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 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.

In its latest study, Millward Brown researchers found that Toyota is once again the most valuable automotive brand in the world, with an estimated value of $24.5 billion, a gain of 12 percent on last year’s result. BMW, which has held the top spot since 2010, has been relegated to second, with its value coming in at $24 billion, a drop of 2 percent on last year.

Toyota’s strong gain was said to be brought about by increasing interest in hybrid vehicles while BMW’s image was tarnished slightly by its performance in the slumping European market. Interestingly, only four other automakers made it into the BrandZ Top 100 global survey this year: Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Nissan and Volkswagen.

Apple, which has been the top ranking brand since 2011, is once again on top, with an estimated brand value of $185 billion.

For the study, brand value is essentially the sum of all earnings that a company’s brand alone is expected to generate. It is calculated based on information from surveyed consumers, who are asked to judge a brand based on attributes that are important to them.

World's most valuable car brands in 2013 in $ billion; rank in top global 100; % value change from 2012

1) Toyota $24.5 -- (23) +12
2) BMW $24.0 -- (24) -2
3) Mercedes $18.0 -- (43) +11
4) Honda $12.4 -- (71) -2
5) Nissan $10.2 -- (86) +3
6) Volkswagen $8.8 -- 3 (100) +3
7) Ford $7.6 -- (*) +8
8) Audi $5.5 -- (*) +18
9) Hyundai $4.0 -- (*) +11
10) Lexus $3.5 -- (*) +2

(number) = overall top 100 position
(*) = Did not rank in the top 100


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