The past few years has seen major shakeups in the automotive industry, and it shows in a recent survey on brand perception conducted by Consumer Reports. Once dominant players Toyota, Honda, Ford, and Chevrolet remain on top, but each automaker has seen its points gap decrease compared to last year. In the meantime, electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla has broken into the top 10.

The survey is constructed to reflect seven categories of evaluated criteria: safety, quality, value, performance, environmentally friendly/green, design/style, and technology/innovation. Consumer Reports then tallies all of the points earned by the public’s perception of each automaker for a final score. This score represents an auto maker’s reputation in the public’s eye, but importantly doesn’t represent the actual quality of a brand’s sales figures.

Toyota, Honda, Ford, and Chevrolet remained on top in Consumer Reports most recent survey but saw their gaps close dramatically. They weren’t alone either, as most top brands saw a drop-off in the double digits in the total score. Smaller auto makers like Fisker and Tesla have been able to capitalize on the slide, with Tesla cracking the survey’s top 10 list. Toyota led the way for all auto makers but still fell 17 points compared to last year’s results. Ford, Honda, and BMW saw their scores drop-off more than 20 points but were still able to retain their top positions. General Motors two most popular brands, Chevrolet and Cadillac, did a little better with single-digit decreases compared to last year.

There were some events that happened last year that were out of auto maker’s hands which affected overall sales and brand perception. Unstable gas prices along with an unpredictable economy have put the hurt on some brands. Japanese automakers have also had a long road to recovery, one they’re still on. The earthquake and tsunami last March crippled their manufacturing ability, but don’t expect them to be down forever. With the exception of Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus, no other Japanese brands were able to break into the top 10 of Consumer Reports most recent survey. On the contrary, four of the bottom 10 auto makers ranked in the survey hailed from Japan: Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Infiniti, and Mazda.

The survey concluded that consumers value safety as a top priority, followed by quality, value, performance, environmental friendliness, design and style, and technology and innovation. You can check out Consumer Reports full survey findings here.

What do you value most when searching for a new or used vehicle? Do you have a preconceived notion about certain auto makers when compared to others? Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

Source: Consumer Reports

By Trevor Dorchies