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car-webRISMEDIA, April 29, 2009-Fifty-five percent of U.S. consumers plan to purchase their next vehicle within the next two years, according to a recent consumer sentiment study conducted online with approximately 1,400 U.S. auto owners by R. L. Polk & Co. The percentage of consumers intending to buy within two years varies by region and is the highest in the Plains states and the lowest in the Great Lakes region.

“With all the doom and gloom in the U.S. auto industry, it’s encouraging that consumers are indicating that they plan to buy a vehicle in the relative near term,” said Lonnie Miller, Polk’s director of industry analysis. “In fact, more than a quarter of consumers we talked to as of the end of March plan to buy a new car or truck within the next year, even better news for automakers struggling to move excess inventory from dealer showrooms.”

In the Plains states (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota), 62% of consumers plan to purchase a new or used vehicle within the next two years, with 32% planning to buy in the next 12 months. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the March unemployment rate in six of the seven states in this region was below the national average of 8.5%, with Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota reporting March unemployment numbers below 5%.

In the Great Lakes region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin), just 51% of consumers say they’ll buy a car or truck within the next two years, the lowest percentage in the country. An inverse link between unemployment and vehicle purchase intention can also be seen in this region. All of the Great Lakes states had March unemployment rates at or above the national average, with Michigan topping the U.S. rate by more than four percentage points.

Polk’s consumer sentiment study contains some positive news for Chrysler, Ford and General Motors: Half of U.S. consumers said they were very or extremely likely to consider a domestic vehicle for their next purchase to support the national economy. Sixty-two percent of drivers in the Rocky Mountain region (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming) would consider a domestic vehicle, the highest percentage in the country.

Consumers in the Great Lakes region and the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas) also indicate above-average willingness to “buy American.” On the other end of the spectrum, only 44% of consumers in the West (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) say they’d consider a domestic vehicle.

“The domestic manufacturers have long struggled to change the mindset of consumers in California and other western states regarding American vehicles. Now that the U.S. automakers are facing so many challenges, getting these consumers to consider an American vehicle is even more of an uphill battle,” said Miller.

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