By on April 26, 2017

Subaru Legacy 2018 Logo Emblem Grille

The importance of favorable perception is invaluable when it comes to sales. If a product or brand doesn’t inspire some sort of positive association, then it’s not likely to be around for longer.

Automotive brands are specifically interested in gaining recognition for their strengths. When you think of the most reliable or best-looking cars, one or two brands usually jump to the front of your mind — and the same can be said for the worst examples in the industry. Those companies are aware of their status and, on the off-chance they forget, certain outlets are only too happy to remind them.

Based on insights and data collected via Kelley Blue Book’s brand watch study, the automotive research company has established the victors of its Brand Image Awards for 2017. While most winners are about as surprising as a cold winter in Canada, a few recipients took some dissecting to make sense of.

Beginning with the so-expected-it’s-almost-not-worth-mentioning categories, Subaru and Lexus took the best overall image awards for mainstream and luxury brands.

While Subaru is not universally beloved, it is associated with some of the strongest brand loyalty in the industry. People don’t just like their Subarus, they often adore and trust them. Meanwhile, Lexus has continued the trend of offering luxury cars with good value and above-average reliability. KBB didn’t say so, but we all know even those that aren’t particularly fond of Toyota’s luxury division are unlikely to debate its merits. It was a repeat victory for the companies in both categories. The two also won the most trusted brand award.

Mazda took top honors for having the best styling, with Jaguar as its luxury counterpart. It’s difficult to fault any vehicle in Mazda’s current lineup for being unprepossessing, and the Japanese automaker’s styling has only continued to improve in recent years. Jaguar has similarly stepped up its game — currently manufacturing one of the only sexy crossovers in existence and a sports coupe that offers looks on par with substantially more expensive rivals.

Honda and Buick both received best value awards. Some might argue there are other options worth considering, but Honda’s above-average resale value is what made consumers put it on top. However, calling Buick a luxury brand is slightly problematic. It’s one of the few remaining mid-tier luxury marques left in the domestic market, but recent years have seen the brand touted for offering high quality for a competitive price.

Porsche, unsurprisingly, won for best performance brand, with Subaru returning as its mainstream equal. While Porsche has remained the clear choice for five years running, Subaru is less obvious. After all, with the exception of the WRX, STI, and BRZ, the Japanese carmaker doesn’t really have much in the way of performance-oriented options, and nothing in the way of obscene horsepower or flamboyantly aggressive styling. KBB claims consumers responded positively to Subaru’s ever-present all-wheel drive. By offering confident performance in all weather conditions and climates, Subie manages to maintain its fleet’s already solid driving dynamics on less-than-desirable surfaces. Framed in that way, the win makes sense, though there are obviously holes to poke in the decision — especially when other brands offer sporty trim levels and gobs of power.

Kelley Blue Book bestowed the most refined awards upon Mercedes-Benz and, wait for it, GMC. Again, Mercedes seems like a sound decision for consumers to make — especially considering Audi’s recent diesel-related troubles. But GMC?

This is the brand’s fourth consecutive win with KBB’s Image Awards and it, as always, needs rationalization. KBB claims the victory had much to do with the Denali sub-brand. While GMC is certainly capable of producing hearty work and off-road vehicles, Denali allows customers to tap into near-luxury brand amenities. Understandable, but some readers are probably readying their typing fingers to disagree, as GMC builds more than just Denali vehicles.

Still, the truck brand didn’t maintain consumers’ overall admiration for building the best pickup on the road. That award went to Ford and its F-Series. That’s entirely down to there being more F-Series trucks in driveways than grains of sand at the beach. Ford’s pickup has maintained a stranglehold on the North American market for decades and, even if it produced a bad one, it would likely persist as the best-selling model for years before the public got wise.

[Image: Subaru]

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19 Comments on “Kelley Blue Book Names 2017 Image Award Winners; Subaru Takes Three, GMC Wins an Odd One...”


  • avatar
    shedkept

    GMC? Not any I’ve owned.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      Wouldn’t call my 2004 GMC Sierra 2500HD refined but it was a well engineered truck that was as bullet-proof as the day is long over the 13 years/185K I had it. Still looked & drove like a new truck when it left my driveway a month ago on its way to Wisconsin. That truck will easily be on the road another 10 years. Sold it in less than a day to the first guy that looked at it with 3 more potential buyers in the wings. Even I wasn’t expecting that. People obviously like GMC trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        My 1999 Silerado and 1989 Cheyene were pos. Both required engine rebuilds at 150k not to mention lots of random repairs.

        • 0 avatar
          Mandalorian

          Wow that’s odd, I’m fairly sure this study was based on 1989 model year vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            Fred

            Even odder my 2007 Audi A3 was reliable to 100k miles before I sold it. My point is if I was voting based on image Chevy/GMC trucks would not get my vote, no matter the year.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          150K isn’t bad, our POS 2001 Highlander only made a little over 70K before the engine in that $hit the the bed. You couldn’t kill the 6.0 in my old GMC if you tried.

        • 0 avatar
          Krivka

          My 2008 Malibu is still going strong. One set of brakes, two sets of tires, one sensor needing replaced (under warranty). gave it to my daughter with over 120k on it. My 2007 Outback has cost me a pretty penny to maintain, but I think it is worth it. Gave it to my other daughter. Have a Mercedes CLK (60k) and Toyota Camry Hybrid (82k) and so far no problems with either. My Mother in law has a 2014 Cruze and again, not a single problem. It is all anecdotal to be sure. On the other hand in 1989 getting 150k out of any engine was pretty good. Those were the days when a 100k was determined to be the magic number.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’d give Maserati the style award over Jaguar.

    I don’t totally agree with the Mercedes or GMC picks either but I don’t know who I’d really place there. Maybe Lincoln and VW instead?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Indeed, the Levante is pretty sharp-looking.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      This is why Vellum Venom is so much fun. If Sanjeev would let Sajeev out the the trunk maybe he could do a manufacturer comparo. Personally I like the Jags more than the Masers. Whenever I see a Maserati for some reason I always think it’s like so close, but not quite there. I liked the four door in Italian, but the coupes never looked right to me.

  • avatar
    No Nickname Required

    In the end, whoever pays the most money (for advertising or for any other reason) wins the award, right?

  • avatar
    Spartan

    2016 Yukon XL Denali owner here. Can confirm. I can’t speak for the other vehicles, but the Yukon even in non-Denali guise is well put together a solidly refined package.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    perception is reality, isn’t it?

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Owning 3 Subarus in succession, I can vouch for Subaru’s improvement in product quality, attention to service, and customer support. However, all their growth comes at a price: Subaru service centers are now crowded, their field techs appear overwhelmed and are very slow to support local dealers. Corporate responses are sometimes confusing or incomplete. Hopefully Subaru will improve these areas in the future.

  • avatar
    brn

    The news isn’t that a domestic manufacturer made a vehicle worthy of an award. The news is that Consumer Reports gave an award to a domestic.

    Why is it so surprising that a GMC won a refinement award? Personally, I’m pretty annoyed that they’re the only domestic mentioned anywhere in the article.

  • avatar
    zip89123

    KBB? I don’t have to look at their biased website anymore since AdBlock took care of their propaganda.

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    Look at the GMC Acadia Denali! Wonder how much GM had to pay to get that from Kelly?

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