NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- A new survey shows that Toyota's unprecedented recall is costing it dearly in terms of consumer consideration.
The study, from KelleyBlueBook.com, finds that consideration and interest in Toyota vehicles has dramatically dropped since the announcement of its massive recall. According to the study, more than 20% of consumers who said they were considering a Toyota for their next vehicle before the recall now have scratched the brand off their shopping lists.
Worse, the automaker's overall brand consideration dropped to third place and now trails Ford, in first place, and Chevrolet in second.
The news comes at a time when Toyota is trying to reassure consumers about its brand with a marketing communications program to remedy the near catastrophic situation caused by the recall of 2.3 million cars in the U.S. The automaker delayed its communications until early this week, when it finally launched an aggressive PR, print, TV and social-media outreach program featuring U.S. President-Chief Operating Officer Jim Lentz.
"What you have here is the perfect storm of a corporate culture within Toyota that is very methodical, reasoned and conservative in its steps, which has served them exceptionally well and allowed them to build a stellar reputation and be profitable and successful," said James Bell, VP-executive market analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "But it seems like they didn't have a play in their playbook for this. A company that is as wealthy from a financial and talent perspective like they are should have grabbed this problem in the first hour and thrown their hands up and said they know about the situation and here's what we are going to do to fix it. The recall would have seemed a bit crazy two months ago but it would have averted the trouble Toyota is having today."
Other findings from Kelley Blue Book's study, which surveyed more than 400 in-market car shoppers on kbb.com from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1, show that consideration of the Toyota brand was cut nearly in half, from 29% prior to the recall to 18% afterward in Kelley Blue Book Market Intelligence's Brand Watch survey. The Brand Watch data also showed a drop in Toyota's perceived safety rating from 8.4 to 7.6.
Site traffic on kbb.com shows a sharp drop in Toyota interest. The majority of the vehicles involved in the recall experienced a 30% drop in page views when comparing traffic data with the week before the recall. The negative impact isn't limited to the models being recalled; the overall brand is taking a hit as the study reveals that Toyota models not involved in the recall also saw a decline in page views.
The study did offer some good news for Toyota and showed that consumers believe the world's leading automaker will learn from this crisis. Over 30% of those surveyed believed that despite the current situation Toyota will offer better products in the future, and another 28% noted that Toyota has had fewer recalls than other car manufacturers, and that this recall doesn't "change the fact that they produce great products."
And indeed, Mr. Bell believes Toyota is smart enough to work its way back onto consideration lists. "They will recover and come out of this a better and smarter company, but the reputation they have nurtured for 30 years is severely stained."