• Feb 5, 2014
According to Consumer Reports, the automotive brands that stand out in the minds of car buyers are, in order: Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chevrolet. This news comes after the magazine polled its readers, asking them to take into account vehicle quality, safety, performance, value, fuel economy, design/style, and technology/innovation – which are the factors that car shoppers are most influenced by.

It's important to note that this award is only about perception. In other words, it's perceived quality, not actual quality. "Often, perception can be a trailing indicator, reflecting years of good or bad performance in a category, and it can also be influenced by headlines in the media," said Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports deputy automotive editor.

The brand that made the biggest jump in perception amongst Consumer Reports readers is Tesla, which posted an impressive 47-point gain to finish in fifth place. Subaru is also notable for finishing in the top 10, despite being one of the smaller manufacturers doing business in the US. Scroll down below for all the details from Consumer Reports, if you're so inclined.
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TOYOTA, FORD, HONDA & CHEVROLET DOMINATE CONSUMER REPORTS 2014 CAR-BRAND PERCEPTION SURVEY

Subaru and Tesla surge into top 10

YONKERS, NY - Consumers continue to distinguish Toyota, Ford, Honda, and Chevrolet as the leading brands overall, but several others, including Tesla and Subaru, are moving up the rankings, according to Consumer Reports' annual Car-Brand Perception Survey.

Toyota has a 25-point advantage over second-place Ford, reflecting a five-point gain over the year prior for Toyota and a three-point improvement for Ford. It could be interpreted that the safety concerns that saw the Toyota score stumble a few years ago have faded, returning the brand to its position as the perceived industry leader.

Consumer Reports brand perception scores reflect how consumers perceive each brand in seven important buying factors, ranked here in order of the importance to consumers: quality, safety, performance, value, fuel economy, design/style, and technology/innovation. Combining those factorsgives us the total brand-perception score. While the scores reflect a brand's image, they do not reflect the actual qualities of any brand's vehicles.

"The key word is 'perception'. Consumers are influenced by word of mouth, marketing, and hands-on experience. Often, perception can be a trailing indicator, reflecting years of good or bad performance in a category, and it can also be influenced by headlines in the media," said Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports deputy automotive editor.

Consumer Reports survey shows the brand to watch is Telsa Motors, which jumped from 47 points last year, to fifth position with 88 points. Tesla had a strong, very public year, with soaring stock prices, magazine awards, and exceptional crash-test performance. Innovation, performance, and sleek styling is clearly gaining attention and making a positive impression. By gaining points in several categories, Tesla was able to raise its overall score. This highlights the value of being good at multiple things, rather than rely on a single facet.

Consumer perception of Subaru's safety is a key factor in that brand's ascension into the top 10. This modest-scale automaker has made big news over the past year with its "good" crash-test performance, among other accomplishments. All its models, except for the aged Tribeca, have earned coveted Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The survey results suggest consumers are paying attention.

That the remainder of the Top 10 all score 73 or higher is notable, for last year, there was a wider spread. Many brands impress consumers, creating a challenge for brands to distinguish themselves in the fast-moving marketplace. Likewise, consumers need to determine where to spend their money.

For more information on Consumer Reports 2014 overall brand perception rankings visit www.ConsumerReports.org, starting February 5.

Consumer Reports survey ranks the seven key factors by how important they are to consumers when buying a new car. The percentage is based on the number of respondents who said the factor was among their top three priorities: Quality (90), Performance (83), Fuel economy (81), and Technology/Innovation (68%).

Quality:

The top factor for car buyers remains quality, scoring 90 points both this year and last. What has changed is the number of brands that are distinguished by this attribute. In 2013, Consumer Reports had four brands show a clear advantage; this year, there are six that stand out from the herd, including Cadillac in sixth place. Toyota has an advantage here, with the other brands clustered close behind. Seeing the brands that are considered exemplar for this virtue underscores how "quality" can be broadly interpreted, ranging from tactile first impressions to long-term durability.

Safety:

Volvo has long hung its hat on safety, and this focus continues to pay off. In the minds of consumers, there is a single, clear choice. The Swedish brand increased its lead this year, potentially aided by public awareness of advanced safety features in general, and Volvo's continued efforts to remain on the forefront of safety technology. It will be a challenge for automakers to close the gap with Volvo, but Subaru demonstrates that it is possible with consistent performance across a model range.

Performance:

As Consumer Reports has seen in recent years, standout brands tend to offer a balance of sporty and fuel-efficient models. Chevrolet exemplifies this concept, as it takes the lead for 2014 propelled by the Corvette Stingray, Camaro, and SS, with the Cruze diesel and Volt likely proving a factor, as well. BMW remains in second place, bolstered by turbocharged engines that strive to improve both acceleration and fuel efficiency, plus its electrified i3 and i8.

Value:

Consumers remain value conscious, looking to get the most for their money. With cars, that means looking beyond the purchase price to what the car delivers for that money. Here, Consumer Reports survey showed consistent year-over-year rankings, with the same five automakers topping the chart: Toyota, Honda, Ford, Kia, and Chevrolet.

The twist this year is the corporate siblings Hyundai and Kia have traded places, with about an eight point difference each year separating the two. Clearly, both have the potential to rightfully shine in this area, but their volatile movements suggest owners keep seeing them in different lights, perhaps influenced by the visibility of Hyundai's special recession-proof financing guarantees and introduction of new, compelling products.

Fuel economy:

Toyota owns fuel economy in the minds of consumers, aided by its pioneering Prius hybrid and its continued benchmark performance, with 44 mpg overall. But this is a trait that all automakers are chasing. Smart jumped up 10 points this year, despite not offering a new product. Honda continues to hover near the top, with its continued focus on efficiency. Tesla and Volkswagen crashed the party this year, with increased recognition for their accomplishments. The electric Tesla Model S garnered much attention this year for its combination of gas-free luxury and performance, with ample range that enables it to be a truly traditional car replacement. Volkswagen continues to carve a notable niche with its efficient diesel powertrains, now joined by a hybrid in the Jetta line.

Design/style:

Notably a less important factor, design/style still plays a vital role in driving car purchases. Truly a subjective measure, design continues to be led by the prestige brands BMW, Cadillac, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. But, their lead is slight and vulnerable to the fickle tides of public tastes. Consumer Reports' survey has seen mainstream brands be increasingly daring in recent years, and several have invested in upscale exterior dressing, such as extensive chrome and LED lights, to grab attention. The top 10 here is rounded out with Ford, Lexus, Ferrari, Tesla, and Dodge.

Technology/innovation:

The least important car-buyer factor rated by consumers in CR's survey, technology/innovation, is still a significant consideration for at least 68 percent of car shoppers. Automakers are racing to offer the latest, greatest infotainment and advanced safety features. And consequently, brochures and advertising are overflowing with similar-sounding systems from across the industry, making it difficult for brands to distinguish themselves. But this year, Tesla has done so, giving the fresh brand a commanding lead in this year's rankings. The other top brands all have focused on consumer-facing technology, though with mixed results. The much-ballyhooed infotainment systems from these brands often leave something to be desired.

How the scores were calculated:

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a random, nationwide telephone survey of 1,578 adults from Dec. 6-15, 2013, and collected survey data from 1,764 adults in households that had at least one car.

Consumer Reports' overall brand perception score is an index calculated as the total number of times that a particular make was mentioned as exemplar across seven categories, weighted by category importance, and 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. Each category scores reflect the number of times that the particular make was mentioned as a leader for the particular attribute, again corrected for awareness.

Complete car brand perception scores and rankings for each important car buying factor: quality, safety, performance, value, fuel economy, design/style, and technology/innovation appear onwww.ConsumerReports.org, today. Updated daily, ConsumerReports.org is the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news, and car-buying information. Check out CR's ongoing Twitter feed at @CRCars.

Consumer Reports is the world's largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, Website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.


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  • 44 Comments
      JohnM
      • 10 Months Ago
      Yeah and Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga are some of the most popular musicians right now. People are idiots.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 10 Months Ago
        @JohnM
        Yup. And MacDonalds is the best restaurant, Walmart is the best store, Budweiser is the best beer, etc, etc. Welcome to the reign of Mediocrity.
        • 10 Months Ago
        @JohnM
        [blocked]
      straferhoo
      • 10 Months Ago
      no surprises here, top 4 selling brands in US.
      pwr2lbs
      • 10 Months Ago
      Keep up the good work.
      Sharpie
      • 10 Months Ago
      Looks like Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet, and Honda paid the most to CR this time around........CR the most biased magazine in autodom.
        Timon
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Sharpie
        Let me guess, you got down voted because you included Chevy and Ford. Sad.
      Black Dyanmite
      • 10 Months Ago
      Toyota beat Ford by 25 points? How did Ford get so close? What's up with that? BD
        Walt
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Black Dyanmite
        Toyota only leads in one thing - recalls. People are slowly wising up and looking elsewhere.
          owen brown
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Walt
          We've been hearing the same stupid comments for the past 10 yrs you idiot. How are people starting to wise up, by making them number 1 in sales year after year?
      Robert Fahey
      • 10 Months Ago
      I suspect Tesla will displace some of these heavy-hitters within three years.
      Termin8
      • 10 Months Ago
      I rarely agree with CR on anything, ESPECIALLY cars! So this means zero IMO.
      Timon
      • 10 Months Ago
      To the CR bashers, 10, 20 years ago CR rated the Detroit 3 very low on reliability, and guess what, they were! From my personal experience. Based on that, CR is a credible source for me and many others.
        Johnny
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Timon
        CR is great when it comes to blenders and toasters, but they know jack about cars. The points they criticize and conversely praise on are ludicrous to everyone but the elderly or feeble minded.
      al4gg10
      • 10 Months Ago
      Vehicle Quality / Reliability ... FORD ? You have GOT to be delirious ! Between the tight highway steering issues / poor auto transmissions that suddenly stop working / to the wonderful MyFordTouch not even mentioning the Eco - Boost fiasco ! OMG ! FORD ? They have the most Unreliable cars in almost EVERY Category ! Fiesta / Focus / Fusion / Escape / Explorer / Taurus all at the BOTTOM for Quality in their categories ! Can the LEMON Law cover a whole car Company ? It should be a YELLOW LEMON Oval on the front of those CARS !
        Johnny
        • 10 Months Ago
        @al4gg10
        Ecoboost "fiasco?" The EcoBoost has been a hot item since it's introduction in the 2011 F-150 (which I own) and has been a huge money maker as well as selling point for the company. It has a fantastic reliability rating thus far, and in my own personal experience, has been a fantastic engine. My 2011 Supercrew absolutely blows the doors off my old 2005 Supercab 5.4L V8 it replaced, both in towing capacity, acceleration, and average MPG. Oh yeah, what a "fiasco." As for the people complaining about MFT, there's brain dead, and then there's those folks. If my 69 year old Texan father can figure out how to work MyFordTouch on his rental car, pretty sure everyone else could if they just read the manual, or took two seconds to adapt to a touch screen instead of physical buttons.
        carguy60
        • 10 Months Ago
        @al4gg10
        go back to school, maybe you will learn take your blinders off./...MAYBE
      Luke
      • 10 Months Ago
      It's interesting to see Ford so high on that list considering the repeated bashing they receive from CR and others over MFT. It shows that people are doing their own research and understanding technological growing pains from more serious issues. Seeing Chevy on there is a good sign; perhaps the public is beginning to get over the bailout?
      MeanMrMustard
      • 10 Months Ago
      Consumer Reports actually said something "good" about Ford? Is this real life?
      narcszm
      • 10 Months Ago
      This makes total sense. For people who shop vehicles the same way they shop vacuum cleaners, televisions, and washing machines, I fully expect the most appliance-like marque to be at the top of the list. A bit curious that Ford beat out Honda as an appliance, but maybe the F150 is the most utilitarian appliance of them all.
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