Toyota Still (Mostly) Well-Regarded

You could hardly blame domestic automakers for hoping Toyota suffers badly in consumers’ esteem for that company’s struggle over malfunctioning gas pedals. An ABC News poll, conducted Jan. 28-31, finds opinion has indeed shifted in a negative direction, but not enough (yet) to deprive Toyota of a largely favorable public.

Asked to say how favorable or unfavorable their “overall opinion” of Toyota is, a majority of respondents rated the company favorably (26 percent “very” and 37 percent “mostly”). Fourteen percent gave a “mostly unfavorable” verdict, and another 14 percent were “very unfavorable” toward Toyota. (The rest had no opinion.) For comparison, an early-2007 Pew Research Center survey found 24 percent “very” and 54 percent “mostly” favorable, vs. 8 percent “mostly” and 3 percent “very” unfavorable.

Another of the findings suggests Toyota’s image could suffer among a significant minority of consumers even after the immediate problem is solved.

Respondents were asked whether they view the gas-pedal episode as “an isolated incident that does not indicate a broader quality problem” or as indicative of “a broader problem with the quality of Toyota cars.” Twenty-one percent picked “broader problem,” while 72 percent chose “isolated incident.”

Twenty-two percent said the current situation makes them less likely to consider buying a Toyota in the future when shopping for a new car, including 10 percent who said it makes them “much less” likely to do so. Seventy-two percent said it’ll have no effect on them one way or another. For reasons best known to themselves, 5 percent said the situation has made them more likely to buy a Toyota in the future.