Traditional Brands are Losing Ground in Consumer Car Brand Perception

What do you think when you hear the name of a car brand? This is your brand perception, and it’s an essential factor in your purchase.

The traditional models that have been perceived as the top models in the auto market for many years are losing ground to newcomers. While we still admire Toyota, Ford, Honda, and Chevrolet as four of the leading brands for many years, others are closing that gap. Consumer Reports conducts a Car-Brand Perception Survey each year, and we see newer names cracking the top ten, which could spell trouble for the traditional leaders.

How Is This Survey Scored?

The survey from Consumer Reports gives us a pretty clear picture of which brands more consumers trust than others. The survey reviews consumer brand perception in seven different categories, which are:

  • Safety
  • Quality
  • Value
  • Performance
  • Environmentally friendly/green
  • Design/style
  • Technology/innovation

They combine these scores results in a total score that helps us understand which car brands consumers seem to like the most. Some will reach the top of various categories, while some won’t even show up with much of a score.

Traditional Brands Slip

If you see brand names you know slipping down the chart in this survey, what does that mean? Does it signal a brand that’s slowed its pace or become lazy compared to newer, hungrier brands? Toyota, which typically tops the charts in overall brand perception, slipped 17 points from last year. Ford, Honda, and BMW all dropped 20 points, while Cadillac and Chevrolet saw declines by only single digits compared to a year ago.

What are the Best and Worst Car Brands?

Using only this survey, we find the numbers show up with brands we know on both sides of the coin. Here’s what this survey shows us:
Best brands

  • Toyota – 131
  • Ford – 121
  • Honda – 94
  • Chevrolet – 92
  • Mercedes-Benz – 84
  • BMW – 69
  • Volvo – 67
  • Cadillac – 63
  • Lexus – 54
  • Tesla – 51

Worst Brands

  • Mazda – 16
  • Infiniti – 16
  • Jeep – 12
  • Suzuki – 11
  • Mercury – 10
  • Land Rover – 8
  • Mitsubishi – 7
  • Mini – 7
  • Fiat – 7
  • Saab – 5

The scoring comes from telephone surveys and data collected as each brand is associated with the survey categories.

How Important is Each Category to Consumers?

Consumers surveyed were also asked how various important categories were to them. The most important categories are pretty consistent in order of:

  • Safety
  • Quality
  • Value
  • Performance
  • Environmentally friendly/green
  • Design/style
  • Technology/innovation

If you look at these categories, are they the most important to you? Do you feel they are in the correct order of what you look for in a vehicle? With this in mind, you can see why so many automakers place importance on developing safety technology.

Brand Perception Leaders in Each Category

Safety

The top five brands for safety during this survey were:

  • Volvo
  • Ford
  • Toyota
  • Honda
  • Mercedes-Benz

Quality

Looking at the top five brands for the quality we find:

  • Toyota
  • Honda
  • Ford
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Chevrolet

Value

The top five brands for value are:

  • Ford
  • Toyota
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Chevrolet

Performance

Performance leading brands include:

  • BMW
  • Ford
  • Chevrolet
  • Toyota
  • Porsche

Environmentally Friendly/Green

The green brands from this survey are:

  • Toyota
  • Smart
  • Honda
  • Ford
  • Chevrolet

Design/Style

The five top brands for design/style are:

  • Cadillac
  • BMW
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Lexus
  • Chevrolet

Technology/Innovation

The brands recognized by consumers as the most innovative are:

  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Ford
  • Toyota
  • Lexus
  • BMW

Are the Top Consumer Brands the Ones You’re Looking At?

Do you agree with the brand perception of the various names on this list? Are there other brand names that you think might belong above some others? Your brand perception might differ from another driver, but these are the names that made it to the top and bottom of this Consumer Reports survey.