General Motors is loaded with debt and is the subject of bankruptcy speculation. But give it credit: GM scores tops for trust among U.S. consumers.
There's a downside, though: GM also shows up on the list of companies that Americans trust least.
These are among the findings of the American Demographics 2006 Consumer Perception Survey. The survey was conducted by Synovate for Advertising Age, which, like Automotive News, is published by Crain Communications Inc.
Last November, the online survey sought the views of more than 6,000 consumers in the United States and western Europe. Here's what they had to say.
For all industries regardless of location, what's the most trustworthy company? The least trustworthy?
The General rules: 9.3 percent of U.S. consumers cited GM as the company to trust among automakers. Ford and Toyota tied as the second most trustworthy companies. Honda followed.
Ford scored first among lower-income households. Toyota came out No. 1 in households with annual incomes of more than $75,000.
Consumers with high school diplomas chose GM as their most trusted company. Those with college or graduate degrees put their trust in Toyota.
The oldest consumers trust Detroit: GM (the favorite of Americans between the ages of 55 and 64) and Ford (first for 65-plus). Honda was the top pick for 25-to-34-year-olds. But 18-to-24-year-olds also ranked GM first, ahead of Honda.
Now the bad news: American consumers' picks for the five least trustworthy companies include GM, Ford and Kia.
Kia's score -- 3.6 percent of U.S. consumers listed it as least trustworthy -- reflects its perception problems. Kia's corporate parent, Hyundai, scored least trustworthy for 1.8 percent of consumers.
Thomas Mularz, senior vice president of Synovate, says these scores may reflect consumers' continued misgivings about Korean cars. "They have a big uphill battle," he says.
Mercedes-Benz is the most-trusted automaker among consumers in western Europe. The least trusted:
Fiat, followed by Kia.
What company's advertising is most believable? What company's advertising is most at odds with its image, reputation or product?
First place in advertising credibility for U.S. consumers was a virtual draw among the world's three largest automakers. GM was listed by 7.0 percent of consumers, Toyota and Ford by 6.9 percent apiece. Honda came in fourth with 4.3 percent.
GM had its highest credibility scores among older consumers and in households with annual income of less than $50,000. Toyota's ads were tops in credibility among younger and wealthier consumers. "Toyota has a very favorable image, especially in the States," Mularz says.
Asked which advertiser was least credible, 7.0 percent of consumers named Ford, followed by GM (5.7 percent), and Kia (3.1 percent).
When do you expect to be driving an alternative-fuel vehicle?
On average, Americans don't expect to switch to gasoline-electric hybrids or other alternative-fuel vehicles until 2025. One of every nine drivers doesn't expect to make the switch in his or her lifetime.
Younger, wealthier, better-educated and West Coast consumers expressed the greatest optimism about alternative-fuel vehicles. Consumers between the ages of 25 and 34 say they expect to switch in 13 years on average. Consumers with household incomes of more than $75,000 expect to switch within 14 years.