Giving Automakers an Opinion-Poll Test Drive

What does it take for an automaker to win a good opinion from consumers? Results of The Economist/YouGov polling this month suggest a two-part formula: (a) don’t go broke and (b) don’t be obliged to recall millions of cars. That seems to have sufficed for Ford, Honda and Volkswagen.

Ford got a favorable rating from 73 percent of respondents, putting it a single percentage point ahead of Honda. Sixty-six percent voiced a favorable view of Volkswagen.

The “favorable” scores were lower for beleaguered Toyota (56 percent), General Motors (54 percent) and Chrysler (47 percent).

Ford, Honda and Volkswagen were all viewed favorably by 81 percent of respondents with household income of $100,000-plus. Sixty-five percent of the $100,000-plusers looked favorably on Toyota. But fewer than half had a favorable view of General Motors (49 percent) or Chrysler (34 percent).

Men were more likely than women to have a favorable opinion of Toyota (60 percent vs. 52 percent) and Ford (78 percent vs. 68 percent). Women were more likely than men to think well of GM (57 percent vs. 52 percent) and Chrysler (48 percent vs. 45 percent).

A breakdown by age bodes ill for domestic automakers’ odds of winning customers among young adults. Fewer than half the 18-29-year-olds had a favorable view of GM (47 percent) or Chrysler (46 percent). And they had a below-average propensity to think well of Ford (62 percent). Ford had its best showing (87 percent) among the 65-plusers.