A study released today by noted automotive consulting firm AutoPacific, Inc. summarizes the results of AutoPacific’s Image and Consideration Tracking Study that will help manufacturers measure and manage their image. 1,254 VehicleVoice panelists responded to an Internet survey concerning their opinion of automakers in the USA. The key question in the VehicleVoice survey was whether the respondent’s opinion of a manufacturer had changed since this time last year. AutoPacific received over 5,000 comments concerning these manufacturers. The most improved manufacturer is Hyundai Motor Corporation. Comments surrounding the performance of Hyundai give Hyundai credit for substantially improved styling, high durabilty/quality/reliability, a strong value message and a great warranty program. The opinion of the Japanese Big Three was higher than a year ago. The opinion of Toyota revolves around durability/quality/reliability, value and its hybrid technology. On the negative side, Toyota takes some flack for building a new “gas guzzling” big pickup truck at a new plant in Texas and having bland styling. The opinion of Honda is about durability / quality/ reliability, value and concern for the environment. Nissan’s scores for leading-edge styling, innovative technologies and good DQR somewhat offset by quality concerns for its large trucks. The opinion of Volkswagen improved getting credit for its exterior and interior styling, interior materials and technology. These positive perceptions are offset by a reputation for poor reliability and deteriorating value story. Throughout the comments on Volkswagen were positive comments about Audi, “the new BMW.” BMW is rated the most pretentious of the manufacturers but gets good credit for its styling and technology. BMW’s head stylist Chris Bangle was mentioned frequently. Negative comments about Bangle contend he has ruined BMW styling. Others credit him for the best styling in the industry. But one thing’s certain, the panelists universally hate BMW’s iDrive system. The opinion of General Motors deteriorated over the past year, but not to the extent of Ford and Chrysler. This may be because the media feeding frenzy directed at GM was retargeted at Ford and most recently at Chrysler. VehicleVoice panelists give GM credit for improving products, better styling, better interior designs and using better materials. GM’s new 100,000-mile warranty also received positive reviews. The opinion of Ford Motor Company has deteriorated due to concerns about Ford’s management and leadership, its financial situation, hourly and salaried staff cuts, and questions whether Ford has the resources necessary to develop high quality products. That said, it appears that Ford’s new vehicles have struck a positive chord with panelists. The most deterioration in opinion was for Chrysler Group. While Chrysler gets credit for great styling on the 300/Magnum/Charger, panelists criticize the styling of its other products as lackluster. The HEMI is praised for its image and performance and castigated for being a gas-guzzler. Chrysler is perceived as being behind in alternative fuel vehicles — especially hybrids. But the biggest negative is that DaimlerChrysler put Chrysler Group up for sale and that a buyer has not yet been announced. AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing and product-consulting firm with headquarters in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area.