Consumer Reports' 2008 Car Brand Perception Survey: Drivers See Toyota, Honda as Best Overall

 Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports' 2008 Car Brand Perception Survey: Drivers See Toyota, Honda as Best Overall

But perception is not always reality

Consumers perceived Toyota and Honda brands to be best by a wide margin, followed by Ford, Chevrolet, and GMC, according to Consumer Reports' 2008 Car Brand Perception Survey. The survey also revealed that car buyers consider safety and quality as the most important considerations, followed by value, performance, environmental friendliness, design, and technical innovation.

The latest Auto Pulse survey conducted by Consumer Reports' National Research Center, the Car Brand Perception Survey, focused on how consumers perceive and rank car brands in the seven key areas mentioned above. It also looked at which of these factors are most important to consumers when buying a vehicle. Category rankings and analysis can be found online in the Cars section of

Toyota and Honda topped overall rankings with scores of 189 and 146 points, respectively, and took a place in the top five in six of the seven categories. Ford finished third with 112 points, followed by Chevrolet with 110, and GMC with 102. Chevrolet and Ford are the only U.S. brands that rank in the top five in more than one category; each makes the cut in three areas. Among brands that fared worst, Acura finished with eight points, followed by Audi (14 pts.). Mitsubishi (21 pts.), Mercury (22 pts.), and Buick (25 pts.).

Dig deeper, though, and in many cases, consumers' views do not accurately reflect the automaker's recent track record. For example, Mercedes-Benz finished in the top five for quality. But the brand placed 33rd out of 36th in Consumer Reports' latest rankings for predicted reliability, a measure of quality over time. Toyota earned a top spot in this category. And while its vehicles have typically rated well in areas associated with quality, the brand slipped from first place to fifth in the same predicted reliability ratings.

"It is well worth doing your research before making a purchase," said Jeff Bartlett, deputy autos editor, "Depreciation, reliability, safety and other factors may be different from what you associate with a particular brand."

With a score of 77 percent in the Safety category, Volvo is clearly first in consumers' minds. No other category is so unilaterally dominated by one brand. But in another example of perception over reality, Subaru scored well in the Safety category, yet many lower-trim models don't include electronic stability control, a highly recommended safety feature. Other automakers consistently on the cutting edge of safety technology -- such as BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz --- don't make it into the top five. Among new-car shoppers, 63 percent felt safety is the most important consideration.

When it comes to Value, Korean brand Kia finished well with 23 percent of consumers saying they think the brand is a good buy. While this could be a reflection of the make's low-cost models and long warranty, the predicted depreciation for some Kia models is poor -- not a good-value characteristic.

While some perceptions don't match reality, others do. BMW and Porsche led the Performance category with 28 and 25 percentage points, respectively. The vehicles from both brands have consistently earned high ratings in performance in testing at Consumer Reports' 327-acre Auto Test Center.

Coming in at 49 percent, Toyota dominated the Environmentally Friendly/Green category, likely due to the company's role as a pioneer in hybrid technology and its strong-selling Prius hybrid. The Prius is also one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles Consumer Reports has tested. Consumers consider environmental friendliness substantially more significant (35%) than styling (23%), and more than twice as significant as technology and innovation (15%).

In the Design/Style category, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus virtually tied (24%), with both holding a slim margin over Cadillac (23%). In general, car buyers in this survey rated styling low among purchase considerations, but it's easy to underestimate the sales potential of head-turning styling. This is the only category in which Toyota and Honda did not rank in the top five.

As for Technology/Innovation, Toyota (30%), Lexus (29%), Honda (20%), Cadillac (18%), and BMW (17%) rounded out the top five brands.


To learn about consumers' car brand perceptions, the Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a random, nationwide telephone survey from December 6-10, 2007, contacting 2,037 adults. The survey data was collected from the 1,720 adults whose household owns at least one car.

Overall brand perception is an index calculated as the total number of times that the particular make was mentioned as an exemplar across all seven categories, divided by the total unaided mentions. This approach adjusts for awareness level, ensuring every brand has an equal chance of leading a category, not just the best-selling or most well-known brands.

Category scores reflect the number of times that the particular make was mentioned as an exemplar of the particular attribute, again adjusted for awareness.

Consumer Reports' Auto Pulse Survey Series

Throughout the year, Consumer Reports conducts Auto Pulse surveys that track current opinions, perceptions, and buying trends -- the pulse -- of the American consumer automotive marketplace. Results are announced to the media and posted to, the largest paid Web publication.

With more than 7,000,000 print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Website; the magazine's auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To become a subscriber, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645. Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at


The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports(R) is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, CU accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. CU supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.

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Domain: Energy
Category: Transportation

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