Ford Motor Co. has gained ground on rival Toyota Motor Corp. in the perceptions of car owners, according to a survey by Consumer Reports that is closely watched by the auto industry.
Toyota scored 147 points in the 2011 Car Brand Perception Survey while Ford received 144 points, a margin that the magazine called a "statistical dead heat." The magazine, which is widely read by car shoppers, said Ford had made strides in safety, quality and value, three key parts of the survey.
Toyota and Ford were followed by Honda Motor Co. with 121 points, General Motors' Chevrolet brand with 102 points and BMW with 93 points. Mercedes-Benz finished sixth with 90 points, followed by Volvo with 84 points, Toyota's Lexus brand with 69 points, GM's Cadillac brand with 66 points and Subaru with 50 points.
Toyota, the world's No. 1 automaker, has struggled with a series of high-profile safety recalls during the past year and Consumers said the survey reflected the recalls' impact on the company's image. Toyota had a substantial lead over Ford in last year's survey, the magazine said.
But the Japanese automaker, which sells the Prius hybrid, still held a significant lead over the competition for building environmentally friendly vehicles, helping it hold onto the top overall score.
Toyota said in a statement that that given the challenges of 2010, "we expect that some public perception of Toyota's longstanding reputation for quality and reliability might be influenced in the short term. Other indicators are showing that we've turned the page and we anticipate regaining leadership in this very important and influential survey in the very near future."
Ford scored highest for value and was among the leaders in several categories, including safety, quality and environmentally friendly considerations.
Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley said the survey offered more proof that "consumers are recognizing and responding to the quality that is built into every Ford vehicle. The gap between the true quality of Ford products and the public perception of that quality is closing."
The magazine said the scores were based on a survey that looked at consumer perception of each brand in safety, quality, value, performance, design/style, technology/innovation and environmentally friendly/green.
The random nationwide telephone survey was conducted December 2-6, 2010, by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. The survey contacted 2,109 adults and collected data from 1,721 adults in households that had at least one car.