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The love of all things "premium" shows no signs of slowing down and it's becoming a join-or-die situation for some companies.

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"Hot. Cold. Neutral. Pathetic." Those are the four brand descriptors professional Detroit auto industry provocateur Peter De Lorenzo applies to 40 major automotive brands in his latest Autoextremist rant.

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In the latest release of its BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands study, market researchers Milward Brown have given BMW the highest ranking of any carmaker, according to Automotive News. Toyota – last year's winner – finished second, followed by Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Nissan, according to the report.

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Interbrand uses a number of criteria to rank the world's top global, profitable, publicly-held brands – "global" meaning they operate on at least three continents, derive at least 30% of their income outside of their home market and no single market accounts for more than 50% of their income. Some of those stipulations are why you won't find companies like Mars or The BBC or even Wal-Mart on the list.

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Subway Map to the Auto World – Click above for high-res image gallery

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With gas prices soaring and SUV sales sinking, General Motors just put its HUMMER brand under "strategic review." That's generally the term used when a company is getting ready to dump a brand. And that begs the question, how many brands does a car company really need?

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So here we have the kind of real-time social engagement that the Internet originally promised us. A site called Brandtag allows you to enter a 1-word attribute for a brand -- like "quattro" for Audi -- and then creates a page with the popularity of any brand identifier denoted by its size on the page relative to every other tag used, i.e. a tag cloud. For instance, one of the biggest words on the Ferrari page is "red," while one of the (many) smallest words is "viagra."

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Could there be some dissension among the General’s troops?

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