Do drivers prefer to buy cars made in-country?

Christien PhebyContent Manager
April 28, 2021, 8:43 PM UTC

YouGov Profiles data explores global attitudes to homegrown auto manufacturers

The global automotive sector is a multibillion-dollar market – and, in many countries, a source of patriotic pride. In the US, homegrown brands such as Ford have major historic and contemporary significance; in Germany, car manufacturing is almost synonymous with national industry.

A look at four major automotive markets – Germany, Great Britain, the US, and Japan – reveals that car buyer purchase decisions may be influenced by a brand’s country of origin.

This is especially true in Japan, where YouGov’s syndicated data shows that nearly half (48%) of adults with a driver’s licence say they “only buy cars made in [their] country”. Our database shows that, among the country’s drivers, the top five auto brands in terms of Current Customer score – a metric that tracks whether people presently own a vehicle from a particular automaker – are all home-grown: Toyota (27%), Honda (11%), Nissan (11%), Suzuki (7%), and Daihatsu (7%). The best-performing foreign brand is BMW with just 3%. A mere 8% of Japanese drivers think foreign-made cars are of better quality (although, this rises to 22% of those who say they exclusively buy German cars).

In America, two-fifths of the driving population (42%) think foreign cars are better quality - compared to a third (32%) who say they only buy cars made in the US. Of the country’s top five automakers in terms of Current Customer share, three are Japanese (Toyota 16%; Honda 10%; Nissan 8%), though Ford take the top spot (17%) and Chevrolet aren’t far behind in third (15%).

In Britain, the  gap is even more drastic: just 8% say they solely buy vehicles manufactured in-country, while three in ten say cars made abroad are of a better standard (31%). What’s more, those who “buy British” are actually more likely to say foreign cars are higher quality (44%).

What is interesting with Japanese brands is that some of their best-selling models  are actually manufactured in the UK including (according to the AA), Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Auris and Avensis and Nissan’s Juke, Qashqai, Note and Leaf. Either many British drivers are unaware of that fact or they are simply more likely to value brands that are designed elsewhere.

In Germany, home to some of the biggest manufacturers, drivers are more evenly split. A quarter (25%) say they only buy cars made at home (less than in Japan and the US) but 15% still believe that foreign-made cars are better built.

So, the home advantage for automotive brands is clearly quite variable according to the market: in Japan and Germany, a car manufactured in-country may – to some consumers – be a mark of quality; in the US and Britain, the reverse may be true.

YouGov Profiles is based on continuously collected data and rolling surveys, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Profiles data is nationally representative and weighted by age, gender, education, region, and race. Learn more about Profiles.  

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