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NEW YORK — The 2010 Harris Interactive EquiTrend Study that compiles consumers' opinions of 35 vehicle brands revealed two foreign nameplates posted the largest consumer equity increases during the past five years.

Standing out with the two largest gains were Subaru and Hyundai. Harris indicated that Subaru rose from a reading of 44.36 back in 2005 to 50.17 in the recent report. Meanwhile, Hyundai climbed from 43.53 to 47.68.

"In a year of turmoil for the automotive industry Hyundai and Subaru stand out as leaders in consistently building consumer brand equity over the past several years," Harris officials noted.

"These same brands have posted year-over-year sales increases while the industry has suffered double-digit sales declines," they added.

Despite recent turmoil over recalls, Toyota scored the highest in the report, moving up from 61.29 to 64.13. Coming in right behind Toyota was Honda, rising from 59.95 to 61.50.

"With the survey's questions fielding just before Toyota's January recall, Toyota ranked highest in brand equity for 2010," Harris noted.

"Interestingly, Honda ranked highest when evaluated on the dimension of trust with Toyota placing second," the company added.

The first domestic brand mentioned in the report was Ford, which saw its reading rise from 57.79 to 59.50.

"Our EquiTrend data suggests that in a severe downturn such as one experienced in the auto industry, brands with solid equity growth are resilient and can indeed succeed," explained Carol Gstalder, senior vice president of business and industrial at Harris Interactive.

Conversely, as a whole, General Motors slipped from 60.73 to 57.64. Chrysler vehicles suffered the largest drop of any single brand in the Harris study, falling to 47.87 from a reading of 53.87 back in 2005.

"Automotive brands receiving bailout money after the onset of the recession in 2008, including GM and Chrysler, took immediate hits to their brand equity in the 2009 study," Harris executives pointed out.

"GM's efforts to rebuild are beginning to pay off, as their equity is now consistent with their 2008 level, yet far below its 2005 position," they went on to say.

"It looks as if Ford is being rewarded for not taking bailout money, reaching No. 3 this year and at its highest score since 2005," Harris interjected.

An equal amount of brands had either gains or losses in the equity study with eight nameplates falling into each category.

"We will be closely monitoring levels of consumer trust in automotive brands, especially as it relates to perceptions of personal safety and product quality," Harris stressed. "The recent crisis highlights just how quickly a foundation of trust can be shattered."

Harris recounted that its EquiTrend Study evaluates several factors, including equity, consumer connection, commitment, energy, brand behavior, brand advocacy and trust.

Company officials indicated that the keystone to the program is equity, which they believe provides an understanding of a brand's overall strength and is determined by a calculation of familiarity, quality and purchase consideration.

Harris conducted the study among 19,708 domestic consumers ages 15 and older between Jan. 12 and 21. 

 2010 Harris Interactive EquiTrend Study
 Brand or OEM  2010 Reading   2005 Reading  Change since 2005
 Toyota  64.13  61.29  + 2.84
 Honda  61.50  59.95  + 1.55
 Ford  59.50  57.79  + 1.71
 Chevrolet  57.64  61.35  – 3.71
 GMC  57.16  59.65  – 2.49
 General Motors  57.13  60.83  – 3.70
 Nissan  54.36  55.06  – 0.70
 Volkswagen  51.28  51.19  + 0.09
 Mazda  50.36  50.16  + 0.20
 Subaru  50.17  44.36  + 5.81
 Buick  49.49  51.73  – 2.24
 Dodge  49.28  51.04  – 1.76
 Jeep  48.78  52.72  – 3.94
 Mitsubishi  47.95  47.86  + 0.09
 Chrysler  47.87  53.87  – 6.00
 Hyundai  47.68  43.53  + 4.15
 Mercury  47.59  47.84  – 0.25
 MINI  47.46  44.04  + 3.42
 Scion  46.46  N/A  N/A
 Kia  43.25  N/A  N/A
 smart  42.35  N/A  N/A
 Suzuki  42.07  N/A  N/A