Throughout The Car Industry
Japanese Brands Score Big In Conumser Perception, Ford And Hyundai On The Right Track
Auto industry research and analysis firm ALG recently released the results of its spring 2012 Perceived Quality Study. The semiannual study polls consumers in regards to how they view the quality of automotive brands. Japanese brands like Honda and Toyota lead the way, while Ford and Hyundai are most improved.
"Perception is a powerful force in consumer buying behavior. Consumers often base their beliefs about quality on the emotional connection they have with a brand, regardless of the actual quality. Alternatively, a brand that experiences an instance of bad publicity may take years to shake off the negative effects, even if the actual quality is good," ALG describes.
The firm goes on to explain that those rules are no different for automobiles, but we'd add that perception is even more important in the automotive market than other industries. Because cars are a major investment, and a product that buyers use nearly every day for years, they tend to make a lasting impression one way or the other. If you have a great experience with a car brand, you'll probably invest in another car from that brand at some time in your life. If you have a particularly bad experience, you may very well write it off forever.
Long ago, Japanese brands developed a sparkling reputation for reliability and quality, and that reputation precedes many of those brands today. Honda (score 81.3), Toyota (80.1) and Subaru (71.1) are the 1,2 and 3 mainstream (non-luxury) brands in the study. The study awards each brand a score between 0 and 100 based upon responses from about 3,500 consumers. Toyota experiences the largest year-over-year improvement and has made strong gains from when recall problems of 2009/2010 damaged its image for reliability and quality.
As ALG points out, perceptions can be hard to break. But, they're not impossible. Both Hyundai and Ford have had success in improving consumer perception over the past five years. Ford (70.5) has improved its perception rating 37 percent since 2008, and Hyundai (62.3) has shot up 25 percent during the same period. Ford is the fourth-placed brand in this year's study and Hyundai is eighth. Hyundai leaped over the industry average two years ago and now sits about three percentage points over average. Other than those two, Kia is the only other one of the 19 brands studied that has made significant perception improvements since the study began in 2008.
Those brands that need the most improvement include Smart (39.6), Fiat (44.5), Suzuki (48.1) and Dodge (48.8). Though Dodge and Fiat score low, ALG cites them as two of the brands that had the best year-over-year gains.
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