Investigating the antecedents and consequences of vehicle buyers' brand attachment behaviour
The South African automotive industry is faced with the challenge of consumers losing confidence in their vehicle brands and becoming detached from the industry. The present tumultuous economic climate in South Africa, the growing number of light passenger vehicles available to consumers, recent malfunctioning scandals, and the introduction of various alternative modes of transport, all contributes towards to consumers feeling detached from the industry. Since the South African automotive industry is characterised as a competitive industry, it is increasingly important for vehicle brands to pursue the development and maintaining of consumers' brand attachment, in order to help them to differentiate themselves from competitors by the strength of their consumers' attachment towards their brands. The literature investigation uncovered that vehicle brands need to cultivate their consumers' brand attachment to ensure that their brand will be sustainable. Therefore, the primary objective of this study was to determine the factors that influence buyers' attachment to vehicle brands, and whether buyers' brand attachment has a significant influence on their purchase intention and willingness to also pursue extensions of the vehicle brand. The study implemented a descriptive quantitative research design, and used non-probability convenience sampling to collect data from consumers who reside in Gauteng, who own a vehicle, and who plan to remain with their current vehicle brand when purchasing a new vehicle. A computer-administered questionnaire was distributed to public and closed community groups on Facebook (within Gauteng), resulting in a total of 322 usable questionnaires. The data analysis included assessing the validity and reliability of the scales, the calculation of descriptive statistics, and the calculation of inferential statistics in the form of a standard multiple regression and structural equation modelling. The results of the empirical investigation were reported in the form of two articles. The measurement scales used to measure the constructs of the study were found to be valid and reliable. In addition, brand image, brand trust and brand personality were found to have an influence on the level of brand attachment vehicle buyers experience, with brand personality having the greatest influence. Therefore, it is recommended that vehicle brands ought to focus their efforts on enhancing their brand personalities, as vehicle buyers' attachment towards a brand is facilitated by their ability to identify their individualistic selves with the personality of the brand. The results also indicated that brand attachment has an influence on vehicle buyers' purchase intentions, and an even stronger influence on vehicle buyers' brand extension attitude. For this reason, vehicle brands should ensure that their individualistic brand personality is portrayed throughout the various product ranges they have on offer, in order to increase consumers' willingness to purchase extended product offerings. Future research should address the methodological and other limitations of this study by collecting data from respondents of all nine of South Africa's provinces, and by considering the use of probability sampling. Collecting longitudinal data should also be considered, because brand attachment is developed over time. Lastly, future research can focus on measuring consumers' brand attachment towards a specific vehicle brand and/or model, which will help to develop a broader perspective of vehicle buyers' brand attachment behaviour.
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