Tesla Bumps Volkswagen off Most Valuable Car Brands List

Tesla breaks into the top 10 among most valuable car brands.
Tesla breaks into the top 10 among most valuable car brands. | Image source: Tesla

What do the 10 most valuable car brands have in common? For market-research firm Millward Brown, the highest ranking auto companies are well-positioned for the future of mobility while they maintain a strong image with consumers in the present. Considering the event of the past 12 months, you can see how Tesla was primed to enter the top 10 and bump the scandal-plagued Volkswagen out of the group.

Millward Brown, which selects its BrandZ top 100 global brands every year, calculates a brand value based on consumer perception and financial data from each automaker. When there is strong movement from an upstart company, as there was from Tesla with its Model 3 debut, you can witness regime change take place. The Fremont-based electric car and energy storage company’s brand valuation jumped to $4.4 billion, which squeezed out the long-established Volkswagen that has been mired in scandal.

The Tesla Model 3
The Tesla Model 3 introduced many consumers to the rising auto brand. | Source: Tesla

Six car brands cracked the top 100 global list, with Toyota ($29.5 billion) leading the pack at No. 28, followed by BMW ($26.8 billion) at No. 33 and Mercedes Benz ($22.7 billion) at No. 39. Mercedes was the biggest mover of the automaker bunch with 4% gains over the previous year. Disruption across the industry actually led to a drop of car brands overall (-3%) since the last rankings.

Car-sharing services like Uber and mobility brands popping up under the auspices of old-guard manufacturers caused the tension BrandZ rankings reflect. Automakers shifting to cope with the changes, including Ford ($13.1 billion) and Audi ($9.5 billion), held their places among the most valuable, though VW’s luxury brand lost 6% overall.

The Audi brand remained in sixth place while Volkswagen faltered in the past year. | Source: Audi

Brand value is a term of art, of course. Fans of the political and financial scene may have run into this when hearing about Donald Trump’s self-valuation, much of which is based on his brand’s worth. But there are real-world implications for automakers. In Tesla’s case, BrandZ’s report said “consumers were so enamored with the vision of, and the emotion radiating from the brand that they put down a $1,000 deposit on a vehicle they had yet to see.”

Here’s a look at all 10 of the most valuable auto brands:

  1. Toyota ($29.5 billion)
  2. BMW (($26.8 billion)
  3. Mercedes-Benz ($22.7 billion)
  4. Honda ($13.2 billion)
  5. Ford ($13.1 billion)
  6. Nissan ($11.5 billion)
  7. Audi ($9.5 billion)
  8. Land Rover ($4.7 billion)
  9. Porsche ($4.438 billion)
  10. Tesla ($4.436 billion)

Clearly, Tesla has the potential to lap both Porsche and Land Rover in the coming year. Even with the negative press coming over the Model X troubles, the Tesla brand has that “pioneering spirit, as personified by founder Elon Musk, [that] conveys an urgency to shed the old ways of doing things.” This emotional connection with consumers is the stuff successful brands are made of.

As for Volkswagen, the company realized it would cost many billions of dollars to settle the Dieselgate scandal, and the company’s reputation among consumers will take years to repair. Among other notable no-shows here, the General Motors brands did not factor among the industry’s most valuable. Even with Maven, the investment in Lyft, and the potential of the Chevy EV, GM’s divisions are still lightweights compared to the rest of the pack.

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