Honda, Toyota and Ford have maintained the top three positions in a survey of consumer perceptions on automotive brands, Consumer Reports states. However, their lead compared to other brands is shrinking. This year, Honda is only two points ahead of Chevrolet, which is then followed by Mercedes-Benz. Rounding up the top ten ranks, and in no particular order, are Volvo, BMW, Lexus, Cadillac newcomer Tesla.
Last in the list of the magazine's survey are Fiat, Saab, Mitsubishi and Mini. Saab only earned five points in overall brand perception. The company was declared bankrupt last month. Meanwhile, Mini, Mitsubishi and Fiat were in the same position with seven points. Most of the brands on top ranks experienced double-digit declines in their scores. Toyota decreased 16 points from the 147 points it earned in 2011 to 131 points this year. Honda and Ford earned 27 and 21 points, respectively.
Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports' deputy editor for autos online, commented that "dramatic events" in the automotive industry "seem to be affecting" the consumers' view on the vehicle brands. He added that a struggling economy and the unpredictable prices of gasoline have forced consumers to opt for good reliability and low operating costs.
The data for the survey were collected between December 1 and 5 from 1,702 respondents in residences with at least a single vehicle. The magazine disclosed that the scores were adjusted to adjust for awareness of brands and to provide a fairer playing field for new brands like Fisker, Tesla and Fiat.
The margin of error is plus or minus 2.4%, with a 95% level of confidence. The total scores mirror how consumers see each brand in seven aspects, with safety as the most important factor for vehicle buyers. Other factors include value, quality, environmentally friendly/green, performance, technology/innovation and design/style.
Bartlett stated that brand perception can be influenced by many aspects such as professional road tests and marketing. He further explained that word-of-mouth from neighbors and friends can be slower moving, but an influential contributor as ownership moves "from the initial honeymoon phase to the seven-year itch."