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Toyota dominates in Consumer Reports Survey, but Tesla steals the show

Toyota simply owns this new brand perception survey, but Tesla grabs the trophy like Kanye. Here's the scoop.

Each year one of the many studies that Consumer Reports does is the Car-Brand Perception Study. The study is basically an interview with about 2,000 car-owning households and it asks what the interviewee’s perception of the brands are based on specific criteria. The areas of focus include quality, safety, performance, value, fuel economy, design/style, and technology and innovation. CR compiles the answers from the relatively small sampling of Americans they interview and then they rank the brands accordingly.

Toyota tops this Consumer Reports list, as it does most lists. In fact, no other brand is even remotely close to being so well perceived. Toyota’s score on the ranking system is 145, actually up four points from last year. The second place finisher (first loser) is Ford, 25 points behind. Ford Honda and Chevy all break 100. Then there is Tesla.

Tesla’s score of 88 actually stinks compared to Toyota’s 145, but it is more impressive for a few reasons, so bear with me. First of all, it is almost certain that not a single one of the households surveyed has owned a Tesla. It is likely none have ever seen one in person. I am an auto writer and I attend automotive events at which all manufacturers bring their cars for people to test. Tesla never comes. I know from speaking to Tesla employees that in my town there are 2 Tesla owners and I know that Mass. is one of the top markets on Earth for Teslas. However, I have seen the Tesla Model S on the road only 3 times ever, and I have never in my life laid eyes on a Tesla Roadster, the company’s only other vehicle. Yet, Tesla is rising in the charts faster than Bruno Mars.

Tesla’s score jumped 41 points in one year. Just to lay some perspective on you, Audi, one of Tesla’s main competitors, only has 54 points –period. That company has been marketing amazing cars in the US since Elon Musk was in Diapers. Yet, Tesla, with less than 30,000 cars on US roads is now way ahead of that premium brand in the minds of Americans. Tesla also put Cadillac, Volvo, and Mercedes Benz in its rear view mirror this year, and unless something dramatically unexpected happens, those old-fogey brands are never going to match Tesla again in this decade.

If it were any brand but Tesla that made this jump we would attribute this to just the star-power of Elon Musk, or maybe the car’s cool look, or simply good publicity. However, Tesla is one of the world’s safest brands according to NHTSA. Tesla is one of the most technologically advanced cars. Tesla is rated at the top of Consumer Reports Quality rankings, and yes, the car is very stylish, has amazing performance, and it uses no fuel (sort of). So perhaps the real story isn’t that Tesla is rising so fast, but rather, why aren’t more American’s putting the company first. Let’s give it a year.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Pace, TN reader and Model S owner.

Consumer Reports Study