The Washington Post

Honda, Lexus Are Tops In Perceived Quality; Ford, Hyundai Improve

When it comes to perceived quality -- that is, how consumers view brands, based on personal experience and word-of-mouth -- Honda and Lexus are at the top of their game. That's according to ALG, a California-based company that has been predicting valuations in the automotive industry for almost 50 years.  

In the spring of this year, ALG interviewed asked roughly 4,000 consumers to share their opinions of both mass-market and luxury car brands. Participants told ALG a bit about their familiarity with each brand and assigned those brands a score of 0 to 100.

Mass-market rankings

On the mass-market front, Honda scored an impressive 81.3 points, though Toyota came in a very close second at 80.1.  Six other brands scored above the industry average of 59.1, most of which were Asian marques:

Subaru (71.1)

Ford (70.5)

Nissan (70.2)

Volkswagen (69.6)

Mazda (64.0)

Hyundai (62.3)

At the other end of the scale, five brands scored below the 50-point mark. Unfortunately, three of the five are owned by Chrysler:

Chrysler (49.1) 

Dodge (48.8) 

Suzuki (48.1) 

Fiat (44.5) 

Smart (39.6)

It's worth noting, however, that Ford and Hyundai may be the big winners in ALG's survey, since public perception of both has soared over the past several years. According to ALG, Ford’s perception of quality has jumped about 37% since 2008, while Hyundai's score has surged 25%.

ALG also gives a shout-out to Dodge, Fiat, Kia, and Scion. Eric Lyman, ALG’s Vice President of Residual Value Solutions, says that "Kia and Dodge are great examples of perception improvement based on product and marketing.... Both brands have launched exciting new product and impactful messaging. While they both face significant history to overcome, consumers are beginning to recognize their improvement."

Luxury rankings

In the luxury segment, things were slightly more competitive. Lexus was the clear winner, but the slope down to the luxury average of 71.2 was pretty gradual:

Lexus (85.4)

Mercedes-Benz (82.9)

BMW (81.5)

Porsche (80.0)

Acura (78.2)

Infiniti (77.6)

Volvo (75.7)

Audi (74.2)

And below deck:

Cadillac (67.2)

Lincoln (67.0)

Land Rover (60.4)

Jaguar (58.8)

Alfa Romeo (56.2) 

Perhaps the most interesting part of this study comes at the end of ALG's report, where the firm explores the relationship between familiarity, ownership, and perception of brand quality.

For example, survey participants seemed largely unfamiliar with Smart, but felt that it wasn't a quality brand. On the other hand, consumers weren't all that familiar with Alfa Romeo either -- perhaps because it's not sold in the U.S. yet -- but scored it 15 points higher.

ALG doesn't spend a lot of time hypothesizing about these issues, but you certainly can. If you have time to look at the complete study (it's only 6 pages long), you can download it here as a PDF

(c) 2012, High Gear Media.



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