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Highly esteemed market-research firm Millward Brown recently published The BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2014, a report that named Toyota as the number one global automotive brand this year. Toyota's estimated value of $29.6 billion puts it at an increase of 21% over last year’s figure. Toyota is the largest carmaker in total units for a second consecutive year, followed closely by GM and Volkswagen. Exports and a weakened yen can be attributed to Toyota's growth. While this increase is impressive, the brand slipped three places to the 26th position on the overall rankings table as other industries grew (technology dominated this year as Google, Apple and IBM top the overall list).

BMW came in second place in the automotive category with an estimated brand value of $25.7 billion, an increase of 7% relative to 2013. Similar to Toyota, BMW brand fell by eight places to 32nd overall.

Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Nissan all remained on the top 100 list with respective brand values of $21.5 billion, $14.1 billion and $11.1 billion. Ford also managed to secure a spot on the list at ; the blue oval brand managed to increase its value by 56% compared to 2013 and is currently valued at $11.8 billion.

Volkswagen was the only automotive brand previous ranked to fall off the top 100 list in 2014. VW brand value fell from $8.8 billion in 2013 to $8.4 billion in 2014. Audi, Chevrolet and Hyundai each missed the overall top 100 list, but rounded out the top 10 in the automotive category.

The overall brand value for the car category improved 17% after a 5% lift a year ago. Car sales increased 8% in the United States to 15.6 million units. Western Europe continued to improve, while sales advanced sharply in China but declined in the other BRICs. A few other trends emerged in the automotive industry, including consumers expecting cars loaded with technology regardless of price point and safety remaining an overriding concern. With GM's newsworthy recalls and Toyota's fine for misleading consumers during its 2009 crisis, trust is becoming increasingly important to consumers.

So why is brand value important? Determining brand value is a tedious process and is highly subjective, making it difficult to measure. Brand perception is the key to success and at the end of the day if a consumer is willing to pay more for one brand over another, this preference becomes an indicator of a company’s overall value

The BrandZ study determines brand value by calculating the sum of all earnings that a company is expected to generate, and surveyed 150,000 consumers on attributes important to them.  The car category includes mass market and luxury cars but excludes trucks. Each car brand includes all models marketed under the brand name.