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Toyota owner loyalty slips - Consumer Reports

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Toyota owner loyalty slips - Consumer Reports

Fri Feb 26, 2010 4:38pm EST

DETROIT, Feb 26 (Reuters) - The number of people driving Toyotas who would think of the carmaker first when buying another vehicle declined after the company's safety recalls and ensuing bad publicity, Consumer Reports said on Friday.

Toyota slipped behind Honda Motor Co (7267.T) among drivers who said they would first look at their current brand, according to Consumer Reports.

"The intense publicity surrounding Toyota's recent recalls seems to be having a pronounced effect on the company's image among its current customers," said Consumer Reports.

The organization reported that 60 percent of Toyota drivers surveyed from February 4 to 8 said they would consider Toyota first, down from 70 percent in December.

Honda took first place in that section of the consumer loyalty survey, followed by Toyota, Chevrolet, with 52 percent, and Ford, with 51 percent.

The February survey was conducted before U.S. Congressional committee hearings started this week, which ratcheted up the negative publicity aimed at Toyota and its once-stellar reputation for making quality vehicles.

Toyota customers aged 45 and over said they were more loyal to the brand, while those 18 to 44 said they were more likely to switch to another brand, the survey showed.

Since the recalls began, Toyota has been the brunt of jokes by late-night television comedians and scrutinized by major news organizations.

On Jan. 21, Toyota said it was recalling eight popular models including two top sellers, the Camry and Corolla sedans. On Jan. 26, Toyota suspended sales of those models and called a week-long shutdown of North American production.

About 6.5 million Toyota vehicles have been recalled in the United States since last fall because of safety concerns.

Asked which brand they would consider first for a new vehicle regardless of the brand they are driving now, 17 percent of survey respondents in February and December chose Ford. Chevrolet overtook Toyota in the February survey with 14 percent versus 12 percent. Honda was favored by 10 percent of the respondents in February.

In December, Toyota was second with 16 percent.

"Among the top brands, purchase intent among all consumers changed by a notable amount between the two surveys for only one brand; Toyota registered a decline of nearly 4 percentage points," Consumer Reports said. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall)



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