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Study: Tesla The Most Trusted Company In Autonomous Development Race, Despite Crash Investigations

Elizabeth Balboa

Last quarter’s fatalities involving autonomous vehicle technology were seen to justify some of the concerns voiced by Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) bears. Critics were confident the crashes would dent consumer enthusiasm toward self-driving cars and, in one case involving the Model X, weigh on the brand's image. 

To the contrary, a survey conducted by Autolist found Tesla still leads the segment in consumer confidence. 

When asked which tech or auto company they most trusted to bring a self-driving car to market, about 32 percent of Autolist’s respondents answered "Tesla."

The next highest category reflected skepticism of any AV make; 27 percent of respondents said they trusted no company’s self-driving product.

After that, the rankings were as follows:

  • Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) (NYSE: TM) at 15 percent;
  • General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) at 9 percent;
  • Uber at 6 percent;
  • Volkswagen and Lyft at 2 percent each; and
  • Alphabet Inc Class A (NASDAQ: GOOGL)’s Waymo at less than 1 percent.

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (NYSE: FCAU), which generally receive little attention in the AV race, were lumped into the “other” category representing 6 percent of responses.

Why It’s Meaningful

The Autolist report complements a January Deloitte study that found 63 percent of U.S. consumers would be more likely to ride in a self-driving car if it came from a trusted brand.

Brand reliability is becoming increasingly critical for automakers, as the aforementioned metric accelerated from just 54 percent in 2017 and is most heavily skewed by the market’s youngest prospective customers. About 70 percent of Gen Y and Z respondents confirmed the importance of branding. 

Notably, the automakers are fighting among themselves to win just a fragment of the total consumer population. A January AAA survey found 63 percent of drivers are afraid to ride in a fully autonomous vehicle.

What Experts Say

Autolist’s findings partially resonate with the assessments of Street analysts. Loup Ventures managing partner Gene Munster considers Tesla the leader in the autonomous space, and last fall, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup both said GM leads the pack.

For the most part, experts are at odds on the rankings, and the space is in such flux that their research often redirects them to different winners.

In January, Navigant Research ranked GM and Waymo at the vanguard, with Ford (No. 4) and Volkswagen (No. 5) on their heels, Toyota (No. 12) in the back half and Uber (No. 17) and Tesla (No. 19) distantly trailing.

Nearly a year earlier, the same firm had placed Ford and GM at the top with Volkswagen sixth, Waymo seventh, Tesla 12th, Toyota 13th and Uber 16th in the development race. 

Related Links:

Which Chipmaker Leads The Autonomous Driving Space?

Tesla Delays, GM Ramps Up: What's The New Timeline For Autonomy?

Photo by Brett Hershman.

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