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Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chevrolet top brand-perception survey

Consumer Reports poll identifies buyer impressions in 7 categories -- and how they differ from reality.

By Douglas Newcomb Feb 1, 2013 11:41AM

Consumer Reports’ 2013 Car Brand Perception Survey. Image courtesy of Consumer Reports.Perception often trumps reality. Just ask any politician or ad agency. But while general impressions can play a role in considering one car brand over another, when choosing a particular model it’s essential to separate vague perceptions from cold, hard facts.

That’s the takeaway from the Consumer Reports 2013 Car Brand Perception Survey. Respondents identified Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chevrolet -- in that order -- as the brands that excel in seven categories: quality, safety, value, performance, design/style, technology/innovation and environmentally friendly/green.

Consumer Reports noted that although the survey results “reflect a brand's image in consumers’ minds,” they don't “necessarily represent the actual qualities of any brand's vehicles.” When comparing particular individual models, it’s important for car shoppers to base their purchase on reality “rather than rely on fuzzy impressions and word-of-mouth recommendations.”

Consumer Reports noted that although brand perception can be an indicator of overall quality, every automaker’s model line represents a wide spectrum of performance -- and not every vehicle exemplifies the brand's best efforts.

Volvo’s fifth-place tie with Mercedes-Benz, for example, is primarily based on its reputation for ruling the roost in safety. Consumer Reports pointed out that, in reality, many other automakers provide exceptional occupant protection and include just as many innovative safety features in their vehicles.

Consumer Reports said that the reason the top four brands surpass competitors in a broad range of categories is that they “aren't as pigeonholed as the more single-factor-focused brands.” Toyota and Ford excel in several categories, hence their strong overall scores. “But across the board, competition for brand mindshare is tough,” Consumer Reports said.

With traditional loyalty for car brands eroding, this should be a concern for automotive advertising and marketing executives. While the four top brands scored well above the rest in the survey, beyond Volvo other makes are “clustered close together” and “buyers may be seeing merits in more brands, rather than so closely identifying single brands as ‘owning’ a given category,” Consumer Reports said.

Consumer Reports’ 2013 Car Brand Perception Survey. Image courtesy of Consumer Reports.[Source: Consumer Reports]

Feb 5, 2013 8:44AM
There is a major flaw in Consumers Guide. Feedback. I've subscribed for 20 years and only twice have I received the poll to fill out and only once did I fill it out.  You have a lot of blind Toyota people saying I'd by again even  as the toyota fails to stop.  More recalls than any other car manufactuer in 2012...why then is Toyota still at the top? Emotional buyers, not fact based buyer.  
Feb 1, 2013 12:18PM

Facts are no competition for perception.


Few people can eliminate emotion (perception) from the decision-making process.

Feb 2, 2013 6:47PM
Good Job Ford!  Although I own a Honda myself (this is my second Accord Coupe), I always find myself rooting for the Big 3.  

Feb 3, 2013 9:29PM
Congrats to the top 3.  Number 4 and below, you've got work ahead of you.
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