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In the “Contenders” quadrant were those brands with favorable images that got less play on the blogs. Surprisingly, Nissan appeared here—seemingly due to its plans to launch a fully electric vehicle—as well as clean diesel stalwarts Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz. In fact, Nissan had the highest overall perception rating—56 percent favorable—of any brand, including Honda (53 percent) and Toyota (46 percent). They must be doing something right.

Despite its long history of hybrids, including the Escape Hybrid SUV, Ford was the sole occupant of the “Emerging” category—a polite name that translates to “lots of talk about the brand, but not so much of it favorable.” Doering suggested that, in light of recent publicity around the financial pressures on US carmakers, commentators are increasingly concerned that Ford (and others) simply may not have enough money to research, design, and launch advanced vehicles.

Finally, the “Challenged” quadrant included BMW, Dodge, Chrysler, Hummer (no shock there), and a surprise: Chevrolet. The flip side of GM’s positive showing, apparently, is that the Chevrolet bowtie badge on the Volt hasn’t sunk in yet. (It’s worth noting that the survey was done well before yesterday’s announcement about Chrysler’s EV plans.)

And what of the 27 other car brands sold in the States? The volume of comments about them was so low that they didn’t make the cut at all.

One final note: Doering cautioned carmakers that ethanol is not viewed nearly as well as it may have been a few years ago. Of all solutions offered to address environmental and sustainability issues, it had the lowest positive rating (31 percent) and the highest negatives (55 percent).