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GM Scores High in Owner Loyalty

July 21, 1998

FLINT, Mich. (AP) _ General Motors Corp. has the most loyal customers among major automakers, according to a study released Monday. But company officials worry that the strikes against GM may severely test that loyalty.

``The reality is even the most loyal customers won’t stay loyal forever,″ GM marketing spokeswoman Anne Marie Sylvester said. ``It’s just common sense. If you need a vehicle you need a vehicle.″

While GM says most of its dealers still have plenty of cars to choose from, if the strikes continue through the end of the month those stocks likely will be depleted. Many popular truck models and some cars already are in short supply, depending on the location.

That’s because the strikes at two Flint parts plants have virtually shut down GM’s North American production since late June. The walkouts came just as GM’s sales were improving.

The seminannual owner-loyalty study by The Polk Co. showed GM significantly improved its loyalty rankings in the first six months of the year. It led all manufacturers with a 69.7 percent loyalty rating, which means that percentage of GM households that bought or leased a new car during that period stuck with a GM product.

GM’s rating compared with an average for all automakers of 57.6 percent, and was up from 68.8 percent in the 1997 model year.

``General Motors took action to build brand image and loyalty during the 1998 model year and its efforts proved to be successful,″ said Karen Piurkowski, a managing director at Polk.

Polk said the ratings do not reflect the effects of the strikes and GM’s ``owner loyalty″ rebate program in the second quarter. But Glenn Forbes, a Polk vice president, said the strike is bound to have an effect.

``Prolonged contract negotiation efforts and depleted supplies of inventory on dealer lots will translate into lost customers,″ Forbes said. ``The industry emphasizes customer loyalty because winning customers back is so costly and difficult.″

GM and Ford Motor Co. each led in four of nine product categories. Honda held the other top spot.

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