Tesla, the California-based electric brand behind the Model S, stormed into the top five automotive brands in a recent survey by Consumer Reports, the organization announced Wednesday.
The company rounds out a group led by Toyota, Ford, Honda, and Chevrolet as the automakers that ranked highest in overall brand perception. Tesla ranked 11th in last year's survey.
Rounding out the top 10 this year were Subaru, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Cadillac and BMW.
The annual survey by Consumer Reports asks people about seven factors they consider when buying a car, weighing them from most important to least: quality, safety, performance, value, fuel economy, design and technology. The brands are ranked for each factor, and then an overall ranking is determined for automakers.
"The key word is 'perception,'" Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports' deputy automotive editor, said in a statement. "Consumers are influenced by word of mouth, marketing, and hands-on experience."
Toyota remained the big winner in the survey, widening its lead over Ford with a total score of 145. Consumer Reports surmised that earlier safety concerns about the Japanese automaker may be fading from buyers' minds.
The brand scored in the top 10 for all individual categories except design, and scored at the top for quality, fuel economy and value.
Safety ranked a close second to quality in terms of what attributes consumers look for most when buying a car. Thus, Subaru was able to move into the overall top 10 in the survey due to all of its models (save for the aging Tribeca) garnering the coveted “Top Safety Pick +” designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Consumer Reports said. Volvo was ranked as the safest brand overall.
At the back of the class were the 10 brands that ranked last in overall perception: Jeep, Infiniti, Mitsubishi, Mini, Ram, Scion, Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Maserati, with Land Rover ranking the lowest with a score of four.
The 2013 results were also notable because the top 10 brands all scored closer together than previously, highlighting the challenge automakers face in distinguishing themselves in an increasingly competitive landscape.
Yet only three automakers -- Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota -- make up more than 40% of all vehicles consumers drive most often, Consumer Reports found. Honda, Dodge, Nissan, Buick, Chrysler, and GMC trucks combined for an additional 30%.
But it’s one of the youngest brands in the survey that has Consumer Reports’ attention: Tesla.
In May 2013, the organization’s magazine gave the Tesla Model S its highest score for an automobile, but said a limited history on the road prevented the outlet from giving the Tesla a coveted “Recommended Buy” rating. Six months later, Consumer Reports announced that the Model S had the highest owner loyalty of any car it had surveyed in years.
“The brand to watch is Telsa Motors, which jumped from 47 points last year, to fifth position with 88 points,” Consumer Reports said in releasing the survey results. “Tesla had a strong, very public year, with soaring stock prices, magazine awards and exceptional crash-test performance.”
Consumer Reports conducted the phone survey from Dec. 6 to Dec. 15, with 1,578 adults from households that owned a vehicle responding.