Harris Poll Names Auto Brands Of The Year

Toyota Named Top Full Line Auto Brand for Second Consecutive Year; Other Auto Brand Equity Leaders Include Honda, Porsche and Acura 

Younger Consumers Demonstrate Strongest Connection to Luxury Auto Brands and More Likely to Consider Alternative Vehicles


NEW YORK  – For the first time, Lexus is the Luxury Automotive Brand of the Year, according to The Harris Poll 2016 EquiTrend Study. The 28th annual study awards the strongest brands in nearly 100 categories across the media, travel, financial, automotive, entertainment, retail, restaurants and household industries, based on consumer response. Toyota is the Full Line Automotive Brand of the Year for the second consecutive year.

Measuring brands’ health over time, the EquiTrend Brand Equity Index is comprised of three factors – Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration – that result in a brand equity rating for each brand. Brands ranking highest in equity receive the Harris Poll EquiTrend “Brand of the Year” award for their respective categories. This year, more than 97,000 U.S. consumers assessed more than 3,800 brands (including 36 automotive brands), across nearly 500 categories. The complete list of Harris Poll EquiTrend Brands of the Year can be found at: https://nharrisco.wpengine.com/equitrend-rankings/2016. Additional information can be found at: www.theharrispoll.com/equitrend-information.

Lexus shows the largest equity increase (8% since 2014) among all automotive brands measured, and demonstrates one of the largest equity increases across all brands assessed, which is significant given the tendency for equity to resist rapid movement.

“Overall, automotive brand equity is relatively low, falling behind the media, retail, travel and restaurant industries,” said Joan Sinopoli, vice president of brand solutions at Nielsen, which owns the Harris Poll. “Within the auto category, however, some brands, like Lexus, are delivering exceptional customer experiences with a reputation for dependability, while parent brand Toyota, maintains it focus on dependability at a fair price. Thus Toyota brands, while always high performing, this year are set somewhat apart from the rest.”

This year’s Harris Poll study marks the second consecutive year Toyota has secured the Full Line Automotive Brand of the Year title. Toyota also held the top spot in 2011.


The 2016 Harris Poll EquiTrend Luxury Automotive Brands of the Year

Source: The Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study  

1. Lexus

2. Porsche  

3. Acura  

4. Mercedes-Benz 

5. BMW 

6. Tesla 

7. Cadillac 

Other Luxury Automotive Brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Audi, Infiniti,

 Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Volvo


The 2016 Harris Poll EquiTrend Full Line Automotive Brands of the Year

Source: The Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study 

1. Toyota

2. Honda 

3. Ford 

4. GMC 

5. Chevrolet 

6. Nissan 

7. Subaru 

Other Full Line Automotive brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Buick, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Mazda, MINI Cooper, Mitsubishi, Ram, Scion, Volkswagen


Younger Consumers Love Luxury Cars

Harris Poll’s study shows that while luxury autos have the highest brand equity across all generations, millennials and Generation Z[1] show it to a greater degree. Additionally, younger consumers show a greater connection, or emotional bond, with luxury auto brands – 31 percent of millennials and 27 percent of Generation Z consumers.

“Cars are fundamentally an aspirational purchase,” said Sinopoli. “While our research shows that all generations show a strong connection to luxury vehicles, it is most evident among younger consumers. Millennials may not have the means to buy cars as early as they’d like, but the idea that millennials don’t like cars just isn’t substantiated.”

Younger Consumers More Likely to Consider Alternative Vehicles; Tesla on Top

The Harris Poll study shows that younger consumers – millennials and Generation Z – are more likely to consider alternative vehicles, such as Tesla, Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, as well as Smart. Brands perceived as having a positive environmental impact are more likely to have brand equity momentum, or be considered “on the way up.” Tesla is leading auto brands in brand equity momentum, considered “on the way up” across all age segments, with the perception strongest among millennials.

“Tesla checks off a lot of boxes for Millennials¾not only is it environmentally responsible, but it’s luxury, it’s an unparalleled connected experience, and it’s just plain cool,” said Sinopoli.

“While we won’t know the impact of Tesla’s self-driving mode crisis on the brand’s equity for some time, how consumers view Tesla’s response and handling of the investigation will be a major factor. However, our experience shows that it takes considerable events to undo consumers’ positive sentiment toward brands, like Tesla, with such a strong following.”

The Harris Poll research shows that while Tesla has been the top “on the way up” auto brand for the last three years, the rest of the fuel-efficient market is in transition, with as many consumers perceiving Smart, Fiat and Nissan Leaf to be “on the way up” as  “on the way down.” Meanwhile, Volkswagen, impacted by the emissions testing scandal, is at the top of the list of auto brands considered “on the way down.”



The 2016 Harris Poll EquiTrend Study is based on a sample of 97,120 U.S. consumers ages 15 and over surveyed online, in English, between December 22, 2015 and February 1, 2016.  The survey took an average of 30 minutes to complete. The total number of brands rated was 3,837. Each respondent was asked to rate a total of 40 randomly selected brands. Each brand received approximately 1,000 ratings. Data was weighted to be representative of the entire U.S. population of consumers ages 15 and over based on age by sex, education, race/ethnicity, region, income, and data from respondents ages 18 and over were also weighted for their propensity to be online. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

The Brand Equity Index is the keystone to the EquiTrend program, providing an understanding of a brand’s overall strength. A brand’s Equity is determined by a calculation of Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration. Brand of the Year is determined by a simple ranking of brands.

The Harris Poll EquiTrend Brand Equity Index has been academically vetted[2], showing that strong brand equity is associated with strong financial performance, even during a financial downturn, such as that experienced in 2007-2010.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

About The Harris Poll
Over the last five decades, Harris Polls have become media staples. With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers’ motivations and behaviors, The Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. The Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to transform relevant insights into actionable foresight for a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer packaged goods. Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive, Inc. (which operates The Harris Poll) in 2014. Contact us for more information.

Harris Poll EquiTrend study results disclosed in this release may not be used for advertising, marketing or promotional purposes without the prior written consent of Harris Poll. All third party trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Use of such trademarks does not constitute or imply any sponsorship or endorsement.

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[1] Suggested by directional data

[2] The Harris Poll EquiTrend methodology has been validated by academic business experts in the Journal of Marketing Research (1994) and International Journal of Research on Marketing (2012).