Brand perception is one of the most important things to car companies. After all, a brand's reputation determines some of the most fundamental decisions in the car buying process. If you want a green car, you're going to look at brands that you perceive as "green." If you want a safe car, you're going to start researching brands that have a reputation for safety.
Perception influences that initial step down a certain car shopping path.
Consumer Reports recently released the findings of its annual brand perception survey, which is used as a sort of nationwide barometer for how people are feeling about each of the car companies.
The publication asked people to name the top car brand in seven different categories. These were "performance," "safety," "quality," "value," tech/innovation," "design" and "environmental friendliness." The brands then received an overall score which was determined by analyzing the responses of the participants.
The complete methodology of the analysis is pretty in depth and convoluted. If you're really interested in getting into the data, you can check out the full report here. Since you probably don't have time to do that, we've compiled a list of what's important: The top five and bottom five car brands in the survey.
The usual suspects -- Honda and Toyota -- scored exceptionally well. As did Ford and Chevy. But, there were a couple surprises on the list. Head through to see what Americans think about the big car brands.
No. 5 Best - Tesla
Tesla was a newcomer to the top five this year. The brand scored high in a couple of categories, taking the number one spot in the "technology/innovation" category and the number four spot in "fuel economy." Why it didn't take the number one ranking in the latter is odd, seeing as Tesla only makes all-electric vehicles.
Such positive brand perception is evidence that Tesla has come a long way in a remarkably short amount of time for a carmaker. The Palo Alto, Calif., company has only been around since 2003.
No. 4 Best - ChevroletScore: 105
Chevrolet scored very well numerous areas, including the "performance," "value" and "quality" categories. It was also a newcomer to the top five in "design," likely due to its super sleek new Corvette Stingray and SS performance cars.
The storied American automaker is famous for everything from its trucks to midsize sedans and high performance vehicles. With good perception in some of the most important areas, people obviously see Chevy as one of the best car brands.
No. 3 Best - HondaScore: 109
Honda found itself among the top five in several categories analyzed by Consumer Reports. It's not surprising. Honda's reliability, value and eco-consciousness is well-documented and respected by even the most casual car enthusiast.
Though Honda has often been criticized for its reluctance to push the envelope with design and technology, its positive perception is evidence that sticking to what it knows is a winning formula.
No. 2 Best - FordScore: 120
Ford was one of the top 5 automakers in every category of the study except for "design" and "fuel economy," making it a shoo-in for a top spot on the Consumer Reports list. Ford has been on an impressive tear for a few years now, with multiple stylish and successful new products launching every year for global consumers to snatch up.
Ford's infotainment system, MyFord Touch, has been the subject of much scrutiny by critics and consumers, but the problems don't seem to be affecting the American brand's perception.
No. 1 Best - ToyotaScore: 145
Toyota is the most well-perceived auto brand, according to Consumer Reports. Scoring the number one spot in the "fuel economy," "quality" and "value" categories, Toyota blew away the rest of the competition with an overall score of 145.
There's no question that Toyota has fully recovered from its woes over the past couple of years, including the massive unintended acceleration recall and the Japanese tsunami that severely impacted production. With big sales numbers, a stable of new products and great brand perception, the automaker is back where it is used to being.
No. 5 Worst - Scion
It's interesting that Scion, one of the worst-perceived brand, is actually a part of Toyota, which is the best-perceived, according to Consumer Reports.
Scion is up slightly in perception this year, as last year it was the overall worst -- a small victory for the still-fledgling Toyota brand.
No. 4 Worst - Rolls-Royce
Seen as big, expensive and inefficient, the uber-luxurious brand of Rolls-Royce took the number four worst spot on the brand perception list. The brand scored a paltry 11 points in this year's survey.
No. 3 Worst - Jaguar
In spite of a wealth of new, attractive vehicles, such as the F-Type, Jaguar's reputation for lackluster quality and reliability still lingers in the minds of many consumers. It doesn't help that the cars aren't exactly fuel efficient or technologically cutting-edge, either.
No. 2 Worst - MaseratiScore: 8
Maserati, a luxury Italian brand owned by Fiat, is trying to gain a foothold here in the American market, namely with its new Ghibli sedan, which is priced to compete with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series. Unfortunately, the brand does not enjoy particularly good perception, making this a tall order.
Maserati's perception couldn't get much worse right now, according to the study. Perhaps that recent Super Bowl ad will change some minds.
No. 1 Worst - Land RoverScore: 4
Although Land Rover makes some highly capable and luxurious SUVs, like the Range Rover Sport, seen here, it is far from well-perceived by American consumers. Its miserable score of four puts it firmly in place as the worst-performing brand in the Consumer Reports study.
Land Rover has generally been reputed as making cars with inferior quality and terrible gas mileage. They're also quite expensive.