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Are Loyal Owners Turning on Toyota?

Despite incentive-driven sales boom, many ready to walk – possibly to Ford – new research suggests.

by on Mar.17, 2010

New study suggests that long-time owners may be questioning their loyalty to Toyota. That could be good news for Ford and Chevy.

This could be one of the best months for the U.S. auto industry since the start of the recession, industry analysts report, giving a chunk of the credit to demand driven by Toyota’s hefty new incentives.

The Asian maker reports demand soared 40%, year-over-year, during the first part of the month, and doubled over dismal February.  But new research suggests that even with $3,000 givebacks and zero-interest loans, the ongoing safety scandal is tarnishing Toyota’s once-bright image and leading many owners wondering whether to walk – possibly to a brand whose star is fast ascending, Ford Motor Company.

Our latest survey showed “60% saying that Toyota’s image is worse than it was a year ago,” said George Peterson, chief analyst with AutoPacific, Inc.  That might not seem especially surprising, considering the almost daily grind of headlines blaring out news of the carmaker’s latest safety problem, but Peterson said there’s a far more troubling trend hidden within the new data.

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For one thing, the number of motorists considering a Toyota for their next vehicle has fallen from 54% to just 37%, over the last year, while at the same time, Ford’s consideration factor has soared from 38% to 67%, which Peterson labels “one of the highest (figures) we’ve ever seen.” (Peterson is a former Ford employee – editor.)