Name means a lot in the auto industry. Many drivers are loyal to a certain make or model, and more may have built relationships with an auto repair franchise, dealership or similar facility within the industry. That loyalty can mean a lot: It often influences car-buying decisions, spending and perhaps even driving habits.
But how much of the information impacting these decisions is real, and what stems from perception about a name? Facts can take a backseat to stereotypes formed about certain automakers. This may not be entirely fair, but it's reality, so it's important to understand just what drivers think of manufacturers and various models.
Image is everything
Kelley Blue Book understands that perception frequently becomes reality, especially when the exterior of the vehicle is the thing that makes the first impression. That's why the organization surveyed more than 12,000 people as part of its 2015 Brand Image Awards. The study analyzes what people thought about certain brands, including which vehicles captured their attention and made an impression on car buyers.
"With strong product lineups and compelling marketing communications coming from auto manufacturers, along with the increased importance of peer reviews and ratings, consumers today are more influenced than ever to take interest in a brand, ultimately affecting their vehicle purchase decisions," said Hwei-Lin Oetken, vice president of market intelligence for Kelley Blue Book.
Honda comes in at No. 1
The Best Overall Brand winner is a familiar name: Honda. This marks the third year in a row Honda took the coveted title and the fourth time in the survey's history. According to Kelley Blue Book's executive editorial director, Jack R. Nerad, this is a testament to the perception that Honda offers great value and quality. Respondents rated Honda highly across all categories, including driving comfort, performance, styling, fuel efficiency, safety and the elusive "cool" factor.
"These awards from KBB.com demonstrate that customers continue to recognize the tremendous quality and value of our products, which are at the heart of the incredible competitive strength of the Honda brand," said Jeff Conrad, Honda division senior vice president and general manager at American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "We take this recognition from our customers as a mandate to continue building the highest quality, longest lasting vehicles on the road."
Motorists also thought Honda was among the most reliable automakers. Participants in the survey were asked to rate brands based on durability and reputation, so news about affordable vehicle maintenance or repairs has an impact on the final results. Honda has a history of providing high-functioning cars to shoppers, and that makes a difference in the minds of drivers.
Honda wasn't the only brand to win as part of the 2015 Brand Image Awards. Porsche earned the top prize for Best Overall Luxury Brand, taking the title from Mercedes-Benz. It also won for Most Refined Luxury Brand, Best Performance Luxury Brand and Best Luxury Car Styling Brand.
Not all of the winners are as expensive as Porsche. Subaru made waves with its first-ever win, as participants selected the automaker as the Most Trusted Brand and Best Performance Brand. It edged out Honda for Most Trusted Brand, highlighting just how excellent its durability is - provided owners stick to the recommended scheduled maintenance and take proactive measures when necessary.
Finally, Ford took home the title of Best Overall Truck Brand. That's not exactly a surprise, as the Ford F-Series is the best selling vehicle in the U.S. and is regularly rated as one of the top models on the market.