The brands and models car shoppers want most—despite inventory levels

Toyota dealers are low on cars. All the same, more American car shoppers consider a Toyota
TM,
-0.38%

than any other brand. Fully 35% of American car shoppers looked closely at buying a Toyota product last quarter, even though Toyota dealers consistently had among the lowest inventory of any car brand.

Low inventory drives high prices. In fact, Toyota has begun to publicly discuss raising prices on its products.

The numbers come from Kelley Blue Book’s third quarter Brand Watch survey — a consumer perception survey that also weaves in shopping behavior to determine how a brand or model stacks up with its segment competitors on a dozen factors key to a consumer’s buying decision.

Kelley Blue Book produces separate reports covering luxury car shoppers and those shopping for hybrids and electric cars. We expect to publish those figures shortly.

Toyota’s lead keeps growing even when they’re low on inventory

Toyota has held the top spot for most of the past five years. So its win is unsurprising in some ways.

The Japanese automaker widened its lead in the third quarter. It now leads second-place Ford
F,
-0.87%

by 5%. Chevrolet came in just behind Ford at 29%. Honda
HMC,
-1.40%

was the only other automaker close at 24%, followed by a gaggle of brands in the 9% to 15% range.

Toyota’s lead is surprising because the world’s largest automaker has been hit hard by the ongoing microchip shortage, COVID-19-related factory shutdowns in Asia, and other supply-chain challenges. Toyota dealers ended October with an average of 10 days’ supply of cars to sell, compared to 28 days for second-place Ford and 26 days for General Motors
GM,
-1.46%
.

Before 2020, it was common for automakers to try to keep at least six weeks’ supply of vehicles in stock.

The number may also represent missed opportunities for many buyers. The supply crisis is not evenly distributed. Automakers with limited supplies are still selling cars for close to sticker price, while some with more cars to sell have returned to heavier discounts.

Don’t miss: Car quality is slipping: These are the brands with the most and least complaints, study finds

The 10 most considered brands

Rank

Brand

Percentage of Shoppers Who Considered It

1

Toyota

35%

2

Ford

30%

3

Chevrolet

29%

4

Honda

24%

5

Hyundai
HYMTF,
+0.81%

15%

6

Kia
000270,
+2.79%

13%

7

Nissan
NSANY,
-1.26%

13%

8

GMC

12%

9

Jeep

12%

10

Subaru
FUJHY,
-2.18%

12%

High gas prices still driving some decisions

High gas prices have driven more shoppers to consider hybrids, electric cars, and even old-fashioned sedans in 2022.

Quarterly consideration growth for the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid soared by 21%, at least partly due to high gas prices. It is consistently the most-shopped electrified vehicle and returned to the top 10 most-shopped of all non-luxury vehicles in the quarter after dropping off at the end of last year. In addition, the Camry, the regular RAV4, and the Tacoma ranked in the top 10.

Shopping consideration for cars has now rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. SUVs and trucks still dominate, but shoppers have been taking a new look at sedans and coupes. Of all non-luxury shoppers, 40% considered a car. A year ago, less than a third considered a car.

Read: Americans’ love affair with pickup trucks might be derailing their retirement plans

Still, SUVs remained the most popular vehicle style. Of all non-luxury shoppers, two-thirds consider an SUV, a level that has held steady for some time. Higher gas prices have shoppers looking at smaller, more fuel-efficient SUVs dominated by Honda and Toyota. Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and RAV4 Hybrid were the most-shopped SUVs, in that order.

The 10 most-considered models:

Rank

Model

1

Ford F-150

2

Chevy Silverado

3

Honda Accord

4

Honda Civic

5

Honda CR-V

6

Toyota Camry

7

Toyota RAV4

8

Toyota Tacoma

9

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

10

Chevy Tahoe

Affordability, fuel efficiency growing more important

The survey also asks shoppers to rank the factors that drive their decision-making. Normally, we see very little shift from quarter to quarter.

Reliability retained the top spot but slipped a bit in importance — possibly because the reliability of most vehicles has been improving in recent years so the risk of buying an unreliable car is fairly low.

Affordability grew in importance as car prices soared and recession threats grew in the third quarter. Fuel efficiency rose in importance, narrowly missing the top five.

Read: These are the cars that cost the most and least to insure

Considerations most important to new car shoppers

Rank

Consideration

1

Durability/Reliability

2

Safety

3

Affordability

4

Driving Comfort

5

Driving Performance

This story originally ran on KBB.com

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