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Detroit's auto troubles test brand loyalty

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"It depends on which brand," says Dave Sedgwick, editor of Automotive News. "For the Jeep Wrangler, those people are fanatics. They're not going to go out and suddenly buy a Kia. On the other hand, if you're talking about people who own a Chevy Malibu or a Ford Focus, it's about, 'Show me a deal.' "

Customer loyalty is slipping

The proliferation of so many brands on the market, however, is giving consumers more options than ever, so that overall "there is less brand loyalty than there used to be," says Mr. Sedgwick.

Yet for car owners already happy with vehicles but who are learning those brands may not be around for long, their next car purchase is giving them pause.

"It's kind of a bummer," says Ed Timpe of Los Angeles, in a phone interview. Surviving a near-fatal car crash seven years ago, as a teenager, resulted in his purchase of his current Saturn, which he valued for its reinforced safety features. "I'm getting to a point where I'm considering buying a new Saturn because I consider it a safer American car. But if it's gone in three years, that's harder for me to commit to."

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