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Toyota’s Perceived Quality Drops, Honda Leads Mainstream Brands

March 23, 2010

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Toyota suffered a sharp drop from 1st to 6th place among mainstream brands in ALG Inc.'s Spring 2010 Automotive Consumer Attitudes Survey, leaving Honda with a commanding lead over all other mainstream brands.

Toyota's perceived quality score (PQS) of 67.6 was down 20 percent from the 84 reported in the ALG Fall PQS 2009 survey. Honda's score of 83.2 was down 1 percent, but 12.6 percentage points above runner-up Nissan's score of 70.6, which was up 3 percent from last fall. Rounding out the top five mainstream brands were Ford Trucks (up 5 percent), Subaru (up 4 percent) and Volkswagen (down 1 percent).  

"Toyota's dramatic decline in ALG's Spring 2010 PQS obviously reflects its recent quality issues and the ensuing media storm around its massive vehicle recalls," said Matt Traylen, ALG's Chief Economist. "Assuming there are no further quality problems, the media focus gradually diminishes, and Toyota stops its heavy incentive spending within three to six months, we would expect Toyota's PQS to stabilize and begin to improve later this year. However, reclaiming the top spot from Honda will clearly be a formidable task."  

Lexus also lost its position atop the luxury PQS rankings, falling to third place.  However, its 6 percent decline from the Fall PQS 2009 survey left it with a PQS of 81.5, still relatively strong and only 1.7 percentage points behind the new luxury leader, Mercedes Benz. Mercedes' PQS of 83.2 was up 1 percent from last fall, while BMW was second at 82.6 (down 1 percent). Porsche and Acura rounded out the top five luxury brands. Other than Lexus, the biggest change among luxury brands was Saab's 5 percent decline from last fall's survey.

"While Lexus' PQS has been affected by the recent recalls and media attention, its declines are not nearly as significant as Toyota's. With the top eight luxury brands only 10 percentage points apart in the Spring 2010 rankings, consumers seem to view the most competitive brands as offering relatively similar product quality," Traylen commented.

The biggest gainer among mainstream brands was Kia (up 10 percent), although its score of 47.1 remains relatively low. Ford Cars were up 8 percent to a score of 66.8, less than a percentage point behind Toyota and good for 7th place on the mainstream list. Also posting strong gains were Hyundai and Chevrolet Cars (both up 5 percent).

ALG tabulates results separately for domestic manufacturers' cars and trucks/SUVs due to the wide perception gap that exists between these two categories. 

"Among the domestic OEMs, these results highlight the enormous progress made by Ford over the last couple of years," Traylen said. "Ford has made a concerted effort to build vehicles better aligned with consumer demand — including an entire portfolio of all-new or redesigned products — and to limit brand-damaging incentives and rental fleet sales." 

ALG's PQS is based on a proprietary rating scale derived from surveys of car and truck owners in the U.S., which then determines the relative positions of mainstream and luxury brands. The complete list with scores is available at: https://www.alg.com/pdf/pqs_2010_spring.pdf.

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