If you are car shopping and feel like all the cars you are considering are good quality, you are not alone. Consumers' perceived differences between car brands are shrinking, according to Consumer Reports' 2012 Car-Brand Perception Survey.
While Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chevrolet have consistently been at the top of the survey year after year, the points gap between these brands and their challengers has decreased.
Toyota still remains the top brand in perceived quality, but this year it dropped 17 points from last year's study, from 148 in 2011 to 131 this year. The scores for Ford, Honda and BMW dropped more than 20 points, while Cadillac and Chevrolet had just single-digit decreases, according to Consumer Reports.
Conducted as a nationwide, random telephone survey, consumers surveyed owned at least one car in their household. Consumers were surveyed about their perception of car brands in seven categories, which were then combined to create a score that reflects consumers' overall image of a specific brand.
The seven key factors ranked in order of importance to consumers when buying a new car are: safety, quality, value, performance, environmentally friendly/green, design/style and technology/innovation.
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.