In CR's 2011 Car Brand Perception Survey, which has consumers rank automakers in seven major shopping categories, Ford ranked a very close second place. But it's really the market champ as CR notes that in just two years, Ford has climbed 35 points in the survey while Toyota has fallen 46 points, and just a year ago Toyota was well ahead of Ford. For 2010, Toyota was only slightly ahead of Ford (and in a "statistical dead heat" with Ford), while Honda placed a more distant third, losing 28 points in all since 2008.
Toyota maintains a significant edge in the environmentally friendly category, but being green is becoming less important to consumers, CR notes. Safety (65 percent), quality (57), and value (51) remain the most important factors, while performance (47 percent), environmental friendliness (28), design or style (25), and technology or innovation (17) rank well below. CR notes that environmentally friendly dropped 12 points since 2008—perhaps due to the economy and unwillingness to pay more for green options.
Honda led the ranks in quality, Ford offered top value, and BMW was ranked at the top in in both style/design and performance perceptions, while Volvo was the safety leader, with a huge 50-point advantage over second-place Ford.
After Toyota and Ford, Honda, Chevrolet, and BMW were ranked most favorable, followed by Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Lexus, Cadillac, and Subaru to round out the top ten. Though, oddly, Subaru, which had jumped 23 points in 2009, fell 31 points in 2010.
The survey was based on an early-December telephone poll of 1,721 adults in households that had at least one car.