By Bekay Kim
“Intuitions based on one good reason tend to be accurate when one has to predict the future, when the future is difficult to foresee,” said Gerd Gigerenzer, a German psychologist.
Car buyers are increasingly dependent on comparison shopping provided by online portals.
Our study on Google Trends, a service provided by the Internet giant that shows how often a particular search term is entered, suggests that U.S. consumers' interest in the Hyundai brand is rising in a virtuous cycle involving the Sonata and the Elantra named the Avante in Korea.
Automotive potential sentiment (APS) ― a search volume index based on the analysis of Google Trends data ― can be a guide to U.S. consumer car buying behavior shifting across different carmakers and models.
We have been measuring carmakers' performance in attracting prospective customers in comparison to that of Toyota Motor since January 2004. We have also used a comparative index of changes in competing vehicle models’ market positions.
The purpose of the research is to provide investors with an overall picture of demands for major automakers’ key vehicle models based on weekly updated Google Trends data.
One weakness of this method would be the time lag between car buyers’ Internet searches and actual purchases. Nevertheless, Google Trends data show what consumers actively searched on the Internet and thus provide a more accurate forecast than an analysis of online marketing does.
Sonata, Elantra drive virtuous cycle
In the U.S. market, Hyundai Motor's Search Volume Index has been steadily rising from bottom since 2009 in a typical upswing cycle.
Monthly sales volume of the Sonata has doubled since 2010 shortly after the rollout of the Sonata YF; and the Elantra turned in its best U.S. sales performance in 2011. In other words, Hyundai Motor is entering a virtuous cycle driven by the Sonata and the Elantra in an alternating fashion.
The correlation coefficients between Hyundai Motor's APS and the retail sales of Sonata and Elantra are high at 0.688 and 0.704, respectively.
As the next boost to Hyundai Motor's APS, the “2012 Customer Retention Study,” recently released by J.D. Power, ranks Hyundai Motor in the top place in terms of the brand retention rate.
The C-segment also known as compact car and APS show a relatively high correlation coefficient: C-segment models are mainly chosen by consumers aged 40 or younger, the heaviest users of the Internet.
Among Japanese compact car models, Civic displays a high APS while the current hot car models are General Motor’s Cruze and Volkswagen’s Jetta
The D-segment consisting of large family cars shows a lower correlation coefficient than the C segment does. The analysis of the Google Trends data shows that the APS for Nissan Altima is rising while Volkswagen's APS is catching up with GM and Ford in this segment.