While exterior vehicle styling is the primary reason consumers avoid certain models during the new-vehicle shopping process, models that inspire a "love it or hate it" attitude in terms of styling often have a sales advantage, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2003 Avoider Study(SM) released Oct. 9. The inaugural study investigates why consumers fail to consider (that is, avoid) particular models when shopping for a new vehicle. In addition, the study identifies the level of awareness consumers have of certain models. The study finds that exterior styling is by far the most frequently stated reason shoppers avoid particular models. However, models with controversial styling that polarize opinions, such as the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevrolet Avalanche and Infiniti FX, often sell quicker and at a higher profit margin than models that fail to generate passion in either direction. On average, "love it or hate it" models move off dealer lots four days faster and at a $609 higher profit margin than models that are neither purchased nor avoided due to styling. "It's better to polarize some shoppers than to generate mass apathy," said Chris Denove, partner at J.D. Power and Associates. "There is nothing wrong with a model that has a high rate of avoidance due to styling, provided this is offset by a significant number of shoppers who purchase the model because of styling. Of course, if given a choice, I'd rather create designs like the Jaguar S-Type or Infiniti G-35 Coupe, which offer the type of styling that is universally liked and rarely avoided." The top 10 reasons consumers avoid vehicles are: styling; reliability concerns; cost; too small; poor quality; resale value; lack of incentives; poor performance; maintenance costs; and "too big." Shoppers avoid specific vehicles because of their perceptions, even if those perceptions differ from reality. For example, BMW and Mercedes-Benz models are frequently avoided because shoppers feel they cost too much to maintain. This is a case where perception does not match reality because both brands provide free maintenance to buyers. Perceptions of reliability tend to follow the brand rather than individual models in the brand. For example, Korean and domestic brands have the highest rates of avoidance due to reliability concerns. "Perceptions are powerful among new-vehicle shoppers," said Denove. "Reliability is critical to new-vehicle shoppers, and manufacturers can suffer from poor reputations for reliability long after they make improvements in quality. The key is in effectively communicating vehicle strengths to consumers in order to close the gap between perception and reality." The study also finds that personal experiences with manufacturers play an important role in why certain makes are avoided. More than one out of 10 vehicles consumers failed to consider were specifically avoided because of either their own bad experience or a friend telling them not to purchase that vehicle. "This should serve as a wake-up call to manufacturers on the dangers of not satisfying their customers," said Denove. "Personal experiences, whether it be the buyer's own experiences or those of people they know, are the most influential sources of information buyers use during the shopping process. The choice is simple -- satisfy your customers today or pay a small fortune in incentives to get people into the showroom the next time around." The 2003 Avoider Study is based on responses from 27,241 owners who registered a new vehicle in January or February of 2003. About J.D. Power and Associates Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is an ISO 9001-registered global marketing information services firm operating in business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction. For more information, visit www.jdpower.com.