By on January 24, 2012

Tesla is one of the ten highest rated car brands in America, says the Consumer Reports 2012 Car-Brand Perception Survey. Is that a good thing? Marketers are troubled by this development. The trouble is not that a newcomer like Tesla is rated so highly.

Overall, the halos of the top brands are fading fast.

Toyota, Ford, Honda, and Chevrolet, perennial leaders in the survey, maintained their top positions but have seen the points gap decrease. Most of the top brands saw double-digit drops in their total scores. Which allows smaller companies to catch up.

At the turn of the millennium, people in highly developed countries started to tire of brands. Words like “brand blase”, “anti-brand” and “reverse snobism” made the rounds. It started with fashion, where the display of fancy labels became gauche, and low priced outlets like H&M or Uniqlo became cool. Cars were one of the last areas where brands made a difference. Now it seems to be their turn.

“Overall, the car-brand leaders do not stand out from the pack the way they did only a couple years ago,” says the study. Toyota continues to dominate overall in brand perception, although it slipped a 17 points, compared with last year’s survey results. Other top brands, Ford, Honda, and BMW, likewise dropped more than 20 points. Cadillac and Chevrolet saw only single-digit decreases.

America’s Top Car Brands 2012

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

America’s Worst Car Brands 2012

Brand Score
Infiniti 16
Mazda 16
Jeep 12
Suzuki 11
Mercury 10
Land Rover 8
Fiat 7
Mini 7
Mitsubishi 7
Saab 5
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60 Comments on “Consumers Choose The Best And The Worst Car Brands...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    Where’s Chrysler? Dodge? Hmmm…must be somewhere in the middle.

  • avatar
    rem83

    The spread between Toyota and Mazda – why you shouldn’t trust buying habits to be an accurate gauge of quality…

  • avatar

    Huh???

    Is this really from Consumer Reports? If so, why havne’t I seen it, since I get it? If it is, and if it’s based on their subscribers, it certainly is not representative of the nation.

    Who was surveyed, and what were they asked?

    • 0 avatar

      http://www.consumerreports.org/content/cro/en/cars/best-car-brands-consumer-perception-consumer-reports.html

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        This is slightly off topic, as it has to do with reliability (but reliability does spill over into consumer satisfaction, ultimately), but according to my 2011 Consumer Reports Automotive Edition, Mazda was the most improved brand for reliability, ranking right up there with Toyota and Honda (but this was a just reported average, so the affect in terms of satisfaction with the dealers that may now be able to be avoided hasn’t registered yet), while Porsche literally fell off a cliff, falling down to abysmal Jaguar cellar dweller levels, Nissan muddled along barely treading water with an under-average reliability rating (across all models – averaged), and Ford sinking from its lofty heights (mainly due to sync & transmission problems).

        So, it may be somewhat on topic, too, as there might ultimately be a strong correlation between reliability and satisfaction scores, regardless as to how good/bad/indifferent the dealer is in terms of customer service and resolving problems.

        The most satisfied customers are probably those who never have to experience the stress involved with interacting with any stealership, with the possible exception of those having premium cars still under full platinum warranties, and given an equivalent loaner, no hassles.

        Just some semi-random musings.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Dayamn, Saab. You’re getting beat by Mitsubishi. MITSUBISHI.
    I think friggin Saturn has better brand loyalty.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    Yeah I’d like to see what this was based on. Seeing Infiniti and Mazda in the bottom seems odd. Is it about brand awarness? Perception of quality? Brand loyalty? Or were they asked the one question, what’s the best brand?

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Mini gets only a 7 ? Huh? What is a Brand Perception Survey, anyway?

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      +1, trying to reconcile that with contestant #6′s score (69)

      Don’t get me wrong, they are certainly branded differently, but… what is Mini if it isn’t a brand, incarnate.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        You need to look at the survey methodology. The surveyed were given seven categories (safety, value, etc.) and asked to name which brands that they thought were best in those categories.

        The “worst” weren’t identified as being bad, they just weren’t mentioned much when these seven categories came up. The surveyed weren’t asked what they thought of MINI specifically or how they would rank it in comparison to the other brands.

        The niche appeal of the MINI brand has little to do with any of the seven categories. It is not surprising that a brand that is positioned like that would not fare well in this kind of survey.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    Fiat hasn’t been selling Fiats here long enough to rate that #.

    Maybe it is that bad, but I think they’ve done pretty good with Chrysler so far, considering what they have to work with.

    Ford gets a 121 but Mercury gets a 10?

    YOU CAN STILL GET YOUR MERCURYS FIXED under warranty. Try that with a Saab which is only 5 somethings below. Big deal that you have to bring your car over there instead of over here to get fixed.

    • 0 avatar
      underachieva

      This is all about ‘brand perception’
      I would bet most mouth-breathing Americans are unaware of Fiat’s recent re-introduction to the States. Most older people (CR readers) still have an outdated perception of Fiat as building temperamental little rolling electrical fires.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Overall brand perception is an index calculated as the total number of times that a particular make was mentioned as exemplary across all seven categories, 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.

    I’m not exactly sure what this is supposed to measure other than marketing effectiveness.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      I’m not exactly sure what this is supposed to measure other than marketing effectiveness.

      Given the nature of the categories, I think that it measures which brands do well with associating themselves with the seven specific awareness categories that CR decided were worthy of measurement.

      It would explain why Tesla would have done relatively well — my guess is that it would have scored high in the “green” and “technology” categories. Volvo probably fared well in the “safety” category. That doesn’t equate to everyone running out and buying electric Volvos, of course.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Wxactly! Marketing effectiveness was we’ll put. Toyota and Honda bubbles were popped a while ago. If the comsumer had to put a price on ownership it would look more like the sales chart.

  • avatar
    Oren Weizman

    Good job on year one Sergio ! Fiat already managed to mangle service up

  • avatar
    alluster

    Thanks to this report, the monthly check CR receives from Toyota in the mail has just gotten a little fatter.

    Someday CR will get off sucking on Toyota’s **** and only then will my faith in media will be restored.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      You could read the article instead of pulling your tinfoil hat on straight away. Are you shocked that the highest selling brands that specifically cater to the average car buyer have a good brand perception? Nah, Toyota lining the pockets of CR certainly makes more sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      Wasn’t it CR who went after Toyota’s jugular when the unintended acceleration (read: dumbasses who shouldn’t be driving pressing the wrong pedal at the wrong time) events were happening?

    • 0 avatar
      rem83

      This is a survey of perception, not one of CR’s famous “objective” studies. I’m in no way surprised that the majority of CR’s readership would view Toyota through rose colored glasses.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I’m in no way surprised that the majority of CR’s readership would view Toyota through rose colored glasses.

        “The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a random, nationwide telephone survey of 2,045 adults from Dec. 1-5, 2011, and collected survey data from 1,702 adults in households that had at least one car.”

        It would be nice if some of you guys would actually read this stuff prior to commenting.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        “The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a random, nationwide telephone survey of 2,045 adults from Dec. 1-5, 2011…”

        Hey, I think I hung up on those guys!

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Found it on their website. (Fool disclosure – I’m still a CU subscriber, as my wife keeps mistakenly renewing with them).

    Here’s what they say:
    The survey scores reflect how consumers perceive each brand in seven categories:
    Safety, quality, value, performance, environmentally friendly/green, design/style, and technology/innovation.

    The technology,environmental, and design style points explain the good showing of Tesla I’d imagine, although its inclusion is sort of like putting a unicorn in a horse race. I believe that they’ve sold roughly 2400 world-wide.

    Why the poor showings of Infiniti and Madza?

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    I give Consumer Reports a blackened circle in my perceived value for them as an objective opinion and as toilet paper.

    • 0 avatar
      dvdlgh

      Shooting the messenger changes nothing.

      • 0 avatar
        EquipmentJunkie

        I’m shooting the author of the survey…who also happens to be the messenger. The fact that a car company like Tesla (who would struggle to achieve brand recgonition by even 5% of the general populace) can score over 50% positive brand perception tells me that there was some coaching of the survey participants. I’m a car guy and Tesla barely even registers on my brand radar…just like Bugatti.
        Yes, I have seen a Tesla in the flesh at a Watkins Glen vintage event. I was surprised that I was one of the few who paid attention to the bright, tangerine-colored go cart.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    I’m waiting for the good word of Michael Karesh to clear this up.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    Why is everybody mad at Consumer Reports? Is it because they buy cars off the lot and tell the truth about what they find? I mean, why would anyone buy a GM vehicle after reading CR?

  • avatar
    Quentin

    The original CR article is quite interesting. It actually breaks down the leaders in all the different categories and you see where the top brands have strong perception. I’m not surprised that less familiar, lower selling brands show up at the bottom. Volvo had one heck of a reputation for safety in the ’11 survey!

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Volvo had one heck of a reputation for safety in the ’11 survey!

      What’s funny is that Volvo leads the safety category, by far, and safety is allegedly the most commonly demanded feature of a car, yet Volvo sales are minimal.

      It helps to illustrate how “awareness” doesn’t neatly correspond with sales. The components of real-world demand are more complicated.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Safety is listed as the most important quality, and Volvo likely got the most first place votes, but safety isn’t a binary choice. Almost all new cars sold today are very safe.

        Many drivers likely have a list of must-have safety equipment and as long as a car is thusly equipped, it checks the safety box for them and they move on down the list to the other factors that are important.

  • avatar
    daviel

    I have never seen a Tesla in person. Where is it?

  • avatar
    Freddie

    Brand names are increasingly meaningless in terms of what to expect from a car (or many other products, for that matter) and consumers are catching on. The auto companies have only themselves to blame after years of exploiting their iconic brand names with inferir products for a quick buck.

  • avatar
    ringomon

    ( Disclaimer: I’m a Mazda fanboy)

    If I’m Mazda I see something like this and I think radical changes need to be made.
    There is no reason that a company that makes competitive vehicles in major categories should have such bad perception.

    I cut off all current dealers (one of Mazda’s weak points). I switch to a Mazda factory store setup (like apple stores) where all stores sell no haggle cars at the class average invoice price or below. I price my service bays at non-dealer levels, and standardize customer service and facilities across all locations (all the way down to dress code for the employees). All basic repair costs are either included for the warranty period or have the costs laid out in advance. Loaner cars of the same model are made available for any warranty repairs.
    They market themselves as having a new modern way to sell cars to go with their modern styling (!?!) and engine technology.
    I think if word got out there that Mazda cut out the middle man and was selling the cars for less to start with- more people would be willing to order cars online and wait a month for it to show up in their desired configuration as well. The reason people don’t do it now is because they don’t want to pay MSRP+ for cars.

    What have they got to lose? (Other than pretty sizable investment costs to make it happen).
    The press they’d get alone on making such a drastic shift would be worth it.
    It’s a new era. There are a lot of customers that want this. The market’s just waiting for someone to do it.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      What they have to lose is a jillion lawsuits in every state for violation of those states laws that are expressly designed to protect dealers.

      Other than that, makes perfect sense!

      • 0 avatar
        ringomon

        Obviously it’s something that would need to be rolled out based on current contracts and what not. I didn’t say it would be simple.

      • 0 avatar
        ringomon

        Yeah, I admit I’m somewhat of an idealist when it comes to these things:

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/02/the-truth-about-car-dealer-franchise-laws/

        They just need to declare chapter 11 first!

      • 0 avatar
        ringomon

        Or they could do it through the current dealers, just require them to make certain changes if they want to get the inventory that they’re after… (The Mfg’s must have some leverage somewhere, no?)

  • avatar
    foojoo

    I find it interesting that Chevy ranks so highly.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t think Chevy would rank so high either.

      But as the ads say, Chevy runs deep. I think just enough brand equity remains leftover from their product hits to cover over the misses.

      I’ve also suspected that if Chevy ever did a small car right – as the Cruze appears to be – that there’d be a lot of people out there ready to forgive the marque’s past sins and give them another try.

      GM’s biggest issue is going to continue to be who’s running the show…the Bean Counters or the Car Guys?

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Chevys actually have turned out to be solid cars since the 1990′s. Like them or not, whether it’s a Cavalier (Cockroach of the Road, copyright, geozinger), Cobalt, Malibu, Impala or whatever, my Imp has been stellar in reliability if not excitement.

        They deserve their perception.

  • avatar
    dvdlgh

    Like it says. it’s brand “perception.” Not by experts but by average people (I would guess).

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The fact that Toyota ranked in the PERFORMANCE category, tied with Porsche, pretty much says it all.

      The avg. random person is pretty clueless about cars and the auto industry.

    • 0 avatar

      But perception is reality.

      30 years ago, people were pretty clueless about the superior quality of Beta video tapes. The public went for VHS instead.

      There are reams of similar stories where people were offered a demonstrably better product/service at a comparable price and chose the lesser one instead.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Mainly because VHS could hold 2 hours of info as opposed to 90 minutes for a Betamax. At least that’s the story I’ve heard.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        30 years ago, people were pretty clueless about the superior quality of Beta video tapes. The public went for VHS instead.

        Sony developed Betamax. It wanted to dominate the market for VCRs, and wouldn’t license the technology to anyone else.

        JVC developed VHS. JVC was too small to control the market for VCR production, so it widely licensed the technology.

        Sony provided a classic case study of what can go wrong when a producer gets greedy with intellectual property. Sometimes, it’s better to own a little bit of a gigantic market than it is to control 100% of a tiny market. That’s especially true when there is room for only one format.

        Ironically, Sony would end up producing VHS VCRs of its own, which required it to pay license fees to its rival, instead of Sony benefiting from its own patents. It’s Sony’s misguided desire to control the entire market that caused its IP to lose the race.

        Apple has better luck with playing the technology monopoly game than most. Sony consistently manages to blow it. They tried the same thing with the MiniDisc, and it produced a similar failure.

      • 0 avatar
        Advo

        What would have happened if IBM had protected the intellectual property rights of their PC all those years ago?

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        @Advo – something other than IBM PCs would dominate the desktop then. Open standards drive rapid and broad adoption, if IBM didn’t do it someone else would have.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    I’d bet there is not a single person in this survey who has ever driven, or even seen a Tesla.

    • 0 avatar
      Advo

      I thought I was seeing a Tesla from the side when it stopped besides me at a light this summer. Turns out it was the Lotus, from the badge on the back. Go figure. It’s probably rarer around Vancouver than the Tesla is now.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    I am surprised to see Jeep and Mazda ranked so low, they seem to occupy popular niche markets and many if not most owners take an interest in their car purchases and seek out these brands as an alternative to Toyota and GM.

    Could the fact that they appeal to enthusiasts more so than other brands mean that they are held to a higher standard?

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I’m not surprised they ranked so low. Both Mazda and Jeep have a history of some real doozies when it comes to quality issues and warranty claims.

      Since I recently bought a new 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit V6 4X4 for my wife to replace her 2008 Highlander Limited, I hope that Fiatsler stays in business long enough to honor any warranty claims we may experience. My local dealership has assured me that things have changed for the better since Chrysler is now an Italian company. We’ll see.

      But to ease my mind, I’ve decided to keep that 2008 Highlander around just in case our JGC develops a ‘tude and needs to head for the warranty stable.

      Consumer Reports has been pretty accurate in the past, and the annual sales numbers reflect that. There’s nothing to suggest that they are any less accurate this year.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Mazda was the shocker for me. Try that in Canada and it’ll be a different story. Mazda is always a perennial favourite up here.

  • avatar
    Beta Blocker

    My wife has a 2008 Honda Accord and I drive a 2009 Mazda 6. The Accord has about 40,000 miles on it, and the Mazda about 25,000.

    Rather than getting a second Accord back in 2009, I got the Mazda 6 because Honda had moved away from the core of the sport sedan market with their latest Accord design philosophy, especially with their Accord interiors.

    In our experience, the Mazda 6 is every bit as good a car as the Honda Accord — or better if responsiveness and handling are considered — and the quality and attentiveness of Mazda dealer service in our area is just as good as, if not better, than Honda’s dealer service.

    Mazda’s low rating is a bum rap, plain and simple.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I picked up a 3 hatch for my wife in 2010, and I can say the same thing about that car. Compared to My RSX-S when it was stock and leaving out the power deficit, the 3 is just as nice to drive and has been just as reliable.

      My mother-in-law has a 2009 Civic that I’ve driven on occasion, and the fact that it doesn’t have a hatch notwithstanding, the 3 is better than the civic in almost every qualitative and quantitative way, whether it be interior fit&finish, power delivery, enjoyable handling, etc. With how crappy the ’12 civics are, I don’t know why anybody would buy one over the mazda aside from perception of honda as a brand

      granted, 0% interest for 60 months is great too and what really got us in the door to buy the car

  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    Perception is not reality when it comes to Jeep. Go price a used Wrangler. How about Grand Cherokee’s Plant adding 1100 jobs to add a third shift? And Mazda, Infinity, Mercury so low!

    My perception of Consumers Report continues to be the same – bird cage liner!

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      My experience with a new Jeep a few years back was the thing was in the shop every other month for leaky axle seals or electrical problems or something that a $30,000+ vehicle should not have, but I did like it for its offroad capabilities. For the money spent on it, though, I had way higher expectations and ended up trading it in after 2 and a half years and 28,000 not-so-glorious miles. I’d probably not consider them again.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Silly me I thought Teslea was an English tea?


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