There are no speed demons on the road to automotive brand-building in Asia-Pacifc. The traffic report describes slow, steady traffic in both directions. No top 10 automotive brand accelerated more than a single position in this year's Asia's Top 1000 Brands research, and there were only two instances of overtaking in top 10 of the car and motorcycle categories, as well as only one switch among tyre brands.
This meant that Japanese and luxury automakers are once again in the driver's seat. Toyota returned to the pole position ahead of what was expected to be a big year for its brand marketing as a lead sponsor of the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, now postponed. Toyota is the number one car brand in not only Japan, but also ANZ and three SEA markets (Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines). It was also selected as the automotive brand with the best record on sustainability, followed by its nearest Japanese competitor Honda, which finished fourth in the car category in Asia.
Asia's top 20 car brands
The rest of the top five (top six, in fact) is dominated by luxury brands, including Mercedes Benz (2), BMW (3), Ferrari (5) and Rolls Royce (6), which tells us more about the consumer mindset in this region. Few of us can expect to own a Ferrari or Rolls, yet both are top 10 brands in every APAC market (except Rolls Royce in Japan). When asked to identify the "best car brand", Asian consumers are more likely to describe the 'best of the best' rather the best car brand that they're familiar with and likely to drive. Luxury brands also enjoy more widespread recognition and are less likely to be shut out of certain markets (like Japanese and South Korean car brands largely are in each others' markets). Mercedes-Benz, for instance, is the only car brand in the top four of every single APAC market.
But for this years' movers, we need to look at the back half of the top 10, where Audi (7) overtook Porsche (8). Audi sales have surged this year in some markets like South Korea where it is once again a top-three import brand. Both Audi and sister company Volkswagen (up two spots to 12th) are benefitting as the dieselgate scandal slowly fades over time. Likewise Nissan (9), which overtook Ford (10) is hoping time can heal the wounds of the Carlos Ghosn scandal, helped by the timely sponsorship of tennis superstar Naomi Osaka. Hyundai, which overhauled its product line, was one of the top brand gainers in our overall rankings, and rose two positions to 11th in the car category, while Mazda (13) and Mitsubishi (14), both dropped two spots.
Our top-mover title, however, belongs to Tesla (18), which moved up three notches into the top 20. Another luxury player, Tesla enjoys an enormous market capitalisation, having topped Toyota earlier this month to become the most valuable car company in the world. In APAC, it scores highest among car brands in Taiwan (8) and Hong Kong (10), but also performs well in South Korea and New Zealand (13).
Chinese and Indian automakers once again find themselves on the outside looking in. Maruti (19), the only one to crack the top 20, slid two spots, while Tata fell out by one notch to 21st. The rest follow in short order with Mahindra (22), HongQi (23), SIAC (24), BYD (25), GAC (26), Geely (27), Haval (28) and Great Wall (29).
Honda continues to dominate as the undisputed No. 1 motorcycle brand. It's tops in eight different APAC markets and a top-three brand in all the others (save New Zealand, where it's fourth). Yamaha, the motorcycle brand of choice in China and Malaysia, comes second, while Harley Davidson, in third, holds the most appeal for the easy riders of ANZ and South Korea.
Asia's top 10 motorcycle brands
Among movers, Kawasaki (4) rode three-spot surges of brand appeal in China and Indonesia to overtake Suzuki (5), while Ducati (6) snuck past BMW (7) in this year's ranking.
Perhaps the biggest brand anomalies come from the Taiwanese motorcycle market, where Kymco and SYM finish in the top two spots, helping them both to squeak into the overall top 10.
There is less change to report in this category, despite some healthy competition among top tyre brands. Bridgestone became the top brand in Singapore and Vietnam this year, in addition to four others, once again edging out Michelin, which was named top brand in five other APAC markets. The only top 10 tyre change, however, involved swapping in Continental (8) for Hankook (9).
Asia's top 10 tyre brands