DETROIT -- For U.S. consumers, Hyundai and the Chrysler group are the least-trusted mass-market automakers, a new survey concludes.
Toyota, Honda and Nissan are the most-trusted companies, according to the annual Total Value Index conducted by Strategic Vision Inc., an auto consulting company in San Diego. General Motors, Ford and Volkswagen fall in the middle, the study says.
Strategic Vision surveyed 69,000 U.S. consumers who bought new cars and trucks between October 2004 and March 2005. It asked the respondents to assess their trust in various automakers, excluding the company that built their current vehicle.
Dan Gorrell, vice president of Strategic Vision, says consumer trust in a brand or company becomes more important as the appeal of individual nameplates fades.
"That's where the thrill of new is gone," Gorrell told Automotive News in an interview here. "Once you start seeing them on the road a lot, it becomes less appealing. People become fickle and they go on to the next pretty thing."
Hyundai Motor America spokesman Chris Hosford said he had not seen the Strategic Value study.
But he concedes: "In general, we do see relatively low levels of consumers saying, 'We trust you.' That relates to our prior history in regard to reliability."
The study says Hyundai, despite its low score, has improved its reputation. "Hyundai has tackled the value equation with strong product experience plus a very good warranty and lower prices," the report notes.
"The biggest challenge for (Hyundai) is to get consumers to put the brand on their shopping lists," the report adds. "This is a daunting task in a market already crowded with good products and established brands with strong reputations."
Chrysler group spokeswoman Suraya DaSante calls the results of the study surprising.
"I don't like where we fell in (the survey), given the success we have had," DaSante says. She cites brisk sales of the Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum and Dodge Charger cars.
Gorrell responds: "We ask about the brand -- Chrysler. We don't ask about the 300."
The availability of sales incentives does little to build consumer trust in a brand or company, the study says. To the contrary, it concludes, brands that offer larger incentives tend to score lower on trust than those that provide less generous deals.
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