Brand value can be a fickle thing. It’s impossible to measure accurately and it can be affected by numerous volatile factors.

However, 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 apparent 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 global survey, conducted by influential market research firm Millward Brown.

For the automotive category, BMW managed to reclaim the top ranking in 2012 after losing it to Toyota last year. According to the results, BMW’s brand value rose 10 percent over the past 12 months to $24.62 billion while Toyota’s dipped 10 percent to $21.78 billion.

Researchers pointed out that supply chain globalization and just-in-time inventories hurt Japanese automakers due to shipment delays after the flooding and Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan and flooding in Thailand last year.

At the same time, luxury brands, in particular Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, have benefited from strong demand in China. The country remains the world’s largest new car market and a critical volume-driver for many luxury brands such as those mentioned.

Interestingly, despite GM being the number one automaker in the world in terms of sales, none of its brands made the top 10 list. As for the most valuable brand in the world, that title goes to Apple whose value rose 19 percent in the past year to $183 billion or about 37 percent of its current market capitalization.

The top ten automotive brands for 2012 in order and value (in billions) are as follows:

1. BMW $24.62
2. Toyota $21.78
3. Mercedes $16.11
4. Honda $12.65
5. Nissan $9.85
6. Volkswagen $8.52
7. Ford $7.03
8. Audi $4.70
9. Hyundai $3.60
10. Lexus $3.39