The auto industry has been facing the perfect storm since the beginning of the new millennium; 2009 especially proved to be a low point as General Motors and Chrysler declared bankruptcy. Subsequent events like Toyota’s “sudden acceleration” recalls and the Japanese earthquake in early 2011 literally shook auto companies into new positions in the industry.
Marketing research company Millward Brown recently reported that BMW has, again, toppled Toyota as the world’s most valuable automotive brand in its latest BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands for 2012. Toyota held the position from 2006 through 2009, then lost it to BMW for 2010. Toyota then reclaimed the position in 2011. States Peter Walshe, global brand director for Millward Brown, “As one of the great brands in the world, BMW has been absolutely consistent in the long-term regarding what is meaningfully different about their brand, in highly competitive market places.”
Other German automakers saw prominence in the Millward Brown ranking. Volkswagen and luxury brand Audi both saw increased in sales and reputation worldwide. Same with Mercedes-Benz. Asia and, China, especially, proved to be a fertile market for the three companies.
The Asian automakers continue to prove their tenacity and resilience. First, Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia surprised the rest of the industry, taking direction in bold design, refined engines, and even technology from segment leaders like Toyota. Hyundai enters BrandZ’s list for the first time and places among its top ten most valuable automotive brands.
The Japanese automakers, of course, take none of these changes lying down. Realizing much of the ranking changes were caused natural causes, Japan’s “Big Three” — Toyota, Honda, and Nissan — rallied back with new supply lines and strategies to make sure its supplies are not impacted the same way again. Toyota has also been working hard in trying to regain the public’s trust after the “sudden acceleration” fiasco.
But the biggest wave of change is still on the horizon. According to Team Detroit’s Donna Hultquist, the auto industry faces increasing apathy from the younger generation. “The key trends I see emerging include fuel economy and technology, particularly as it relates to in-car connectivity and the importance of tackling the youth market. Unlike earlier generations, young people don’t necessarily hold vehicles as their number one ‘want’.”