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by Tim Beissmann

The sacking of 350 employees in January has not stopped Australians ranking Toyota as having the fourth best corporate reputation in the country, according to the results of a survey by a local research consultancy.

AMR’s 2012 Corporate Reputation Index took Australia’s top 60 companies from BRW’s top 1000 list based on revenue and asked almost 6000 Australians to rank them according to their perception of the companies’ reputations.

This year’s index saw Toyota slip one spot from third place, although it still maintained its position as the highest ranked automotive brand in Australia in terms of its reputation.

AMR Sydney general manager Oliver Freedman says Toyota – a top-five regular in the index in recent years – has developed a strong level of trust with Australians over a long period of time.

This was especially evident given the survey was conducted just weeks after the local manufacturer announced it was cutting around 10 per cent of its Altona production plant workforce because of difficult economic conditions.

Freedman explained Toyota performed particularly well in the areas of Australians’ perceptions of its innovation and products, where it ranked second and third overall respectively.

The timing of the survey was seemingly unfortunate for Holden too, coming just days after the announcement that around 140 jobs would go from its Elizabeth manufacturing plant and the admission that exports were not progressing as hoped.

But 2012 saw Holden rise five places from 12th to seventh, closing the gap to the top-ranked Toyota.

Like Toyota, Holden was rated highly for its product, and Freedman believes its overall ranking was helped by peoples’ perception that it is committed to Australia and here for the long haul – a view that would no doubt have been strengthened following the announcement in March (after the survey) that Holden would continue to build cars in Australia until at least 2022.

The same cannot be said for Ford, which slipped 16 places into 32nd overall. Freedman said the results suggest Ford needs to do more to remind people that it is committed to Australia in order to improve its corporate reputation. He explained Ford ranked in the bottom 10 for Australians’ perception of its financial strength and also performed below average in terms of its workplace operations.

In contrast, Mazda continued to move up the table, climbing from 14th to 10th in 2012, while Nissan landed at 15th overall – an encouraging result after failing to qualify for the previous index.

Freedman explained Nissan performed poorest in the area of citizenship – a measure of peoples’ perception of its positive influence in the community – and suggested the brand’s introduction into V8 Supercars in 2013 could help turn this around.

Freedman said the fact that four automotive brands ranked inside the top 15 in 2012 showed the strong reputation of the industry as a whole.

“Despite all of the coverage and the fact that it’s been a tough few years [for the local manufacturing industry], it shows [car companies] still hold a special place in Australians’ hearts.”

In its first appearance in AMR’s Corporate Reputation Index, Apple shot straight to first place. Australia Post maintained its second-place ranking, while JB Hi-Fi was bumped from top spot to third.

Nestle (5th), Virgin (6th), ING Direct (8th) and Myer (9th) filled the other positions in the top 10.




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