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Toyota, Ford Top Consumer Reports Car-Brand Perception Survey

BMW, Buick and Hyundai post unexpected declines.

by on Feb.04, 2013

The Toyota Furia Concept unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Toyota remains the automotive brand with the highest perception among American consumers, according to an annual study by Consumer Reports magazine, with Ford and Honda coming in close behind.

In a significant development domestic automotive brands accounted for half of the Car-Brand Perception Survey’s Top 10, according to the widely followed non-profit publication – with the California-based electric vehicle start-up Tesla Motors rounding out the list in 10th. The other domestic brands included Chevrolet, ranked fourth, Cadillac, at seventh, and Dodge, at ninth.

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The other brands in the Top 10 included Mercedes-Benz, ranked 5th, followed by sixth-ranked Volvo, and BMW in eighth.

In an unexpected development, BMW saw a decline in its brand awareness score, noted CR’s online deputy auto editor Jeff Bartlett, along with Buick and Hyundai.

Despite some recent quality problems, Ford ranked second in the Brand-Perception Survey.

“The data shows that it has become harder for companies to compete for share of mind,” he said. “Consumers are not seeing as much differentiation between brands as they have in the past.”

The survey is a compilation of a variety of factors covered in a random phone survey of more than 2,000 adult Americans. It explored how the respondents perceived each brand in seven categories: quality, safety, value, performance, design/style, technology/innovation, and environmentally friendly/green.  The magazine’s editors stressed that the results of the study were not an indication of the actual qualities of any brand or its vehicles.

Toyota’s strong lead in the survey is particularly significant considering the maker’s problems of recent years, especially when it comes to safety issues. For the third time in the past four years, Toyota recalled more vehicles in 2012 than any other maker operating in the U.S.  The study was conducted in early December, before that fact was formally confirmed by federal safety regulators but followed a significant number of recalls involving a broad range of Toyota products.

Significantly, brand perception does not appear to directly correlate with vehicle quality.  Toyota’s Lexus brand, which routinely tops most quality charts, Ranked just 11th in the Consumer Reports survey, behind Tesla. The Toyota brand scored 133 points in the study, compared with just 50 for Lexus.

Meanwhile, Toyota’s youth-oriented brand Scion was stuck at the bottom of the list, tied with struggling and largely invisible Mitsubishi, with a score of just 6.  Chrysler’s Ram truck scored only slightly better, at 7, followed by Fiat at 8.

The other brands in the Bottom 10 were Mini, Land Rover, Jaguar, Mazda, Jeep and Porsche.

Some brands score especially well in specific categories.  Volvo maintained its traditionally lead in terms of perceived safety, noted Bartlett, though he added that, “Overall, the top brands excel in many areas and aren’t as pigeonholed as the more single-factor-focused brands. Toyota and Ford, for instance, stand out in several categories, giving them strong overall scores. But across the board, competition for brand mindshare is tough.

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2 Responses to “Toyota, Ford Top Consumer Reports Car-Brand Perception Survey”

  1. jlowe51 says:

    “Toyota remains the automotive brand with the highest perception among American consumers” and yet Toyota has had more recalls than any other car maker. I think the American consumer has been brainwashed.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      I have to admit I am surprised that Toyota’s recall and safety issues have not hurt that image.

      Paul E.