Aerial cityscape view of Zurich, Switzerland, in autumn (Photo: heyengel, envato)

Study on the transparency within the car sales industry The honest city index

Our mission to increase transparency within the car sales industry

Study ranks the top 75 major global cities to compare how honest citizens are in different sectors of society, including car dealership reviews, government, theft and civic duty.

Our initial interest: How to measure honesty?

As a company which values transparency, here at Twinner we believe that trust is built through honesty. As part of our mission to increase transparency within the second-hand car sales industry, we wanted to see how car dealerships are viewed around the world. This led us to think about how honesty is measured and valued in a city as a whole. Inspired by this idea, we decided to take our research further by commissioning a study which uses data to compare the level of honesty in some of the world’s most renowned cities, curious to see how and whether this could be measured beyond the usual citizen ‘honesty’ tests.

Subject of our study: 75 out of 350 cities

To kick off the study, we first looked at a list of 350 well-known metropolises and shortlisted the top-ranking 75 cities where we had access to comparable data, in order to evaluate them fairly against one another. This does mean that some cities had to be excluded, for instance in China, India or Latin America, simply because of the lack of comparable data and not due to the lack of honesty.

An anonymous last place city* has been included in the final results as a benchmark, but it’s important to note that this index is not designed to show the least honest locations, as we have no intention of ‘shaming’ any cities, but rather to celebrate those who did well. Our aim is to continue studying this topic and enlarging our database so we can keep exploring this important subject. In this first iteration, you can explore the results for top ranked 75 cities, and we hope to make the data available for many more locations in the future.

Trust in car dealerships as a measure of perceived honesty in sales

We first looked into figures related to the automotive industry, gathering the results of car dealership reviews in each city, not only because this topic is of high interest to us, but also because car dealerships tend to have a negative reputation (whether deserved or not) and therefore are a good measure of how people feel about the honesty of car sales in their city. Building on from this, we then investigated the available data on different forms of honesty for major cities around the world.

Individua honesty: The wallet test

The individual honesty of citizens is difficult to quantify, however a number of studies have attempted this through experiments such as the recent Cohn et al. “wallet test” which measured civic behaviour by dropping 17,000 wallets in cities around the globe to see how many of them would be returned. After analysing the results of these experiments, we turned our attention to the larger civic governance of a city, as we believe that honesty often filters from the top downwards.

Transparency in government, economy and society: Honesty top down

We divided this into three broad areas, looking for national data on transparency on a governmental, economic and society level. Government transparency was measured using data on corruption, budget transparency and electoral integrity, while economic transparency was quantified by the estimated percentage of shadow economy present in a location, namely the economic activities which are hidden from official authorities for monetary, regulatory, and institutional reasons. Societal transparency was measured by the extent to which the rule of law, voice and accountability and the freedom of the press was present. Next, we narrowed our focus back onto a city-level, by looking at the perception of theft by its citizens, which helps to illustrate how people rate their neighbours’ honesty levels.

The results: Honesty in cities around the world

Once all the data was compiled, analysed and scored, we were able to directly compare the cities. The final results of the study give a comprehensive picture of the level of honesty in 75 locations around the world, including which cities have the most trustworthy car dealerships.

* The anonymous city in last place would rank in 350th place if all 350 cities researched for this study had been included in the final results.

The results: Honest city index

The final ranking displays the top 75 honest cities among 350 from around the world in order from highest score to lowest. Each individual column is filterable, and the full methodology explaining how each factor was evaluated is at the bottom of the page. Please note that every city in this index deserves recognition and celebration for their honesty levels, and that those at the bottom of the index should not be interpreted as ‘dishonest’, as all 75 locations are the most honest cities out of a larger selection of locations.

  • Car Dealer Reviews
  • Civic Honesty
  • Transparency in Government
  • Transparency in Economy
  • Transparency in Society
  • Perception of Theft
Rank
#
City Country
Total
1 Zurich Switzerland 81.1 100 95.4 100 97.1 100 100
2 Tokyo Japan 100 97.8 81.1 93.6 81.8 95.1 96.6
3 Adelaide Australia 79.9 96 93.1 90.5 90.3 91.2 94.9
4 Phoenix USA 93.6 97.2 87.9 98.2 80.8 73.3 94.3
5 Hamburg Germany 80.9 94 91.4 89.4 96.2 80.8 93.1
6 Amsterdam Netherlands 99.7 87 95.1 93 97.7 87.4 93.1
7 Munich Germany 89.4 88.2 91.4 89.4 96.2 99.3 92.9
8 Copenhagen Denmark 64.3 91.2 100 84.9 100 94 92.1
9 Edinburgh UK 83.9 89.8 85.2 92.9 91.2 90.4 91.4
10 Brisbane Australia 65.1 92.7 93.1 90.5 90.3 87.3 91.1
11 Denver USA 75.8 92.9 87.9 98.2 80.8 81.6 91
12 Portland USA 62.4 96.5 87.9 98.2 80.8 76.5 91
13 Vienna Austria 85.3 86.5 89.7 97 89 94.5 91
14 Ottawa Canada 74.8 88.9 90.7 88 92.1 93.6 90.5
15 Leipzig Germany 89.1 86.4 91.4 89.4 96.2 84.1 90.3
16 Louisville USA 70.2 92.9 87.9 98.2 80.8 77.5 90
17 Auckland New Zealand 55 91.3 96.9 91.9 99.6 76.7 89.7
18 Seattle USA 79.8 92.1 81 98.2 80.8 75.9 89.7
19 Toronto Canada 76.7 89.1 88.6 88 92.1 84.7 89.7
20 Vancouver Canada 84.6 87.5 88.6 88 92.1 84.2 89.6
21 Calgary Canada 71.8 89.4 90.7 88 92.1 85.5 89.6
22 Stuttgart Germany 82.4 84.4 91.4 89.4 96.2 93.3 89.5
23 San Diego USA 88.2 86.9 87.9 98.2 80.8 82.9 89.3
24 Cologne Germany 76.4 87.5 91.4 89.4 96.2 81.7 89.3
25 Prague Czechia 85.4 92.8 75.6 83.7 71.7 92 89.3
26 Belfast UK 84.7 86.9 85.2 92.9 91.2 83.7 89.3
27 Bremen Germany 93.1 83.6 91.4 89.4 96.2 83.4 89.2
28 Singapore Singapore 85.8 88.9 84.4 90.6 78.1 87.6 89.1
29 Cardiff UK 76.8 87.5 85.2 92.9 91.2 86 89
30 Liverpool UK 72.4 88.4 90.4 92.9 91.2 80.1 89
31 Charlotte USA 72.2 89.8 87.9 98.2 80.8 80.2 88.9
32 Berlin Germany 78.2 85.8 91.4 89.4 96.2 84.1 88.9
33 Dusseldorf Germany 81.1 83.6 91.4 89.4 96.2 90 88.6
34 Indianapolis USA 75.9 89.8 87.9 98.2 80.8 70 88.2
35 Sydney Australia 65.5 87 89.2 90.5 90.3 89.6 88.1
36 Dublin Ireland 70.4 89.4 86.4 88.4 89.4 78.2 88
37 Lille France 75.2 89.4 87.7 87.2 85 75.6 87.8
38 Leicester UK 81.2 83.8 90.4 92.9 91.2 81.4 87.6
39 Milwaukee USA 73.9 90.2 87.9 98.2 80.8 64.1 87.6
40 Newcastle upon Tyne UK 76.7 84.1 90.4 92.9 91.2 84.1 87.6
41 Frankfurt Germany 75.5 83.8 91.4 89.4 96.2 84.3 87.5
42 Nashville USA 71.5 87.5 87.9 98.2 80.8 79 87.5
43 Salt Lake City USA 68.2 87.5 81 98.2 80.8 86 87.1
44 San Francisco USA 89.9 86.2 81 98.2 80.8 70.4 87.1
45 Leeds UK 79.6 82.9 90.4 92.9 91.2 81 86.9
46 Glasgow UK 68.1 84.2 90.4 92.9 91.2 84.2 86.7
47 Manchester UK 79.2 84.1 90.4 92.9 91.2 72.7 86.6
48 Melbourne Australia 68.3 85.2 89.2 90.5 90.3 81.8 86.5
49 Lyon France 71 86.9 87.7 87.2 85 78.6 86.3
50 Memphis USA 75.5 87.5 87.9 98.2 80.8 60.6 86
51 Valencia Spain 81.3 88.7 77.7 67.9 75.9 92.5 85.8
52 Edmonton Canada 69.6 83.3 90.7 88 92.1 81.9 85.7
53 London UK 69.6 84.7 85.2 92.9 91.2 75.5 85.7
54 Montreal Canada 83.9 78.7 88.6 88 92.1 89.6 85.4
55 Toulouse France 62.8 86.2 87.7 87.2 85 79.3 85.1
56 Boston USA 72.1 82.1 81 98.2 80.8 86.4 84.8
57 Birmingham UK 71.9 82.3 90.4 92.9 91.2 70.8 84.7
58 Miami USA 66.4 85.4 81 98.2 80.8 73.5 84.5
59 Washington, D.C USA 75.6 82.2 87.9 98.2 80.8 71 84.3
60 Brussels Belgium 77.8 84.2 86.3 73.9 90.6 75 84.2
61 Albuquerque USA 78.1 82.1 87.9 98.2 80.8 60.9 83.4
62 Houston USA 81.1 81.9 81 98.2 80.8 65.1 83.3
63 Tel Aviv Israel 65.7 86.4 79 71.3 73.6 92.2 83.1
64 New York USA 85.5 77.3 81 98.2 80.8 79.9 82.9
65 Los Angeles USA 97.1 75.2 81 98.2 80.8 78 82.8
66 Florence Italy 82.4 85.8 78.9 67.1 68.1 82.2 82.5
67 Chicago USA 79.8 79.5 81 98.2 80.8 68.2 82.2
68 Barcelona Spain 80.6 83.2 73.5 67.9 75.9 79.5 81
69 Paris France 64.8 78.1 85.7 87.2 85 74.6 80.4
70 Lisbon Portugal 89.9 72.1 79.6 71.8 80.6 89.7 78.8
71 Cordoba Argentina 80.6 83 72.2 67.2 61.6 68.5 78
72 Milan Italy 76.2 78.1 74.3 67.1 68.1 78.7 76.9
73 Las Vegas USA 72.8 69.3 81 98.2 80.8 72.8 76.6
74 Rome Italy 85.5 74.1 74.3 67.1 68.1 72.2 75.1
75 Madrid Spain 75.3 70.9 73.5 67.9 75.9 88.8 74.9
350 Anonymous Anonymous 50 50 50 50 50 50 50

Methodology

The Honesty City Index examines and contrasts 75 cities around the world for their levels of honesty on an individual, governmental and societal level. For this purpose, the study takes into account individual behaviour, however, as reliable data on individual honesty is scarce, several proxies such as transparency in government and society, crime levels as well as car dealer reviews were included to provide a complete picture.

75 cities were shortlisted from a list of 350 well-known locations where data was available and comparable in order to create the final index.

Cities were selected primarily due to their inclusion in a comprehensive academic study using lost wallet return rates as an indicator of honesty (see notes on Civic Honesty below); with country capitals and important economic centres added when comparable data was available. From a starting sample size of 350 cities, many cities were dropped due to lack of reliable and accurate data sets – the most common reason for dropping out of the index was lack of reliable car dealership ratings data.

The worst performing city in the study was included to provide an anonymous baseline comparison.

Factors and scoring

The study focuses on the following six factors outlined below in order to determine the levels of honesty in each city:

  • Car Dealer Reviews
  • Civic Honesty
  • Transparency in Government
  • Transparency in Economy
  • Transparency in Society
  • Perception of Theft

Each factor consists of one or more indicators which were scored and averaged. The equation for scoring is as follows:

z-Score = x − mean(X) ⋅ Standard deviation(X) = x − μσ

For columns where a low value is better, the score is inverted such that a high score is always better:

z-Score inverted = −1 ⋅ x − mean(X) ⋅ Standard deviation(X) = −1 ⋅ x − μσ

Scores are normalized such that 50 equals the lowest value in the final dataset and 100 the highest value in the final dataset. Therefore, the higher the score, the better the city ranks for that factor in comparison to the other cities in the index. For example, a score of ‘100’ for “Perception of Theft” indicates that the country will have the lowest perception of theft compared to the others.

The equation for normalization is as follows:

score = (100 − 50) ⋅ x − min(X) ⋅ max(X) − min(X) + 50

All factors are expressed as scores from 50 to 100.

The final score for overall honesty was determined by calculating the sum of the weighted average score of all of the indicators.

Car Dealer Reviews

The factor represents customer satisfaction regarding car dealers for each city, presented as a score.

Sources: Yelp, additional local review websites.

  • The score for Car Dealer Reviews is calculated using the proportion of car dealers receiving an average score less than 3 out of 5 stars as a proportion of the total population in the city.
  • Cities with few reviews overall, relative to population, or with a small sample of poor reviews were excluded from the study.
  • The sources were combined and scored according to the procedure laid out in Scoring (above).

Civic Honesty

This factor is measured by the share of returned wallets in a city, from an experiment in which researchers dropped wallets in cities around the globe to see how many of them would be returned.

Sources: Cohn, Alain, Michel André Maréchal, David Tannenbaum, and Christian Lukas Zünd. ‘Civic Honesty around the Globe’ and experiments by local media outlets.

  • Share of returned dropped wallets containing money.
  • For most cities, the data refers to the “Civic Honesty Around the Globe” study where researchers dropped 17,000 wallets in cities around the globe to see how many of them would be returned.
  • For cities not included in the aforementioned academic study, data was collected from similar studies conducted by local media outlets using the same methodology; where such studies were identified in cities that were included in the aforementioned study, a weighted average of all available results for the city was used with a higher weight placed on the academic study.
  • The indicator was scored according to the procedure laid out in the scoring above.

Transparency in Government

The degree to which government transparency is present in a country. This factor is measured by three indices: Corruption, Budget Transparency and Electoral Integrity.

Sources: Transparency International: Corruption Perceptions Index, Control of Corruption: Estimate, World Bank, International Budget: Open Budget Index, The Electoral Integrity Project: Electoral Integrity Index.

  • “Corruption” represents the perception of countries’ corruption. Corruption data refers to the “Corruption Perceptions Index” and “Control of Corruption: Estimate”
  • “Budget Transparency” represents the public’s access to information on how countries’ governments raise and spend public resources. Budget Transparency data refers to the Open Budget Index.
  • “Electoral Integrity” represents the perception of countries’ electoral integrity. Electoral Integrity data refers to the Electoral Integrity Index.
  • The indicator was scored according to the procedure laid out in the scoring above.

Transparency in Economy

The degree to which economic transparency is present in a country. This factor reflects the estimated percentage of shadow economy from 1991-2015 in each country.

Source: IMF Working Paper, Shadow Economies Around the World: What Did We Learn Over the Last 20 Years?

  • Data for shadow economy refers to the report “Shadow Economies Around the World”, table: Summary statistics of the shadow economy of 158 countries over the period 1991 to 2015.
  • The term shadow economy is based on the following definition: “The shadow economy includes all economic activities which are hidden from official authorities for monetary, regulatory, and institutional reasons.”
  • The indicators were scored according to the procedure laid out in the scoring above.

Transparency in Society

The degree to which transparency in regards to law, democracy and freedom of speech is present in a country. The degree of transparency in society is composed of three indices: Rule of Law, Voice and Accountability and the Press Freedom Index.

Sources: Worldbank: Worldwide Governance Indicators, Reporters without Borders: 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

  • “Rule of Law” represents the confidence in the rules of society.
  • “Voice and Accountability” represents the perceptions of the extent to which a country’s citizens are able to participate in government selection and freedom of expression.
  • “Press Freedom Index” represents the degree of freedom available to journalists.
  • The indicators were scored according to the procedure laid out in the scoring above.

Perception of Theft

The share of people who are worried about different types of theft in each country, presented as a score. Perception of theft was favoured over statistics in this instance as this type of crime (particularly petty theft) remains under-reported in many countries.

Source: Numbeo

  • The following indicators were considered: Level of “Worries home broken and things stolen”, “Worries being mugged or robbed”, “Worries car stolen”.
  • The sources were combined and scored according to the procedure laid out in the scoring above.