Final Inspection

Recall’s Impact on Toyota’s Image? It’s Way Too Soon to Tell

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There appears to be a big rush under way to judge the long-term impact on consumer confidence of Toyota’s widespread recall related to sudden acceleration after less than 30 days.

But based on the number of conflicting reports popping up, it’s apparent it’s way too soon to tell.

Edmunds.com says it already is seeing interest in purchasing a new Toyota on the rise from car shoppers visiting its website, declaring in a headline “Toyota Already Recovering from Recall.”

Toyota purchase intent already is back to 11.8% of Edmunds.com car shoppers, the organization says, from a low of 9.7% during the “height of the recall frenzy.” Prior to the recall Toyota drew 13.9% of the sites shoppers.

Another new-car website, AutoTrader.com, reportedly has seen Toyota shopping activity heat up over the last few days, as well.

Competitor Kelley Blue Book reports an opposite trend. “More than 20% of those who said they were considering a Toyota prior to the recall now say they no longer are considering the brand for their next vehicle purchase,” it says. Toyota’s overall brand consideration has dropped to third place behind Ford and Chevrolet, according to Kelly Blue Book’s rankings.

Who’s right? KBB’s take on the immediate impact seems more likely given the amount of news coverage the Toyota accelerator issue has drawn. But Edmunds and AutoTrader data may suggest bargain-hunters smell blood in the water and are preparing to pounce on a good deal when Toyota inevitably begins to throw a lot of cash on the hood in an effort to win back wandering customers.

But either way, it’s going to take some time before we know how much permanent damage has been done to Toyota’s reputation.

Already lawmakers are questioning whether Toyota’s pedal fix will do the job, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. is expanding its investigation to take a closer look at the auto maker’s electronics.

The vaunted Prius hybrid now is being placed under examination, and any problems discovered here could have serious repercussions for the Toyota brand – not to mention demand for just about any advanced-technology vehicle.

Today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood created more panic, advising owners of the recalled vehicles not to drive them until they are repaired, before later backpedalling and saying he “misspoke.”

Truth is, until this story gets off the front pages of national newspapers, fault is found and repairs made – and we get a few months of sales behind us, there’s really no predicting the extent of the damage.

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WardsAuto editors share insights and observations on the global auto industry.

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David E. Zoia

As Editorial Director, I oversee much of what goes into WardsAuto.com, enjoying a ringside seat that lets me observe up close just about every facet of the industry worldwide. I have covered the...

James M. Amend

James Amend is an associate editor at WardsAuto.com, covering day-to-day business and product news at General Motors. He also leads coverage of regulatory and environmental issues, as well as the...
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