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Image trends: A lot of movement in brand images

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7 0 years auto motor und sport, 40 Years of readers' polls, 25 years of surveying the image of the car brands represented here: There was really enough reason to celebrate at the end of January at the award ceremony for the Best Cars 2016 in the Stuttgart Congress Center. Porsche was even able to receive the trophy for the 911 as the best sports car in the overall standings for the 39th time, while the Golf won the compacts for the 30th time and VW made the list of manufacturers with the most first places (81) in four decades Mercedes (78) and BMW (61) lead.

The Wolfsburg-based company was not really happy this time, although the Golf and Multivan again defended the top positions in their classes in the big readers' poll. But the scandal over manipulated exhaust gas values, which shook the group at the same time as the vote, and probably also the confidence of the motorists, triggered a number of upheavals during the vote: In addition to the expected drop in the criterion 'Build environmentally friendly cars' (minus 21 percentage points for drivers of the Brand, minus 18 percentage points in total) Volkswagen also loses in all other areas.

Emissions scandal causes loss of image at VW

There were clear cutbacks, for example, in 'advanced technology' (minus 8) and 'High reliability' and 'Does good advertising' (minus 7). In total, the minus compared to the previous year is 68 (for the brand's drivers) and 71 percentage points (for all participants). The other group brands lose only 1 (Porsche) to 6 percentage points (Audi) when it comes to environmental compatibility, at least in their own warehouse, but approval for all criteria has dropped by six (Porsche), 14 (Audi) or even 23 percentage points (Seat). Only Skoda is catching up by a total of 22 percentage points.

The significant losses of the market leader this year are accompanied by significant increases for three major competitors. Toyota improves by a respectable 63 (brand drivers) and 4 percentage points (all participants) and Ford by 27 and 6 percentage points. Everything is going well for Opel at the moment, because in addition to three placements among the top ten (customer service, price-performance ratio, advertising), the brand achieved an increase of 78 percentage points in its own warehouse, and 22 percentage points for all participants.

Hans-Dieter Seufert
Although it was not enough to win any class in 2016, Mercedes is still on the right track from the driver's point of view.

Mercedes remains on the road to success

Among these four, the Rüsselsheim-based company is now just as often ahead as Toyota and VW, new models and the The image campaign 'Umparken im Kopf' is beginning to bear fruit. The fact that Opel is attested to having advanced technology and good design in addition to core values ​​such as reliability, customer service and price-performance ratio can confidently be understood as recognition for the renovation course of company boss Karl-Thomas Neumann and an indication of good future prospects. No wonder that the brand's popularity ratings continue to rise, especially among its own drivers. In absolute terms, however, premium brands remain the favorites of auto motor und sport readers.

Alfa Romeo's performance is interesting. Even before its first test and market launch, the new Giulia evidently arouses great expectations and increases approval for 'I like the brand' from 86 to 92 percentage points for the Italians. In this emotional rating, even Porsche, BMW and Audi do a little worse, but like Mercedes can maintain their usual high level. However, this time the Swabians are overtaken by the shooting star Subaru (plus 19 percentage points).

Overall trend at BMW and Porsche slightly down

Although it was not enough to win any class in 2016, Mercedes is enough The driver's view is still on the right track, as the further increase compared to the previous year shows in almost all disciplines. In contrast, the overall trend for BMW and Porsche is slightly down for all participants. While Bayern are losing out, especially when it comes to motorsport, only 51 instead of 57 percent of Porsche drivers attest their brand 'high safety standards'. Approval rises for 'high reliability' and 'successful in motorsport' alone, and after the renovation the 911 maintains its top position among sports cars and convertibles.

Even Audi can break the negative trend among brands with its models -Image uncouple wins the overall ranking in three classes with A1, A4 and Q7. This is different with Mini, where the current basic model, which has grown to a small car format, only wins in the import classification as in 2015, and the new Clubmanamong the compacts does not even get beyond third place there. It is noticeable that the designer brand loses a lot overall in the judgment of its drivers (minus 51 percentage points) and is particularly weak in the image-relevant criteria of design, sportiness and advertising.

Jaguar-Land Rover
Land Rover is one of the big winners in a brand comparison in 2016.

Sustainability pays off

Similar tendencies can also be observed with Smart, although the Fortwo has never won a majority . Nevertheless, the considerable losses - for example in the areas of safety, environmental compatibility and design - should give those responsible at Daimler headquarters food for thought and rework, especially since the project and corporate partner Renault is increasing all round from the driver's point of view. Reliability and design in particular are rated better than last year, and after the style change in 2014, the Espace once again asserts itself as the winner of the van import classification.

That top positions can only be defended through sustained commitment in all brand-relevant areas, can also be seen in the current performance of Jaguar and Land Rover. The new model generation of the two sister brands brings many plus points in terms of safety, technology, environmental compatibility and design, but the interior quality of the Jaguar XE obviously raises doubts about the quality of workmanship. The drivers of Land and Range Rover seem to have had the opposite experience in this regard and are also very happy about the constant value of their cars, but increasingly complain about the customer service in the workshops.

Toyota defends top position on the subject of the environment

Harder this time is last year's climber, Volvo, who scores weaker in almost all criteria among its own drivers. After the euphoria about the successful XC90, a certain normalization can be observed, whereby the new models S90 and V90 could turn the trend again at the next election. After all, Lexus and Mazda have clearly benefited from their new workhorses, the RX 450h and MX-5, and have won overall, but Toyota has won when it comes to environmental compatibilityIf the top position is defended, the Japanese premium brand is currently not expected to be as competent as this (minus 12 percentage points).

On the other hand, the brand is still very popular with Lexus drivers in partner country Spain, taking the first four times, once second and twice third. In general, there are more brands on the podium in southern European countries than in our country, alongside Alfa Romeo and Volvo, Citroën, Fiat and Toyota also take top positions. Nevertheless, the German premium brands make up the strongest group there, while Peugeot never made it onto the podium in its home country, Citroën only once and Renault at least twice.

And VW? Defends first place for 'Good Advertising' in France, but slips out of the top trio in Italy for customer service and resale value. The emissions scandal is also showing its traces abroad, but far less dramatically than here. Because although the readers react very sensitively to positive and negative changes in individual brands as usual, the loss of image for VW is the most serious in this country. There will probably have to be more than one engine conversion to regain lost trust.

Hans-Dieter Seufert
Opel also recorded a positive upward trend in 2016. So new models and the image campaign 'Umparken im Kopf' are beginning to bear fruit.

Conclusion: bright spots in the dark

The positive upward trends at Opel, Renault and Toyota cannot be without one explain spectacular crash: As expected, VW is punished for its exhaust gas manipulation, and even the drivers are so disappointed with their brand that they rate it worse even in criteria that have nothing to do with the topic. This is another reason why other volume brands are benefiting from the weakness of the market leader, and Opel in particular is growing disproportionately. Nevertheless, the voting participants know how to differentiate between manufacturer and product, because the cars from the VW Group are still at the top in seven of eleven classes.

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