Consumers Don’t Lie: Here’s How Toyota Took the Crown

With sales forming the heart of the business and often being the most-watched metric by investors, consumers have the final say in determining how well automakers do. This makes consumers’ perceptions about a company’s brand tremendously valuable, and car makers spend large amounts of money responding to the nebulous whims of the customer.

Toyota Prius

Toyota (NYSE:TM) reported on January 28 that it sold 9,747,762 vehicles in 2012, an annual growth of 22.6 percent. This makes the company the largest seller of cars in the world, edging out General Motors (NYSE:GM), which took the crown in 2011. This is in no small part due to the incredible value of Toyota’s brand, which has consistently ranked as the highest among automakers.

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Even in the United States, the Toyota brand tops American car makers such as GM and Ford (NYSE:F). According to a recent survey from Consumer Reports, which tracks consumer perceptions of top auto brands, Toyota came out a clear winner. The report ranks each brand by their aggregate score in seven categories: quality, safety, value, performance, design/style, technology/innovation, and environmentally friendly/green. Each category is weighted for its importance to the consumer, with quality and safety being by far the most-important categories.

Here are the results:

Toyota 133
Ford 118
Honda 114
Chevrolet 94
Mercedes-Benz 77

While brand value is difficult to track, there are a few reports that do their best. Toward the end of 2012, Interbrand released its list of the top 100 most valuable brands in the world, ranking names by their best guess at how many dollars they were worth. Thirteen automakers made the top 100 list. Here’s a rundown of the results:

(out of 100)
(in millions)
Toyota 10 $30,290 +9%
Mercedes-Benz 11 $30,097 +10%
BMW 12 $29,052 +18%
Honda 21 $17,280 -11%
Volkswagen 39 $9,252 +18%
Ford 45 $7,958 +6%
Hyundai 53 $7,473 +24%
Audi 55 $7,196 +17%
Porsche 72 $5,149 +12%
Nissan 73 $4,969 +30%
KIA 87 $4,089 n/a (new this year)
Harley-Davidson 96 $3,857 +10%
Ferrari 99 $3,770 +5%

Notice any absences? Chevrolet, which appeared in the Consumer Reports top-five list, failed to make this list and may have fallen off after the company’s painful bailout ordeal.

Honda (NYSE:HMC) made a repeat appearance, and came in surprisingly high on the list. However, its strong rank was undermined by its shrinking value as it is the only automaker on the list that is currently facing brand value contraction.

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