Toyota has been toppled as the leading top-quality automaker, with consumers now looking more favorably on Honda and Ford, according to Consumer Reports’ 2011 Car Brand Perception Survey.
A series of massive recalls over the last 18 months has tarnished Toyota’s reputation for quality, the magazine said Tuesday. Toyota Motor Corp. paid nearly $50 million in fines last year to federal safety regulators for failing to inform them promptly of defects in its vehicles and for delaying recalls.
The Honda brand ranked first in the survey, with 25% of respondents naming it as the manufacturer with the best quality.
The Ford line was second, at 23%, and the Toyota brand finished third at 19%, a drop of 11 percentage points for the former leader. Chevrolet, at 16%, and Mercedes-Benz, at 15%, rounded out the top five.
Despite Toyota’s dive in the quality rankings, the Japanese automaker still scored highest in overall brand perception — an amalgamation of separate rankings of safety, quality, value, performance, environmental friendliness, design/style and technology/innovation.
For brand perception, Toyota, with an overall score of 147, narrowly edged out Ford, at 144 points, on the consumer magazine’s scale. Toyota was helped by its big lead as an automaker that is considered environmentally friendly, said C. Matt Fields, a magazine spokesman.
“Statistically, it really is a dead heat,” he said.
Safety was cited as the most important factor in car-buying decisions by 65% of consumers, followed by quality, at 57%, and value, 51%.
In safety, Volvo led, garnering 70% of the responses. It had a giant 50-point advantage over second-place Ford, at 20%. Honda and Subaru were both at 17% and Mercedes-Benz was fifth, with 14%.
For value, Ford, at 25%, squeaked by Honda, which had 24%, and Toyota, with 23%, as the brand most mentioned by consumers. Hyundai, with 17%, and Chevrolet, at 15%, rounded out the value rankings.
The full report can be found at the ConsumerReports.org website.
The Consumer Reports survey matches other auto-market trends indicating that Ford has moved up in the public’s perception and that Toyota has declined.
The Ford brand outsold Toyota’s line of vehicles last year for the first time since 2006. Toyota saw its share of the U.S. auto market fall to 15.2% in 2010 from 17% in the previous year.
Meanwhile, Ford’s market share rose to 16.7% last year, up more than 1 percentage point.
This was the second consecutive year of rising market share for Ford and its first back-to-back increase since 1992-93.
Last year, Toyota was the subject of more than a quarter of the complaints that drivers filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to a study by auto information company Edmunds.com.
Its ratio of complaints per 100,000 vehicles sold jumped to nearly 87 in 2010 from 37 a year earlier. Much of it stemmed from reports in The Times and elsewhere about sudden acceleration problems.
Among large automakers, Ford and Honda had the lowest complaint ratios.