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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