User Perception of Automobile Brands

I often hear people in HF say their users “don’t always know what they want” or that users want something that isn’t good for them. (One example might be a touch screen when a touch screen is not appropriate.) Consumer Reports lists the top automobile models by perception of a brand in certain categories.

The categories they used were:

  1. safety
  2. quality
  3. value
  4. performance
  5. environmental friendliness
  6. design
  7. technological innovation.

As far as I can tell, each brand got a point every time they were mentioned as the example brand for a certain category by 1,745 randomly surveyed participants via phone. They don’t list the question, but I imagine it was something similar to “What brand do you think of when you think ‘safety’?” Here are their findings.

Toyota – 193
Honda – 149
Ford – 109
Cadillac – 102
Mercedes-Benz – 100
GMC – 98
Lexus – 95
BMW – 95
Chevrolet – 94
Volvo – 88

Here are the 5 weakest:

Jeep – 21
Hummer – 19
Saab – 18
Mazda – 17
Suzuki – 7

Obviously, the numbers are smaller than you would expect. This is because they are an index. The numbers beside each brand reflect the number of times participants mentioned the brand as an example of one of the 7 categories, then divided by the number of “unaided” mentions. Consumer Reports states that this division corrects for awareness level, so the most popular brands don’t get artificially bumped up. I admit I don’t understand exactly what they are getting at there. I assumed an “unaided” mention of a brand was one not in conjunction with a particular category, but again I’m not sure how that is a correction for brand popularity. Jump in if you have an idea about this.

The Consumerist blog pulls a number of Consumer Reports sources together nicely into one post, which I recommend reading. It also provides a lengthier discussion of pure reliability rankings for automobiles.*


Consumer Reports – Overview and list of the top perceived brands

Consumer Reports – Top 5 in each category

*One caveat: the rankings listed here (and on The Consumerist) are a combination of the seven factors. Consumerist lists them only as “reliability” in order to compare them to the list of actual reliability rankings. The lists don’t match up, but I suspect it has more to do with the top 10 ranking coming from 7 factors (including factors like “environmental friendliness”) and the top 10 reliability ranking coming from only factors linked to reliability.