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For Big 3 Automakers, Perception Is Reality

A week ago, while doing a live shot for an unrelated story, a viewer, who's husband worked at Ford for years, came up to me and said, "Tell people all the good things happening at Ford, we need the good news to get out."

This is not the first time I have heard this type of message, either in person or via e-mail, from an investor, worker, retiree, or just plain fan of the Big 3. Often the message includes a side comment such as, "Quit telling people the public doesn't believe in the quality/reliability of the Big 3, because that's not true."

Well, the fact of the matter is research shows there IS a perception gap with buyers who are not giving many Big 3 models the credit they deserve in terms of quality. The latest survey of buyers by CNW Marketing shows that many buyers perceive American-made models to be less reliable and less desirable than foreign brand, especially Japanese, models. Read the following excerpt from CNW's latest research report on June 18th:

"Quality is hardly an issue in the real world, but 51 percent of new- vehicle shoppers believe Detroit’s quality is “significantly” worse than their Asian competitors.

Fuel economy is easily as good for Detroit models, but the perception is the opposite — 63 percent believe Detroit’s models are less fuel efficient than comparable Asian brands.

Price remains a perceived advantage for Asian models even though the real world numbers are not only comparable, but often favor Detroit, particularly when incentives and inter-dealership competition is added to the mix."

You get the point.

Unfortunately for the Detroit, this is going to be a long-hard battle. In many ways, it be tougher than the fight to catch their Japanese rivals in factory efficiency, etc.

GM , Ford , and Chrysler are waging this war, with more aggressive ad campaigns touting the reliability of their models or favorable results of head to head test drives.

Still, the fact remains, perception is reality for many buyers.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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