Toyota's Tops in Online Brand Advocacy

Toyota is tops when it comes to positive brand advocacy among major automotive brands, according to Nielsen Online's new "Brand Advocacy Quotient" research. This quarterly measurement of consumer advocacy looks at online survey data and customer experiences shared through online buzz. Results, based on responses from more than 2,000 consumers, are indexed on a scale of -100 to 100.

Thanks to raves about its quality, size, style and dealer experience, Toyota achieved the highest rating of 69, followed by Honda (68), Lexus (68) and Acura (67).

Creating a positive brand image online has grown in importance because that's where most consumers go to research their purchase decision. "Before people buy a new vehicle they are looking to the Web and social media sites," said Julie A. Enzweiler, automotive research director, Nielsen Online.

"Auto marketers have to understand that the positive and negative comments people say will impact the sale. It can either pick up a brand up or weigh it down," she said.

Despite Hyundai's new offerings and extensive advertising efforts, the brand's rating falls lower than many other automakers because of quality issues and poor dealership experiences among survey respondents. It scored a 46. Only Isuzu (39), Suzuki (41) and Jaguar (43) ranked lower.

Kia, meanwhile, found itself in the middle with a score of 52. Price and value drove its advocacy, which is common among lower-priced brands, but quality concerns dragged down Kia's overall score.

For brands to be successful and gain advocates, Enzweiler said, "their brand pillars must resonate with consumers. If you want to be known for great quality vehicles, your top consumers need to perceive you that way. The BAQ is a snapshot in time for brands to see the lay of the land and adjust accordingly."

GM Planning to Sell Chinese-Built Vehicles in U.S.

General Motors plans to start importing Chinese-built vehicles into the U.S. in 2011, according to an outline the auto maker has submitted to members of the U.S. Congress.

GM currently manufacturers vehicles in China for sale in Asia. But the company plans for the first time to ship some of those vehicles to the U.S. to save on manufacturing costs.

A summary of the plan, obtained by Dow Jones Newswires, shows that GM plans to import 17,335 Chinese-built vehicles into the U.S. in 2011. The imports from China would jump to more than 38,000 in 2012 and more than 53,000 in 2013, the document shows. Imports from other countries, including South Korea, Japan and Mexico, would also increase. The plan is part of a broader cost-cutting strategy by GM, which has said it intends to cut 21,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S. while increasing imports into the country.

Those plans are being devised under the guidance of U.S. President Barack Obama’s auto-industry task force as part of GM’s restructuring.

However, a spokesman for GM in Shanghai said it was “only a matter of time” before vehicles made in China are imported into the company’s home market, in another blow to the US car industry.
The production quality here is the same as Luton in the UK or the US. We may not be fitting them with all the specifications but that does not mean we can’t,” he added.

Although GM is struggling globally, its operations in China continue to be a huge success. Sales in March rose by more than 50pc to 151,000 cars, compared to 172,000 in the US. GM has invested in research and design facilities alongside its Chinese partners and says it could design and produce a car wholly inside China within 12 to 24 months.

New Volkswagen Polo GTI "Wörthersee 09"

The VW Golf GTI "Wörthersee 09" has been seen. Now it's the turn of little brother Polo Woerthersee 09, a sort of preview of what a higher performance Polo could look like. The Polo Woerthersee 09 is actually based on a standard 1.4 MPI Polo with 63kW (83hp).

Painted in the same flaming red colour as the Golf GTI "Wörthersee 09", the Polo features two contrasting black rally stripes that flow from the bottom front bumper all the way to the rear bumper. The black color is also found on the front mesh grille, the backdrop of the headlights, and on the side mirrors. The five-blade 18-inch alloys that are wrapped by low profile tyres are highlighted in black as well. While the single tailpipe remains, its sound has been enhanced to reflect the sporty nature of the rest of the car.

The interior received black nappa leather seats with contrasting white sides and red stitching. This stitching is also found around the flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, on the handbrake lever, the gear lever and the door trims.