Mercedes-Benz has overtaken Toyota and BMW to claim pole position as the world’s most valuable automobile brand, following 24% year-on-year growth to US$43.9 billion, according to the latest Brand Finance report. Mercedes-Benz’s surge in brand value was driven largely by a big rise in forecast revenue as car sales increased by 9.9% to 2.3 million vehicles.
David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, commented: “Mercedes-Benz invented the automobile, and is now leading the industry with a brand strategy focused on re-inventing the automobile. Their success has been driven by the introduction of a new generation of vehicles led by their renewed foray into SUVs and smooth evolution of new technologies to move away from traditional internal combustion engines.”
Slipping to second was Toyota (down 6% to US$43.7 billion), just ahead of third-ranked BMW (up 6% to US$41.8 billion). Toyota faces a challenging brand landscape, largely due to a weaker position in China as consumers in that market have shied away from the Japanese manufacturer in favour of more aspirational brands, such as Mercedes-Benz.
Electric vehicles drive future brand expectations
Both Toyota and BMW have made efforts to reshape the traditional internal combustion engine a cornerstone of their respective brands. Toyota’s Prius and BMW’s electric i3 and i8 vehicles have very distinctive styling – a brand strategy that contrasts with the very ordinary-looking Leaf by Nissan (down 22% to US$19.4 billion).
Electric vehicle innovator, Tesla (up 106% to US$5.7 billion), has recorded extremely strong brand value growth over the last year, rising from 30th to 19th place amongst automobile brands globally. Tesla’s brand value has been built upon the premium styling of their distinctive vehicles and a very growth-focused corporate vision which aims to bring a more affordable model to market very soon. However, doubts exist whether Tesla has the manufacturing capability in the short-term to satisfy consumer demand in terms of both volume and quality to match the brand expectations that they have created.
Chinese brands in hot pursuit
Outside the top 10, a number of Chinese brands are enjoying remarkable brand value growth while focusing on the Chinese domestic market, which is now the world’s largest. This includes Haval (up 124% to US$6.8 billion), Geely (up 62% to US$6.0 billion), BYD (up 211% to US$3.4 billion), Baojun (up 98% to US$1.8 billion), and Foton (up 90% to US$1.0 billion). In recent weeks, Geely purchased 9.7% of Daimler, seeking to work on electric cars with the conglomerate, while the German government said it would monitor the relationship.
David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, commented: “The Chinese brands have achieved strong brand value growth thanks to their success in the domestic mass market. Outside China, the brands remain largely unknown, and within the Chinese premium and luxury segments, foreign brands such as Mercedes-Benz continue to dominate. However, Chinese brands are now expected to acquire Western brands in order to leverage their brand strength internationally.”
Aston Martin brand roars as sales soar
Aston Martin’s brand value grew with remarkable speed (up 268% to US$3.6 billion) as it took the chequered flag for the fastest-growing brand in the automobile sector. Aston Martin had a very positive year, with its first profit for a decade, boosted by the Brexit-related devaluation of the British Pound. This allowed the manufacturer to continue to deliver a high-quality product, but at a lower cost to international consumers.
David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, commented: “Aston Martin is roaring back into the top ranks of luxury car makers. The brand is famed for offering a high-end product, and respected for the quality they deliver. Exploiting one of the strongest series of planned model launches in the sector, Aston Martin is now a darling for investors and a brand that Britain should be proud of.”
Ferrari maintains world’s strongest auto brand status
Ultra-premium brands such as Ferrari (up 6% to US$6.5 billion) and Aston Martin have become independent from their former ownership by huge conglomerates over the last decade. The independence of Ferrari allows it to leverage its unique brand attributes to cement itself as a global icon of the industry. Ferrari’s brand image has earned it a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 91.5 and a corresponding AAA+ rating, making it the strongest brand in the sector.
Volkswagen Group has world’s most valuable auto brand portfolio
Increased consolidation and cooperation elsewhere in the automobile industry is demonstrated through the growing Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance and the continued success of the Volkswagen Group. Each conglomeration is successfully leveraging synergies across multiple brands, with Volkswagen Group holding the most valuable auto brand portfolio at US$75.8 billion, and clear plans to sharpen their brand positioning in Europe and China.