Following its announced decision to stop sales of future sedan models in North America, Ford could risk losing its customers to some of its rivals when the time comes to trade for a newer vehicle, according to a Cox Automotive study. A survey conducted for the study found that many Ford owners will likely buy their next vehicle from a rival make.

“Ford’s got some work to do in terms of clearing up the message to owners of these vehicles if they want any shot of keeping them. They need to do some educating,” said Autotrader (part of Cox Automotive) analyst Michelle Krebs. Models to be phased out over the coming years include the Fiesta, Fusion and Taurus. Of those surveyed, 10% said they would buy a new Ford crossover or SUV, 5% said they would get a Mustang and 3% said they would buy a Ford pick-up truck.

The sample size was small, according to Automotive News – just 104 out of 2,697 responders were Ford owners – although it notes that the findings highlights the problem Ford faces as it shuffles its model line-up. Though the sedans will be replaced by new models at similar price points, it appears customers might not understand the approach, the report said.

Of the owners who traded in a Ford Fusion, for example, 53% have gone on to a different brand, according to data from Kelley Blue Book; these customers are more likely opt for a Honda Accord, Civic or CR-V, Toyota Camry or RAV4.

Models such as the Focus Active are intended to pick up where the sedans left off.

Historic rival General Motors sees a chance for it to capitalise on Ford’s move, the report notes. “We see a terrific opportunity to forge new and stronger customer relationships with such a broad portfolio,” said General Motors vice president of US sales operations Kurt McNeil.

The VP says that GM considers sedans to be crucial to the group’s product line-up as they “typically offer very good safety, comfort, fuel economy and a lower total cost of ownership” compared to other types of vehicles. Having said that, Ford president of global markets Jim Farley thinks the Blue Oval can ‘tempt some of those customers with an image upgrade’.

“Where Ford does best is where we play to our strength of emotional products,” Farley said, whilst acknowledging the risk associated with leaving the sedan segment, especially at the entry-level segment.