of particulars: Reliability, good mileage, high satisfaction ratings.

I got news for you. A new study suggests a good number of you are, well, lying. And that you decide largely on looks and feel.

Marketplace's Scott Tong can relate.


Scott Tong: The spouse in my house has minivan prejudice. She’s a soccer mom. But says she refuses to look like one.

Negative car perceptions are strong. I found out at today’s Washington Auto Show.

Salesperson: We have our six-way power seats with lumbar adjustments.

Salespersons talk up vehicle pluses. But carshopper Eric Strass has brand minuses in his mind.

Eric Strass: I would be very perhaps reluctant to buy a some brands. You might have to convince me that it’s worth buying a certain brand.

He didn’t say which brand.

Nor did this man, who gave his name simply as Marty. Does he diss any brands?

Marty: There are a few. There are a few. But for the most part I just, I love cars. So I just come here and I’m just like a kid in the candy store when I come here.

JD Power’s Jon Osborn says in the new survey, 43 percent of car buyers avoid a particular model -– not because of data, but because of 'eww.'

Jon Osborn: Most people said you know what, that’s what generally people know about that knowledge. It’s general hearsay. Or it’s tribal knowledge, if you will.

Which brands need to turn around the tribal chatter? Osborn says Jaguar and Lincoln have reputations for being unreliable.

Osborn: Yet their reliability scores are actually very good. They’re in the top five brands.

Now to remake the minivan image at home. We shall overcome.

In Washington, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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