January 24, 2012 / 9:41 PM / 7 years ago

Consumers see few differences in car brands: study

(Reuters) - Toyota Motor Co once again topped an annual consumer survey on brand perception released on Tuesday but its lead shrank by double digits as competition in the U.S. car market increases.

Ford Motor Co and Honda Motor Co, No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, also held their rankings, but their perception scores dropped nearly 20 points.

“Overall, the car-brand leaders do not stand out from the pack the way they did only a couple years ago,” said Consumer Reports, which conducted the survey. In addition, the survey found that consumers see few difference between top car brands, Consumer Reports said.

The survey comes on the heels of the Detroit auto show, when automakers showcased a range of sleek, fuel-efficient cars outfitted with technology aimed at younger consumers, who are less brand loyal than the baby boomer generation before them.

Brand scores are heavily influenced by consumer perceptions of safety and quality, two areas of concern for the top three car brands.

Lackluster new products, including the Civic, CR-Z, Insight and Pilot, hurt the perceived quality of Honda’s models. Ford was hurt by kinks in its touch-screen entertainment system on some models and transmission issues on two popular cars.

Meanwhile, Toyota is still recovering from its recall of 8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles in 2009 and 2010. This year, the Japanese automaker’s safety and quality scores remained consistent with 2011 levels.

Each of the top 10 nameplates saw their perception scores decline in the survey, which draws from a random, nationwide telephone survey of 2,045 people in early December.

General Motors Co’s Chevrolet brand slipped 10 points while Tesla Motor replaced Subaru as the tenth-best car brand.

Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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