Toyota retains most valuable auto brand title; Tesla passes Honda, Ford and Nissan

Toyota has once again been named the world’s most valuable car brand while Tesla moved up three spots to fourth place, passing Honda, Ford and Nissan.

Tesla’s 22 percent valuation increase to $11.35 billion also nearly gave it a place on the 2020 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Brands list, which is calculated by market researcher Kantar.

Three automakers did make the ranking of the world’s 100 Most Valuable Brands, led by Toyota, valued at $28.39 billion, at No. 48. Mercedes-Benz placed 56th and BMW 61th. Ford and Honda dropped off the top 100 list in 2018.

With the exception of Tesla, all brands in the automaker top 10 lost value. This was partly because of waning consumer enthusiasm, Global BrandZ Strategy Director Graham Staplehurst told Automotive News Europe.

“Since 2008, the car sector has declined in value and has never recovered,” he said. “It’s very different from other sectors. For example, the luxury sector took a hit but then came back.”

Brand value is calculated using a formula that includes the brand’s market capitalization and the results of a global public survey into consumer attitudes toward those brands.

A widespread decline in automotive share prices is a key reason behind the 7.2 percent decline in value of the automaking brands in the top 10, while the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has stalled momentum on electric vehicles. Kantar believes EV demand is key to restoring consumer enthusiasm for automotive brands.

“This was really going to be the year that every business was pushing electric, then we had this massive interruption and that really has kiboshed [disrupted] those plans,” Staplehurst said.

Brands with a clear and visible EV message, such as Mercedes with its EQ subbrand for full-electric vehicles, are best-placed to slow the decrease in their valuation.

“Brands that are continuing to invest in more EVs will continue to grow in the future,” Guillaume Saint, Kantar’s global automotive practice lead told Automotive News Europe. “Companies that are dropping value the most are the ones that are most shy about expressing their vision for the future in terms of mobility.”

In the Top 10, Nissan suffered the biggest percentage fall in value, down 18 percent to $8.66 billion, while Honda dropped 15 percent to $9.97 billion.

Tesla’s value benefited from its all-electric lineup, but the brand’s positive perception among consumers went beyond the battery-driven powertrain. “All the analysis we did said that Tesla wasn’t [perceived as] a car brand, but as a technology brand that happens to make cars,” Staplehurst said.

Tesla is an example of a brand that has tapped into the consumer desire to buy into an experience rather than just a product, Staplehurst believes. More automakers need to go that route if they are to increase brand value.

“There’s a global trend toward experience. They need to think about what they’re selling as more than just vehicles and look it at it in a much wider sense,” Staplehurst said.

Examples include working with energy companies on charging solutions or developing final-mile ideas for cities.

Core traditional values such as reliability helped Toyota retain its top spot with only a small value loss from the previous year, Saint said. “Toyota is creating differentiation not necessarily from design, but what they do provide is outstanding customer care and value,” he added.

The company was also associated in consumers’ minds with low-emissions propulsion through its use of hybrids and development of hydrogen fuel cell models such as the Mirai sedan.

When it comes to the ranking of all brands, Amazon retained the No. 1 spot. Amazon’s brand value rose 32 percent to $415.8 billion.

Apple held on to the No. 2 spot because of a 14 percent rise in brand value to $352.2 billion.

Microsoft passed Google to take the third spot in the overall global ranking with a 30 percent rise in brand value to $326.5 billion.

Google was fourth with a brand value of approximately $323.6 billion and credit card company Visa rounded out the top five with a 5 percent rise in brand value to $186.8 billion.