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YONKERS, N.Y. — Consumer Reports released its 2010 Car Brand Perception Survey, and coming in at the top, yet again, was Toyota.

As some may know, the publication bases its scoring of individual brands on how they are viewed by consumers in seven categories. These include safety, quality, value, performance, design/style, technology/innovation, and environmentally friendly/green.

Officials emphasized that these "reflect consumers' total perception level of a brand across those categories, and not the actual qualities of the brand's individual vehicles."

While Toyota topped the list, three brands — including two domestic makes — saw their scores surge by at least 30 points.

Specifically, Ford — with a score of 141 compared with 109 in 2009 — moved upward to No. 2 this year after placing third last year behind Toyota and Honda, respectively.

Chevrolet came in fourth with a score of 124, as the brand moved ahead five spots on the list.

Subaru had the largest improvement, climbing 39 points, which was good enough to move it from No. 18 to No. 9.

"As we analyzed the results from this year's survey, we have found that marketing and news coverage can be important influences, shaping brand perception over time," according to the publication. "Conversely, the brands that can clearly deliver on core purchase factors will make lasting impressions.

"In contrast to brands that have a strong image in only one area, such as Volvo with safety, the brands that see the greatest success are those that excel in multiple areas, such as Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chevrolet," officials added.

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports said the brands with the worst perception were Hummer, which scored 11, followed by Saab (13).  

Suzuki and Infiniti (19) tied for the fifth-from-the-bottom spot.

"Clearly, several brands emerged from the 2009 auto crisis stronger than others, and the way consumers perceive the brands is in constant change," officials shared.

The data was gathered through a nationwide random, telephone survey in December that collected information from 1,752 adults in households with at least one vehicle.

Explaining how overall brand perception is determined, officials described it as "an index calculated as the total number of times that a particular make was mentioned as exemplar across all seven categories, divided by the total unaided mentions."  

The publication noted that the overall scores are aggregates and are "rounded to the nearest whole number."  
Consumer Reports further explained that respondents were asked to name the brands they felt best reflected the various categories, instead of the publication simply giving interviewees a list of brands.

"That approach compensates for awareness level, ensuring that every brand has an equal chance of leading a category, not just the best-selling or most well-known brands," the publication pointed out.

"Category scores reflect the number of times that the particular make was mentioned as an exemplar of the particular attribute, again corrected for awareness," officials added.

Of those seven categories, safety was, once again, the most important to respondents, as almost two-thirds of the interviewees put it in their top three of priorities when buying a new vehicle.

Quality was No. 2 with a score of 58 percent, followed by value (51 percent), performance (45 percent), environmentally friendly/green (32 percent), design/style (26 percent) and technology/innovation (15 percent).
Looking each of these categories the winners — based on percentage of respondents who are aware of the brand and put it as the best in the specific category— are as follows:

—Safety: Volvo (73 percent)

—Quality: Toyota (30 percent)

—Value: Honda, Toyota (statistical tie at 26 percent)

—Performance: BMW (29 percent)

—Environmentally friendly/green: Toyota (51 percent)

—Design/style: Lexus, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz (tie at 23 percent

—Technology/innovation: Toyota (32 percent)

The following is the top 10 overall brand perception rankings, then the bottom 10.


—Toyota: 196

—Ford: 141

—Honda: 135

—Chevrolet: 124

—Volvo: 92

—Mercedes-Benz: 92

—BMW: 90

—Cadillac: 87

—Subaru: 81

—Lexus: 80


—Hummer: 11

—Saab: 13

—Mercury: 13

—Mazda: 13

—Suzuki: 19

—Infiniti: 19

—Jeep: 22

—Lincoln: 26

—Kia: 27

—Mitsubishi: 28