Now the market research powerhouse J.D. Power and Associates has done its first study of consumer chatter around automaker equity in the realms of environmentalism, sustainability and global warming.
In the new Environmental Sustainability Report, an analysis of some 40 million blog posts culled over the past six months, Toyota, General Motors and Honda are the most talked-about automakers in online discussions about environmental sustainability. They also have a higher-than-average number of positive mentions.
The study, by J.D. Power's Web Intelligence Division, divides automakers into four quadrants: pacesetters, contenders, emerging or challenged--each defined by a positive sentiment axis and a volume of commentary axis.
Among the Pacesetters--Toyota, GM and Honda--Toyota garnered the most posts, at 14% of the total, with GM second at 11% and Honda at 7%. But Honda got the most positive sentiment among Pacesetters at 53% versus 49% for GM and 46% for Toyota.
Chance Parker, VP and general manager of J.D. Power's Web Intelligence Research division, said he was surprised that GM was so frequently mentioned because it is the corporation's sub-brands that have traditionally carried all of the equity, good and bad. "And that score isn't an aggregate of its brands, but of people who explicitly said GM." He says GM got a boost because of its forthcoming Chevy Volt electric car and because of two-mode hybrid trucks.
Parker also says he was surprised that Toyota's equity wasn't more positive in green discussions. "We discovered a backlash toward Prius owners; discussion was not terribly complementary about Prius owners. And people associate Toyota with [trucks and SUVs] like Tundra and Sequoia."
Nissan had the most positive mentions, at 56%. But it only got 2% of volume of chatter, which puts it in the company of VW and Mercedes-Benz among Contenders. Ford is the only automaker in the Emerging sector, and Hummer, Dodge, BMW, Chrysler and Chevrolet were all in the Challenged quadrant with low volume, and relatively few positive comments about their environmental sustainability.
Parker said there was a generational twist to the research. "While we definitely saw a lot more discussion about moving to small cars, it was a primarily Gen Y phenomenon; a lot of Gen X and boomers are looking for sustainability in a larger vehicle."