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News   October 24, 2002   by Auto Service World

Survey Reveals Consumers Place a Premium on Branded Tires and Car Stereos

Automakers trying to strengthen their image by using brand-name components may want to focus on the tires and stereos, where most consumers look for names they know and trust, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2002 Global Component Branding StudySM released today.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents in the United States, Japan and Europe believe it is important to have branded tires and 53 percent feel the stereo brand is important.

“It’s not surprising that tires and stereos are the leading components consumers indicate they would pay to upgrade,” said Frank Forkin, partner at J.D. Power and Associates. “Adding a tire brand that consumers recognize and view favorably or a stereo brand they equate with superior sound quality can positively impact the automotive brand, the component brand and the consumer’s purchase decision.”

However, the importance consumers place on branded automotive components differs from region to region.

“Tire recalls in North America have certainly raised consumer awareness of tire brands, with more than four out of five U.S. consumers placing high importance on knowing the brand of tire on their new vehicle,” Forkin said. “Conversely, fewer than one in five Japanese consumers place any importance on tires being branded.”

The study measures the relative strength of a brand based on consumer awareness, familiarity and overall image of each brand. Michelin, Pirelli, Goodyear and Bridgestone have the highest brand strength among the 17 tire brands included in the study. Although Michelin’s brand is the strongest in the U.S. and European regions, Bridgestone is the clear leader among Japanese consumers.

Bose, Sony Pioneer, Alpine, Kenwood and Blaupunkt have the highest brand strength among the 26 car stereo brands included in the study. Geographic differences are more pronounced across audio brands, as Bose is strongest in the United States, Sony in Europe and Pioneer in Japan. Other car stereo brands such as Mark Levinson, Bang & Olufsen, Nakamichi, McIntosh and Harman/Kardon, have a strong, positive impression among consumers, but relatively low awareness.

“These high-end brands still have a place in co-branding partnerships with automakers, but automakers need to target the right consumers by carefully selecting the vehicles they place these brands in,” Forkin said. “A brand represents the quality and value associated with a manufacturer, but brand recognition and what that brand stands for varies from country to country. In today’s global market, a brand that may be known for quality, safety or prestige in one country may be viewed as cheap or unreliable, maybe even unknown, in another.”

Co-branding also goes beyond traditional automotive component brands. Automotive manufacturers are increasingly associating their vehicles with established brands that reflect personal lifestyle, such as Eddie Bauer, Nautica and Coach. The study also investigated other potential co-branding opportunities with 36 designer and household brands. Casual designer and tool brands such as Craftsman, Levi’s, Black & Decker, Dockers and Eddie Bauer brands are mentioned often by U.S. consumers as brands that best reflect their personal style. In Europe, consumers are more likely to associate with high-end designer brands such as Calvin Klein and Armani. Japanese consumers relate better with brands such as Nike, Levi’s, Polo Ralph Lauren and The Gap.

“Automakers realize that a vehicle is a reflection of the person who drives it and that it’s not just transportation,” Forkin said. “People want a vehicle that is an extension of their personality and lifestyle.”

The 2002 Global Component Branding Study, based on feedback from 15,857 consumers in the United States, Japan and Europe, is designed to better understand customer perception of brands to assist automotive manufacturers and suppliers build their brands and co-branding relationships. The study measures brand awareness, familiarity, impression and value, and also helps determine consumer awareness of popular designer and non-designer brands that might be considered for co-branding by automakers.