In times of growing uncertainty over global trade and looming protectionism, it probably doesn’t hurt to sell goods adorned with a label that’s popular with customers the world over. According to a new survey, the “Made in Germany” brand is just that.
Statista, a Hamburg-based market research and business intelligence portal, polled 43,000 people in 52 countries on their general perception of products from different countries of origin.
The results, published Monday, show that Germany’s manufacturing reputation far outperforms that of other major exporting powerhouses such as Japan, the United States or China.
According to Statista’s Made-In-Country Index (MICI), only products from Switzerland come close to German goods when it comes to global appreciation, with the European Union coming in third, and British-made products in a respectable fourth position.
The U.S. and Japan tie for eighth place with France out of the 52 countries in the survey, whereas China, the world’s biggest exporting nation, has the second worst score, with just 28 index points out of a possible 100, ahead only of Iran.
A few weeks after Germany announced a record-high trade surplus of €252.9 billion, or $270.5 billion, last year, it’s perhaps no surprise products from Germany are highly regarded worldwide.
The label’s reputation, seemingly undented by months of coverage of Volkswagen’s diesel emissions fraud, is mainly based on positive ratings in the product categories of “quality” and “security standards,” along with the overall popularity of the “Made in Germany” brand across many countries. Germany took the number one spot in 13 of the 52 nations surveyed.
It wasn’t always the case. British authorities originally introduced the “Made in Germany” label some 130 years ago, not as a badge of honor but rather as a deterrent. It was intended “to protect the nation’s market from cheap imports and warn domestic consumers of counterfeit products from Germany,” the authors of the study note.
On its official website, the German government, which published the findings of the study, called the “Made in Germany” label’s change of fortunes “a bitter historical irony.”
“It’s not far-fetched to assume that there might be a Trump effect involved.”
Statista delved into possible reasons for the United States’ poor showing in the study. It suggests recent news about the negotiations of free trade agreements, tariffs and border controls affected the United States’ global reputation.
Projects dating back to the Obama administration, such as TTIP, also come in for international criticism. But Nicolas Loose, who authored the survey, said Donald Trump’s presidency could have something to do with the disappointing result.
“As the United States ranks between Greece and Mexico, and even behind Russia, with regard to changes in its image’s perception over the last 12 months, it’s not far-fetched to assume there might be a Trump effect involved,” Mr. Loose said, adding that the new president “will have to prove himself and will be judged by his actions, not his promises.”
The United States is not the only nation whose manufacturing reputation has been damaged by political upheaval, with Turkey and Greece’s scores also suffering, the study noted.
Still, at a time when the future of the European Union looks anything but rosy, goods from the 28-nation bloc fared particularly well in Statista’s survey, ranking third. “The impressive results for “Made in E.U.” were a pleasant surprise,” Mr. Loose said.
He explained that the label introduced in 2003 “no longer has the image of being an artificial upgrade, but instead stands for short transport distances, fair working conditions,” and high quality products.