Toyota is once again the most considered auto brand among new-car shoppers, according to a new Kelley Blue Book study.
The third-quarter Market Intelligence Brand Watch study indicates that 25 percent of new-vehicle shoppers who visited kbb.com showed interest in Toyota. The Ford and Honda brands followed close behind with 24 percent and 23 percent interest, respectively.
Between the first quarter of 2007 and the third quarter of 2009, Toyota topped all other brands in all vehicle segments, but then fell to second place between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the second quarter of 2010. This coincided with the start of the company's global recall crisis -- which ultimately involved more than 15.4 million vehicles over a year -- and allowed Ford to take the top spot.
For the third quarter of this year, Toyota also was most considered in the nonluxury sedan/coupe/hatchback category and in the nonluxury SUV/CUV category. Toyota's trucks also have gained considerable attention, although they still trail Ford, which has seen a surge in interest since the second quarter of this year.
Bob Carter, sales chief for the Toyota brand in the United States, said in statement today that the study is a “strong indication that consumers recognize our commitment to earn their confidence in the safety, quality and value of our vehicles.”
James Bell, executive marketing analyst for kbb.com, says the numbers support Toyota's recovery from its “public perception crisis,” but it may not mean a complete turnaround.
"Whether Toyota will ascend as high as it was before the recall crisis remains yet to be seen,” he said in a statement. “Hot competition from the likes of Ford, Honda, Chevrolet, Nissan and Hyundai could make it very hard for Toyota to keep a strong lead moving forward."
Factors to consider
The brand watch study also asked new-car shoppers to rank their top five factors when considering a vehicle purchase. For the third quarter of this year and regardless of segment, shoppers are most interested in durability/reliability, fuel efficiency, driving comfort, driving performance and safety. Interest in these factors changed depending on the vehicle segment.
For nonluxury sedans, coupes and hatchbacks, the brands that generate the most interest are Toyota, Honda, Ford, Hyundai and Nissan. For the first time, Mitsubishi was the top-rated brand for vehicle image or “cool factor.”
For the nonluxury SUV/CUV segment, Nissan and Jeep saw interest increase during the third quarter, while Subaru made its first appearance as a top-ranked brand for safety and versatility/flexibility.
For luxury sedans, coupes and hatchbacks, BMW took the top spot, followed by Lexus, Audi, Acura and Mercedes-Benz. Despite its fifth-place ranking, Mercedes-Benz continues to take top honors in most of the factors important to people looking at this segment. These include driving comfort, safety, interior design/layout, luxuriousness/sophistication, prestige/brand status and family friendliness.
For luxury SUVs and CUVs, Lexus remains at the top, even though consideration of the brand has been lessening in the past few quarters. Trailing Lexus are Acura, Cadillac, Lincoln and BMW.
In the minivan segment, Honda continues to reign, but domestic automakers Chrysler and Dodge saw a slight increase. They were the only minivan brands showing increased interest from the second quarter of 2010.
In the truck segment, the most important factors were durability/reliability, fuel efficiency, towing/hauling capacity, driving comfort and safety. This was different from the previous quarter, when shoppers were more interested in driving performance than safety.
The study surveyed more than 2,700 in-market new-car shoppers on kbb.com between July 8 and Sept. 23. Kelley Blue Book has been conducting the brand study since 2007.