Top Auto Brands in America Still Foreign

Mercedes-Benz coupe concept

The success of a car brand is most often measured by the number of units its dealers move off their lots. There’s another piece of marketing at work, though, that’s often behind those sales numbers:

Brand perception.

An automaker’s brand goes way beyond the logo on the grille or the name attached to the trunk lid. The brand encompasses everything a consumer feels or thinks when he or she sees, hears or otherwise has an experience with anything the brand represents. That makes it sound complicated, and it is. So measuring the impact of a brand on consumers is not easy to measure.

Think about a car brand. Any brand. Does it instill feelings of trust in you, or send you into fits of laughter as you make jokes about its reliability? Does it intimidate you or fill you with confidence? Are you enveloped with thoughts of luxury and performance or practicality and cheap plastics?

Automakers spend big bucks to influence what you think of them, so being the top brand in America should be just as big a deal as being the sales king.

Harris PollCompanies like Harris Interactive have made names for themselves by measuring the values of well-known brands. Harris has just released its EquiTrend Scorecard on the automotive sector, which places Honda and Mercedes-Benz at the top of their respective categories. In short, Harris puts a number to all of those feelings people have toward a particular brand as a way to measure its equity.

Putting a different spin on the top results, the survey says that America’s favorite automotive brands are still Japanese and German, but just barely.

BMW, Lexus and Cadillac are just behind Mercedes in the luxury category, while Toyota, Ford and Chevrolet are within spitting distance of Honda on the mass-market side.

The problem I have with the survey is that we don’t know what questions were asked or how the answers were translated to numbers. Sure, the survey shows that Americans like Honda, but it doesn’t tell us why we like Honda or what separates it from the other automakers. Is this a genuine brand study, or a simple popularity contest?

Whatever the case, it does raise an interesting question:

Do the results of Harris Interactive’s study fit with your perceptions of the best car brands in America? Which is your favorite?


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  1. Surveys are such a waste of time. If you want to to know what’s going on in the auto industry, look at sales figures. Money talks.

  2. This “study” holds no value… doesn’t mean anything. Need proof? Why, in their chart, is the word “vehicles” after each car brand? These people don’t know the auto industry.

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