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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.

Toyota tops Consumers Reports’ 2014 car-brand perception survey

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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