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VehicleVoice Panelists’ Opinion of Manufacturers

During the last week of March 2007, 1,254 VehicleVoice panelists responded to an Internet survey concerning their opinion of major automakers in the USA. VehicleVoice asked these questions because the opinion of buyers and their attitudes towards various aspects of a manufacturer’s image are critically important. Managing image and opinion plus understanding what is driving that opinion can influence whether a person will positively consider or reject a brand next time they are in the market.
The key question in the VehicleVoice survey was whether the respondent’s opinion of a manufacturer had changed since this time last year. If their opinion had changed, the panel member was given the chance to explain why their opinion had changed. We received over 5,000 comments concerning these manufacturers. Some were as short one word. Some were as long as a page of 10-point type. Folks really had a lot to say and their comments were fascinating.

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Discussion for each of the brands is below the fold.

Company With Largest Year-Over-Year Improvement in Opinion – Hyundai
The surprise (or not so surprising) winner of the most improved manufacturer was Hyundai Motor Corporation. This includes both Hyundai and Kia, but it appears most comments concerned Hyundai Motor America and not Kia. Comments surrounding the performance of Hyundai gave Hyundai credit for substantially improved styling, newly-found high durabilty/quality/reliability, a strong value message and a great warranty program. Of course, VehicleVoice panel members are not shy, so there were numerous (usually) well thought-out negative comments as well. But the positive comments outweighed negative comments by about four to one.
Opinion of Japanese Big Three, Volkswagen, BMW Also Improved
The opinion of the Japanese Big Three was higher than a year ago. The opinion of Toyota revolves around durability/quality/reliability, value and its hybrid technology. On the negative side, Toyota takes some flack for building a new “gas guzzling” big pickup truck at a new plant in Texas and having bland styling. The opinion of Honda is about durability/quality/reliability, value and concern for the environment. Nissan scores for leading edge, innovative styling, innovative technologies and good DQR somewhat offset by quality concerns for its large trucks. Nissan head Carlos Ghosn receives accolades and brickbats from our panelists.
The opinion of Volkswagen improved. Volkswagen gets credit for its exterior and interior styling, interior materials and technology, but these positive perceptions are somewhat offset by reputation for poor reliability and deteriorating value story. Throughout the comments on Volkswagen were positive comments about Audi, “the new BMW”.
BMW is rated the most pretentious of the manufacturers but gets good credit for its styling and technology. Often quoting their long-time tagline – “The Ultimate Driving Machine” – panelists credited BMW for catering to enthusiasts almost as much as they criticized the manufacturer for abandoning those same enthusiasts. BMW’s head stylist Chris Bangle was mentioned frequently. Negative comments about Bangle contend he has ruined BMW styling. Others credit him for the best styling in the industry. But one thing’s certain, the panelists universally hate BMW’s iDrive system.
American Big Two and a Half – GM improves – Chrysler and Ford Down
The opinion of General Motors improved over the past year, with Chysler and, to a lesser extent, Ford deteriorating. This may be because the media feeding frenzy directed at General Motors was retargeted at Ford and most recently at Chrysler. VehicleVoice panelists give GM credit for improving products, better styling, better interior designs and using better materials. General Motors appears to have taken much of the wind out of Ford’s sails with their new 100,000 mile warranty. Ford’s 70,000 mile warranty elicited few comments. There were several comments about the “Lutz effect” referring positively to GM product czar Bob Lutz.
The opinion of Ford Motor Company has deteriorated due to concerns about Ford’s management and leadership, financial situation, hourly and salaried staff cuts, questions whether Ford has the resources necessary to develop high quality products. It appears that Ford’s new Fusion/Milan/MKZ/Edge/MKX vehicles have struck a positive chord with panelists. Ford also gets credit for producing some great concept cars but then not putting them in production.
The most deterioration in opinion was for Chrysler Group. While Chrysler gets credit for great styling on the 300/Magnum/Charger, panelists criticize the styling of its other products as lackluster. The HEMI is praised for its image and performance and castigated for being a gas guzzler. Chrysler is perceived as being behind in alternative fuel vehicles – especially hybrids. But the biggest negative is that DaimlerChrysler put Chrysler Group up for sale and that a buyer has not yet been announced. There are negative comments about the “take-over” of Chrysler by Daimler-Benz. There are several comments to the effect “Why would anyone want a Chrysler product if even Daimler doesn’t want it?”, “Daimler bought it, raped it, and will now release it.”

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