Toyota tops Consumers Reports’ 2014 car-brand perception survey

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Toyota, Ford, Honda, and Chevrolet continue to top the rankings in Consumer Reports’ annual Car-Brand Perception Survey, standing out as the leading brands in consumers’ minds. These perennial leaders have a significant advantage in overall score, but several other brands—including Tesla—are moving up the rankings.

These scores reflect how consumers perceive each brand in seven categories: quality, safety, performance, value, fuel economy, design/style, and technology/innovation. Combining those factors gives us the total brand-perception score. While the scores reflect a brand’s image, they do not reflect the actual qualities of any brand’s vehicles. The key word here is “perception,” as influenced by word-of-mouth, marketing, and hands-on experience.

For 2014, Toyota has a 25-point advantage over second-place Ford, reflecting a five-point gain over the previous year for Toyota and a three-point improvement for Ford. It could be interpreted that the safety concerns that saw the Toyota score stumble a few years ago have faded, returning the brand to its position as the perceived industry leader.

Honda lost 16 points this year, while Chevrolet seemed to find them, increasing its score by 13 points. The brand to watch is Tesla Motors, which jumped from 47 points last year, to fifth position and 88 points this year. That the remainder of the Top 10 all score 73 or higher is notable; last year there was a wider points spread among the high-ranking brands.

Overall brand perception

 

Best

 

Worst

Brand

Score

Brand

Score

Toyota

145

Land Rover

4

Ford

120

Maserati

8

Honda

109

Jaguar

9

Chevrolet

105

Rolls-Royce

11

Tesla Motors

88

Scion

17

Subaru

87

Ram

17

Mercedes-Benz

82

Mini

21

Volvo

80

Mitsubishi

21

Cadillac

78

Infiniti

22

BMW

73

Jeep

23

How the scores were calculated
The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a random, nationwide telephone survey from Dec. 6 to 15, 2013, and collected survey data from 1,578 adults in households that had at least one car.

Overall brand perception is an index calculated as the total number of times that a particular make was mentioned as exemplar across seven categories, weighted by category importance, and divided by the total unaided awareness of the brand. (Interview subjects were asked what brands exemplified the traits, instead of being read a list of brands.) That approach compensates for awareness level, ensuring that every brand has an equal chance of leading a category, not just the best-selling or most well-known brands.

Category scores reflect the number of times that the particular make was mentioned as a leader for the particular attribute, again corrected for awareness.

Important factors in buying a new car
This list ranks the seven key factors by how important they are to consumers when buying a new car. The percentage is based on the number of respondents who said the factor was among their top three priorities. For comparison, we’ve included last year’s figures.

Factor

2014

2013

Quality

90

90

Safety

88

88

Performance

83

82

Value

82

83

Fuel economy

81

81

Design/style

70

65

Technology/innovation

68

65

Bottom line
Automakers continue to vie for consumer mindshare and dollars by developing compelling new models engineered to drive sales and profits. As a smart shopper, the key is to look beyond the hype to the virtues that matter most to you and ensure you’re buying a product that truly excels based on real-world tests, rather than merely perceptions or empty marketing slogans.

Copyright © 2006-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

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