Consumer Reports: Tesla Is America’s Fifth Best-Perceived Car Brand

As part of a broader story by Consumer Reports on its 2014 Brand Perception Survey, Tesla Motors was found to have climbed significantly upwards to now rank above several other established brands.

In the minds of consumers, the start-up company rates higher overall than 15 other major automotive brands, not least of which include Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Cadillac and BMW.

And perhaps one could forgive Tesla for not placing higher, as it is has only released its second production car in its decade-old history, the Model S.

The top-four leading brands, in the Consumer Reports story are Toyota, Ford, Honda, and Chevrolet.

“Toyota has a 25-point advantage over second-place Ford, reflecting a five-point gain over the year prior for Toyota and a three-point improvement for Ford,” said CR. “It could be interpreted that the safety concerns that saw the Toyota score stumble a few years ago have faded, returning the brand to its position as the perceived industry leader.”

But otherwise, how about that Tesla Motors, said the consumer publication.

Consumer Reports survey shows the brand to watch is Tesla Motors, which jumped from 47 points last year, to fifth position with 88 points. Tesla had a strong, very public year, with soaring stock prices, magazine awards, and exceptional crash-test performance. Innovation, performance, and sleek styling is clearly gaining attention and making a positive impression. By gaining points in several categories, Tesla was able to raise its overall score. This highlights the value of being good at multiple things, rather than rely on a single facet.


Of course this is about not necessarily measurable factors in a scientific sense, said CR.

“The key word is ‘perception.’ Consumers are influenced by word of mouth, marketing, and hands-on experience,” said Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports deputy automotive editor. “Often, perception can be a trailing indicator, reflecting years of good or bad performance in a category, and it can also be influenced by headlines in the media.”

By that token, does this article help Tesla? Or does Consumer Reports’ survey findings and naming it practically the best car it ever tested help Tesla?

Not sure on that, but following are the criteria CR used as measurements, and general commentary by Consumer Reports for each.

“The percentage,” said CR,”is based on the number of respondents who said the factor was among their top three priorities: Quality (90 percent), Safety (88 percent), Performance (83 percent), Value (82 percent), Fuel economy (81 percent), Design/Style (70 percent), and Technology/Innovation (68 percent).”


“As Consumer Reports has seen in recent years, standout brands tend to offer a balance of sporty and fuel-efficient models. Chevrolet exemplifies this concept, as it takes the lead for 2014 propelled by the Corvette Stingray, Camaro, and SS, with the Cruze diesel and Volt likely proving a factor, as well. BMW remains in second place, bolstered by turbocharged engines that strive to improve both acceleration and fuel efficiency, plus its electrified i3 and i8.”


“Consumers remain value conscious, looking to get the most for their money. With cars, that means looking beyond the purchase price to what the car delivers for that money. Here, Consumer Reports survey showed consistent year-over-year rankings, with the same five automakers topping the chart: Toyota, Honda, Ford, Kia, and Chevrolet.

“The twist this year is the corporate siblings Hyundai and Kia have traded places, with about an eight point difference each year separating the two. Clearly, both have the potential to rightfully shine in this area, but their volatile movements suggest owners keep seeing them in different lights, perhaps influenced by the visibility of Hyundai’s special recession-proof financing guarantees and introduction of new, compelling products.”

Fuel economy:

“Toyota owns fuel economy in the minds of consumers, aided by its pioneering Prius hybrid and its continued benchmark performance, with 44 mpg overall. But this is a trait that all automakers are chasing. Smart jumped up 10 points this year, despite not offering a new product. Honda continues to hover near the top, with its continued focus on efficiency. Tesla and Volkswagen crashed the party this year, with increased recognition for their accomplishments. The electric Tesla Model S garnered much attention this year for its combination of gas-free luxury and performance, with ample range that enables it to be a truly traditional car replacement. Volkswagen continues to carve a notable niche with its efficient diesel powertrains, now joined by a hybrid in the Jetta line.”


“Notably a less important factor, design/style still plays a vital role in driving car purchases. Truly a subjective measure, design continues to be led by the prestige brands BMW, Cadillac, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. But, their lead is slight and vulnerable to the fickle tides of public tastes. Consumer Reports’ survey has seen mainstream brands be increasingly daring in recent years, and several have invested in upscale exterior dressing, such as extensive chrome and LED lights, to grab attention. The top 10 here is rounded out with Ford, Lexus, Ferrari, Tesla, and Dodge.”


“The least important car-buyer factor rated by consumers in CR’s survey, technology/innovation, is still a significant consideration for at least 68 percent of car shoppers. Automakers are racing to offer the latest, greatest infotainment and advanced safety features. And consequently, brochures and advertising are overflowing with similar-sounding systems from across the industry, making it difficult for brands to distinguish themselves. But this year, Tesla has done so, giving the fresh brand a commanding lead in this year’s rankings. The other top brands all have focused on consumer-facing technology, though with mixed results. The much-ballyhooed infotainment systems from these brands often leave something to be desired.”


Phone Survey

A nationwide phone survey from the Consumer Reports National Research Center collected the results.

A total of 1,578 adults were polled from Dec. 6-15, 2013, and CR collected survey data from 1,764 adults in households that had at least one car.

The overall brand perception score is “an index calculated as the total number of times that a particular make was mentioned as exemplar across seven categories, weighted by category importance, and divided by the total unaided awareness of the brand,” said Consumer Reports.

In the survey, subjects were asked what brands exemplified the traits, instead of being read 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 brand,” said CR. “Each category scores reflect the number of times that the particular make was mentioned as a leader for the particular attribute, again corrected for awareness.”

Consumer Reports

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