Toyota once again claimed the top spot in Consumer Reports' Car-Brand Perception Survey for 2014.
Ford, Honda and Chevrolet also ranked highly in the annual survey, which reflect how consumers perceive each brand in seven important buying factors: quality, safety, performance, value, fuel economy, design/style, and technology/innovation.
CR combines the scores for each of those factors to determine a total brand-perception score.
It is important to note that the scores reflect only a brand's image – they do not reflect the actual qualities of any of the brand's vehicles.
"The key word is 'perception'," said Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports deputy automotive editor.
"Consumers are influenced by word of mouth, marketing, and hands-on experience," he explained. "Often, perception can be a trailing indicator, reflecting years of good or bad performance in a category, and it can also be influenced by headlines in the media,"
A case in point is Tesla – a brand and vehicle with which very few people are likely to have any firt-hand experience. It leaped from nowhere last year to fifth position this year.
The fact that it earned high points in several categories, thus raising its overall score, highlights the value of being good at multiple things, rather than rely on a single facet, CR observed.
Subaru also joined the top ten in the survey, with a big improvement in its safety score – undoubtedly related to its strong and highly publicized crash-test performancein Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing.
Behind Toyota, the spread in scores among the remainder of the Top 10 was less than last year, suggesting that more brands are registering positively with consumers.
The Consumer Reports was conducted in the U.S. between December 6 and 15, 2013, via a random, nationwide telephone survey of 1,578 adults of 1,764 adults in households that had at least one car.