Ford Tops Auto Companies in Brand Survey

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), the only of the Big Three that did not fall into Chapter 11 during the recession, topped all car brands in a new valuation study called the Brand Finance Top 500 U.S. Brands survey. The research study included brands with valuations above $1 billion. While it did well, Ford ranked well down a list, which was dominated by tech companies and banks.

Ford’s brand value was pegged at $20.3 billion, which put it in the 25th place overall. By contrast, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) led the list at $128.3 billion. Ford was followed on the list by Chevrolet, General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) largest division, with a value of $7.2 billion, which put it in 66th place. Arguably, Chevy has as broad a line of cars, pickups and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) as Ford. However, sales of its flagship Silverado full-sized pickup substantially trail Ford’s F-150, the best-selling vehicle in America.

GMC ranked 172nd in the Brand Finance study, with a value of $3.5 billion (just behind Southwest Airlines). Its model line is dominated by SUVs, which have become among the hottest selling segment in the U.S. auto industry, perhaps because of falling gas prices. Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) ranked 229th with a brand value of $2.6 billion, followed by GM in 261st spot, with a value of $2.8 billion. It is worth speculating whether recalls have severely damaged its value.

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Buick held the 349th position, with a value of $1.6 billion. The GM brand is often considered below Ford and Chevy in terms of the size of its product line. Also, it does not have a full-sized pickup to bolster its position.

Troubled Cadillac held the 409th position, with a brand value of $1.4 billion. It has been unable to effectively compete with Mercedes, BMW or the Lexus luxury division of Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM), and it shows little sign of making up ground. Lincoln, even more troubled than Cadillac, fell into the 435th position, with a brand value of $1.3 billion. Its chance of competing with the Germans and Japanese are considered worse than Cadillac’s.

Oddly, Pontiac, a brand no longer in existence, but with cars still on the road, took the 442nd place on the list, with a brand value of $1.2 billion. Perhaps this is an example of how long a widely known brand takes to fade completely.

The poor position of many U.S. car brands at the top level of the survey based on valuation shows that the industry still has a great road to travel before it match what were likely to have been it positions if the research was done three or four decades ago.

Methodology: Brand Finance calculates brand value using the Royalty Relief methodology, which determines the value a company would be willing to pay to license its brand as if it did not own it. This approach involves estimating the future revenue attributable to a brand and calculating a royalty rate that would be charged for the use of the brand.

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