Big 3 Reverse Cross-Shop: Headway!

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For years, the so-called import nameplates gained market share by attracting domestic brand shoppers.  Many in the industry feel that with stable Big 3 finances and better products the reverse is now happening: import shoppers are increasing the extent to which they cross-shop Big 3 products.  To investigate, Compete analyzed reverse cross-shop rank for Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge over time.  Reverse cross-shop measures the prominence of a given brand among shoppers of a rival brand.  Our preliminary findings were reported earlier in an AutomotiveNews article.

This analysis leverages Compete’s proprietary in-market automotive shopper metrics, which are based on unique consumers (i.e., no double-counting/false positives).  Shopping behavior is based on lower funnel shopping activity across 40+ third-party automotive sites, though Compete tracks behavior across the internet. All leverage Compete’s patented normalization technology.

Nissan, Toyota, Honda Cross-Shop Key Domestic Brands More

Compete calculated the average cross-shop rank for Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge among shoppers of Nissan, Toyota, and Honda.  (Read as: in February 2006 Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge on average ranked #4 in the Nissan cross-shop set).  A higher rank means Nissan, Toyota, and Honda shoppers are also shopping the Big 3 brands more.  Ranks are based on relative cross-shop shares–#1 rank has the highest share.

From 2006 to 2009, reverse-cross-shop of the included domestics trended down, including some notable divots in the summer of 2008 as gas prices reached all-time highs.  However, from 2010 the included Big 3 brands have made clear headway—at least among Toyota and Nissan shoppers.  Over the past several months, the average cross-shop rank of the included Big 3 brands among Toyota and Nissan shoppers has often been #4 or higher—as high as 3.33 among Toyota shoppers in June 2011.

The Big 3’s penetration of Honda has been less impressive, with average reverse cross-shop rank changing little.  The simple perspective is that Honda has fewer products that are compatible with Big 3 products.  Notably, Nissan and Toyota each have a full-size pickup; Honda’s Ridgeline is smaller and arguably cut from a different cloth.  It is  also less of a force in the marketplace.  Even without accounting for differences in product types, Big 3 reverse cross-shop rank among Honda shoppers has been higher in the past 12 months than in the 12 preceeding, which may reflect the Big 3’s growing strength in small cars.

Cross-Shop Crosshairs

Cross-shop rank at the brand level documents overall success among the included Big 3 brands.  However, odds are good that the gains are not uniform across products and brands.  Honing in on the true successes—and challenges—requires a deeper look.  Here’s what we recommend:

  • Adjust brand-level results to recognize differences in products.  This could include repeating the analyses while excluding consumers that only shopped large pickup shoppers (such as for Honda) and/or that only shopped minivans (as Ford and GM no longer offer those).
  • Repeat the analyses at the model level—such as detail how domestic products track among shoppers of Accord, Camry, and Altima.
  • Include other domestic brands—such as Chrysler, Jeep, Lincoln, Cadillac, GMC, and Buick.  Include other non-Big 3 brands, such as Hyundai, Mazda, VW and Kia and luxury brands (you’d be surprised where Cadillac models appear).
  • Evaluate the extent to which changes in cross-shop patterns
  • Assess the extent to which recent gains by Chevrolet, Dodge, and Ford are truly organic vs. simply those brands picking up cross-shop activity that used to go to now-discontinued Big 3 brands like Saturn, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Mercury.


About Lincoln Merrihew:
Lincoln Merrihew is the Senior Vice President of Transportation at Millward Brown Digital. At Millward Brown Digital, Lincoln is responsible for steering the Transportation Team, which encompasses the automotive and travel practices. Before Lincoln joined the Millward Brown Digital team, he worked at TNS Custom leading the Automotive team, and then continued on there to lead business development for 10 different industry verticals. Lincoln's career aspiration is to create game-changing solutions and insights. Connect with Lincoln on LinkedIn.