Brand value can be a fickle thing. It’s impossible to measure accurately and it can be affected by numerous volatile factors, but at the end of the day if a consumer is willing to pay more for one brand over another then brand value becomes a vital indicator of a company’s overall value.

Nowhere is this more important than in the auto industry, where a consumer’s perception of a brand can often be the main decisive factor when it comes to buying a new car. One of the best indicators of how valuable each brand is compared to its rivals is the annual BrandZ Top 100 survey conducted by influential market research firm Millward Brown.

For 2010, BMW managed to overtake Toyota as the most valuable automotive brand with a value of $21.82 billion and an overall ranking of 25 on the top 100 list. Toyota was one spot behind on $21.77 billion, with Honda coming in with $14.30.

Interestingly, despite BMW coming out on top, most luxury brands lost brand value due to the effects of the global financial crisis last year. BMW, for example, was actually down 9 percent on last year’s result and German cohorts, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, were down 11 and 31 percent, respectively.

Millward Brown measures brand value based on the responses of more than one million consumers worldwide, as well as analysis of the financial and business performance of each company using data from Bloomberg and Datamonitor. Industry wide, Google was the most valuable brand at $114 billion, followed by IBM at $86 billion and Apple at $83 billion.

The top ten automotive brands in order and value (in billions) are as follows:

1. BMW $21.82
2. Toyota $21.77
3. Honda $14.30
4. Mercedes $13.74
5. Porsche $12.02
6. Nissan $8.61
7. Ford $7.04
8. Volkswagen $6.99
9. Audi $3.62
10. Renault $3.26

[Automotive News, sub req’d]