Honda and Lexus tops in perceived quality

Ford and Hyundai have the greatest perception improvement over the last five years

Published: June 6, 2012, 8:00 AM

"Perception is reality" is an oft-quoted mantra in the fields of advertising and marketing, and nowhere is it more valid than in the auto business.

While real-world quality and reliability studies may play a role in a car-buyer's decision-making process, his or her perception of a brand's quality may be equally important, if not more so. Chances are you can cite examples of that fact in your own experience.

That being the case, the results of the just-released 2012 ALG Perceived Quality Study are good news for Honda and Lexus, which topped the charts for Mainstream and Luxury brands, respectively.

Now in its fifth year, ALG’s Perceived Quality Study is a semi-annual consumer survey that measures the perceived quality of automotive brands, based on the opinions of more than 3,000 consumers (in the U.S.). ALG is a research and analysis firm, specializing in the auto industry, best known for its forecasting and publication of residual values for new vehicles.

Following Honda (which scored 81.3 out of 100), among Mainstream brands, Toyota Toyota (80.1) ranked second and Subaru (71.1) third. Ford (70.5), Nissan (70.2) and Volkswagen (69.6) clustered closely behind, while Mazda (64.0) and Hyundai (62.3) completed the top eight.

Only those eight were above average in terms of public perception.

Toyota showed the greatest year-over-year improvement of any brand (6.4 points), as its reputation continues to recover from the unintended-acceleration crisis of a couple years ago.

Over a longer, five-year term, Ford and Hyundai achieved the greatest improvements in perceived quality – a 37%-improvement for Ford and 25% for Hyundai since 2008.

Among luxury brands, Lexus ranked highest for the second consecutive year, and highest of any brand, with a perceived quality score of 85.4. Three European brands – Mercedes-Benz (82.9), BMW (81.5) Porsche and Acura (78.2) rounded out the top five.

They were followed by Infiniti (77.6), Volvo (75.7) and Audi (74.2). As was the case among mainstream brands, only those eight were above average in terms of public perception.

"Changing the perception of quality is a long-term proposition," said Eric Lyman, ALG’s vice president of residual value solutions. "Consumers recognize the product improvements made by Ford and Hyundai. Honda and Toyota are still widely recognized as being the quality leaders, but as more consumers increasingly consider brands like Subaru, Ford and Hyundai, that perception gap erodes."