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Carmakers earn customers' loyalty

LAST week, BMW was voted the most trusted and reputable organisation in Ireland. The Bavarian company has jumped from 13th place last year, pushing Google off the top spot into third place behind iPhone-maker Apple at number two, the annual RepTrak study has shown.

Amazingly, two other car companies – Volkswagen and Toyota – come into the top five behind Apple and Google.

The survey of 14,000 members of the Irish public, carried out by Corporate Reputations, ranks how much companies are admired and trusted, how highly they are held in esteem and how good people feel about them.

I must say it was a bit of a shock for me, as after some 30 years of writing about cars it wasn't immediately what I would think about car firms.

However, we do trust our own lives and those of our loves ones to these lumps of metal and cars are the biggest purchase we ever make, apart from houses. They are also, for many people, the prism through which we both see ourselves and want to be seen.

And with only a very few exceptions, the people in the major car firms are thoroughly decent and hard-working, often at the very furthest point from the image of the slick fast eddies trying to sell old bangers off a tatty forecourt.

Yet I am amazed at how in some showrooms, despite millions in investment, some salesmen are still very offhand. Women, especially, find that they are are ignored or talked down to. However, there are other places where the service is outstanding. All creature comforts for the family are on tap and, rightly, you are made to feel you are the king or queen of the market.

The three car firms in the top five of the RepTrack study do have a massively loyal customer base. You just try and get a Volkswagen Golf owner to switch to something else!

Toyota has always had a name for reliable, well-built cars and handled the major recall last year well. BMW is a real aspirational brand and a firm favourite among corporate buyers. Their MINI subsidiary regularly gives me my favourite drive.

BMW said the result endorsed its "long-term investment in the Irish market". Its success was based on "impressive financial performance, innovative products, sound sustainability and environmental credentials", sales and marketing director of BMW Ireland Michael Nugent said.

Irish Independent