Do the opinions of automotive journalists matter? For us, that may be a bit of transcendental self-examination, but for the consuming public, it's a very real question. Is a potential customer of a new family sedan going to rely completely on Consumer Reports, or are they willing to go with their own gut feelings and neighbors' recommendations?

Bloomberg has an interesting new report highlighting cars that are selling well in spite of not receiving high marks from Consumer Reports. One such vehicle is the 2012 Honda Civic, which has been largely derided by the automotive press. Yet sales of the Japanese compact are on pace to beat out vehicles like the acclaimed Chevrolet Cruze.

One criticism offered for CR's methods is their approach of putting all types of vehicles through the same type of testing. The Chrysler Town & Country as well as the Dodge Grand Caravan were given low marks for their performance in the slalom-the same slalom in which sports cars are tested. How important is that in buying a minivan?

While cars from Korea and the United States are increasingly lauded by the automotive community, owners of brands like Honda and Toyota remain fiercely loyal. In a time when some critics suggest that "there are no bad cars," customer loyalty and brand equity play a large part in the buying process. Korean and US automakers may be building some terrific vehicles now but the Japanese automakers have history on their side, and most buyers are still heavily weighing brand reputation in their decision-making processes.

It might be difficult convincing a consumer that the Civic is a substandard vehicle, just as it may be difficult to overcome someone's preconceived notions that a given automobile is an inferior product just because of its badge. If, in fact, there are "no more bad cars," then what's the role of professional evaluators in the buying process? Hopefully it still resides in educating consumers on making the best buying purchase-as long as they're still listening.


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  • 124 Comments
      chambo622
      • 2 Years Ago
      Consumer Reports blasted the iPhone 4...people still bought it. Clearly they have an audience, but it's not big enough to dictate market trends.
      Avinash Machado
      • 2 Years Ago
      If the auto manufacturers built the type of car the journalists wanted it would be something like this. Station Wagon with RWD,Manual Transmission and a Diesel engine.
        Lachmund
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        great thing is they do...but they only sell in developed countries
      fAMOuS
      • 2 Years Ago
      I applaud CR for taking it to Honda. The Civic is an iconic vehicle and Honda's latest reiteration falls short when compared to similar offerings from Hyundai, Kia and Ford. In fact, Honda has been too conservative with their styling and amenities since 2001. However, spy shots from the latest Civic are indeed an improvement. For example, the Civic appears to be fitted with projector headlights. Finally. This addition should have happened eons ago. After all, Civics in Europe and Japan have had this option for years not to mention HIDs. Hopefully, Honda will get back to their roots and stop treating the US market like an abandoned step-child. Civic Type R....still waiting... now I'm done.
      Patrick
      • 2 Years Ago
      The bottom line is Honda has earned the trust of millions of loyal buyers. One restyled Civic that is not quite up to par is not going to affect that many consumers perception of the brand. The big three did not lose market share overnight. It took a number of years of putting out truly bad products for people to defect. The new Civic is hardly a "bad" car in that sense. IT will take years of Honda really missing the mark in a big way for people to actively cross Honda off their list. On the contrary Chevy will need many more successes like the Cruz to regain brand loyalty.
      Kenneth
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think you assume that people actually DO research before buying cars. I don't think a lot of people, especially those in the market for a Civic, do. They go on reputation alone, which in the case of the Honda Civic, is a good one. To be honest, I had no idea that the most recent Civic was panned by journalists.
      mikeybyte1
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think, individually, all publications hold much less sway these days just due to the sheer number of news and information sources available. Twenty years ago you had just a few auto magazines your could turn to for info. Now there are several dozen web sites and endless forums. I think as a collective group, however, they still have swaying power. If there is universal praise for a vehicle, people will notice. If a car ends up winning major awards across the board people will notice. But all it does is get people to look and do more research.
      Justin
      • 2 Years Ago
      Anecdote: An anecdote is a short and amusing or interesting account, which may depict a real incident or person.
        Justin
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Justin
        That being said, I agree with others that if you want to know a car's potential issues and what to look for, just wait a year or more after it comes out and browse forums to at least see what to watch for. And/or buy something that the design/drivetrain has been on the market a while. My 97 Ranger with the Lima 2.3 is an extreme example of that.
      lostjr123
      • 2 Years Ago
      It can take a long time for consumer perceptions to shift. Companies can coast on reputation. Civics sell well _now_ but I think Honda was correct in taking the negative reviews as an early warning. OTOH in the real world, consumers are the ultimate deciders of value. Sometimes a vehicle that is not loved by reviewers can still do well because people paying their own money for the car decide that for the price, it is good value.
      2010rrsupercharged
      • 2 Years Ago
      I am sorry, but due to the fact that both a Honda Odyssey and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and the Ford Mustang GT all have the same road test score of 83, and a big heavy SUV(the Land Rover LR4) with soft and rolly suspension didn't come that far behind with a score of 74. The whole all cars being put through the same tests and being ranked based entirely on there performance driving criticism falls flat on it's face. Consumer reports does these sorts of test primarily to see how safe cars are at there limits as well as to determine driveablity. To be honest I'd trust the opinions of consumer reports far more then car journalistic from magazines motortrend or car and driver. They take the time to get to know the cars with a much greater sense of depth.
      Kari Anne
      • 2 Years Ago
      I myself am more interested in what the actual owners say about the vehicle which is what forums are good for, you can find out the good, the bad, and the ugly by someone who isn't getting paid and has real life experience with the vehicle.
      jcosentino
      • 2 Years Ago
      When times are tough or, at best, uncertain, people are more likely to go with what they know. That's why brand loyalty is king nowadays. However, today's buyers of the disappointing Honda Civic might well be looking elsewhere when it comes time for a trade in, if the economy is better and they're feeling safer, and that's when Consumer Reports and the automotive press will have more influence. In the meantime, a smart auto maker will take to heart all well-founded criticism of its products and will work to make them better in the future.
      Juan Barnett
      • 2 Years Ago
      Did journalist ever sway consumer decision? It seems that journalism has taken a back seat to friends and family. That’s right. Now that I can connect with my friends, family, neighbors and general consumers – their word-of-mouth is more easily accessible and has always been more powerful than journalist's. That really is what it comes down to. Brands now need to step back and think – what a minute, we own the audience now via all these digital platforms. In the past they had to rely on automotive magazines to be independent. What if the new consumer information model involved brands finding and promoting opinions from their buyers for their current and potential customers to see? Where does that leave Motor Trends and Consumer Reports? Motor Trend has made a strong deparature from their standard pub model and have went heavy on video content (informational entertainment). What if brands become media real companies…what if? That is actually the theme for my latest post on DCAutoGeek this week.
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