After traveling long roads to get back on track with the public, both Ford and Toyota have struggled lately to establish themselves as the clear perception leader to potential car buyers in the US.
As a matter of fact, in the past month, Honda surged ahead of both of them, perhaps setting the stage for a comeback after a tough year of earthquakes, parts shortages and negative reviews for its new Civic edition. Their “Ferris Bueller” Super Bowl commercial may have arrived at just the right time.
Ford’s lengthy journey to one of the best perceived domestic auto brands was propelled by its well-liked product rollouts and homey ad campaigns starring cable TV series host Mike Rowe. But beginning last October, Ford’s perception actually began to backslide somewhat with consumers looking to purchase a new car, and that decline in perception actually accelerated since mid-January, coinciding with its most recent ad campaign debut.
In these ads which do not feature Rowe, just the mere act of buying a Ford vehicle merits a major press conference with reporters and photographers following the customers around.
Toyota made a long hard climb out of its early 2010 recall debacle with consumers, relentlessly marketing its vehicles despite its well-publicized troubles. However, the Japanese car maker hit a ceiling at the end of August 2011 which it has not been able to break through and regain its pre-recall footing. Even its recent “time machine baby” for the redesigned Camry ads appear not to have helped Toyota’s perception slump.
Ford, Toyota and Honda were measured with YouGov BrandIndex’s Index score, the company’s flagship measurement of brand health. The Index score is the average of several sub-scores, including quality, value, satisfaction, general impression, reputation and willingness to recommend. For this research, the results were filtered for consumers 18+ who will be making an auto purchase in the next six months.
YouGov BrandIndex measurement scores range from 100 to -100 and are compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.
On March 3, 2009, Ford’s Index score was 19, a few points higher than the average of the mid-market car sector. By the end of February last year, Ford’s score peaked at 42, putting a lot of space between it and the sector average of 15. Since mid-October, Ford has cooled down with car buyers and currently scores at 34 vs. a sector average of 19.
On January 22, 2010, the day before the bottom fell out for Toyota, its Index score was 47, making it one of the best regarded overall car brands, well ahead of the mid-market car sector average of 15. Four months later, Toyota had hit bottom at a score of 2. Since that time, Toyota slowly climbed its way back up, making it one of the biggest consumer perception gainers of 2011. Toyota hit 39 last August and even 40 in mid-January, but has been unable to get back to its early 2010 scores. Toyota currently stands at 32.
Honda had been trending downwards for over a year from March 2009 until June of 2010 when it went from a 51 to 33, before stabilizing. The brand has more recently trended positive and is currently at 39, outscoring both Ford and Toyota.