The best brands list largely mirrors the survey from last year, in which the top six brands finished in the same order, according to the product-testing organization and consumer magazine, which released the results Friday.
Scoring worst in the survey were Mitsubishi and Toyota’s Scion brand – tying for last place – and Ram trucks, scoring third worst.
The rankings are based on a random nationally representative sample of consumers who answered questions about automakers in seven categories: quality, safety, value, performance, design/style, technology/innovation, and environmentally-friendly/green. Results were combined into an overall perception score. They do not reflect actual quality or product testing by Consumer Reports.
The perception results differed significantly from the magazine’s reliability rankings, last released in October.
Reliability rankings: Japanese brands sweep top five spots
Ford, for instance, scored second in consumer perception while scoring second-to-last in the reliability rankings, a precipitous drop over Ford’s reliability scores in recent years, stemming largely from problems with its MyFord Touch infotainment system.
Toyota’s Scion brand had the opposite dynamic – scoring first among 28 brands in reliability but dead last in consumer perception in a tie with Mitsubishi. (Toyota and its Lexus luxury division rounded out the top three in reliability, giving the automaker a clean sweep.)
Tesla, the California maker of electric cars, place 10th in the perception ranking for the second year in a row – even though it currently sells just one model, in low volumes, at prices topping $80,000.
“It is clear that it takes more than a single ad campaign or new product for most brands to connect with consumers and earn their favor,” Consumer Reports said in a release. “The rare exception is Tesla, a small, electric-car builder that has garnered awards for its new Model S sedan and made a notable splash in this latest survey.”
In general terms, automakers are competing fiercely to earn the notice and trust of today’s consumers, the magazine said.
“This past year brought stability and increased sales to much of the automotive industry. Yet, the brand awareness scores for some like BMW, Buick and Hyundai have declined,” said Jeff Bartlett, deputy auto editor online at Consumer Reports. “The data shows that it has become harder for companies to compete for share of mind. Consumers are not seeing as much differentiation between brands.”
Quality and safety remain the top two car buying factors for consumers, followed closely by value and performance, according to the survey. Consumer also have a genuine interest in environmentally-friendly cars, but for many consumers, the magazine said, “the green in the wallet drives more purchasing decisions."
Here are the full lists of the best and worst brands in overall consumer perception, along with their scores on the survey.
1. Toyota, 133
2. Ford, 118
3. Honda, 114
4. Chevrolet, 94