| -

YONKERS, N.Y. — A follow-up to the Consumer Reports 2010 Car Brand Perception Survey revealed that Toyota loyalty is slipping in light of ongoing recalls and deteriorating public perception of the automaker.

Officials indicated that among consumers who drive a Toyota regularly, 60 percent said they would most likely purchase a Toyota the next time they are in the market for a new vehicle. The company pointed out that figure is down 10 percentage points from the December 2009 survey.

As a result, Consumer Reports noted that Toyota slipped behind Honda, while loyalty for Chevrolet and Ford changed little among owners.

"Despite the attention Toyota has received due to safety concerns, the overall impact on the brand integrity in the eyes of the consumer was less than one may have anticipated, though admittedly this is a developing situation," officials explained.

"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," they went on to state.

"The change was similar between genders, but purchase intent declined more among respondents aged 18 to 44 years old than those aged 45 and over," Consumer Reports added.

Even with this modest decline in loyalty, officials found that Toyota purchase intent among all respondents remains greater at 12 percent than all brands except Ford (17 percent) and Chevrolet (14 percent).

To provide a snapshot of how public perceptions of Toyota are shifting in light of its cascading safety recalls, the Consumer Reports National Research Center repeated part of the 2010 Car Brand Perception Survey.

For this follow-up, officials explained that a random, nationwide telephone survey was conducted Feb. 4-8 of 1,832 adults who said that their household owns a vehicle.

While Toyota loyalty among current owners has declined, it remains greater than other brands, including Chevrolet (52 percent), Ford (51 percent) and Dodge (28 percent).

Consumer Reports were especially struck by Dodge owners who now are less likely to purchase another vehicle from that brand than in December. Officials said the percentage slipped to 28 percent from 32 percent.

Nonetheless, the focus of the additional survey was Toyota.

"Toyota entered its current crisis in a position of strength," Consumer Reports emphasized.

The publication referenced strength because Toyota's led previous Brand Perception Surveys by a significant margin. Officials said in their latest full survey in December that Toyota had 196 points.

The score marked a considerable advantage over the automaker's closest competitor, which was Ford at 141 points.

Consumer Reports reiterated that the scores reflect consumers' total perception level of a brand across seven categories: safety, quality, value, performance, design/style, technology/innovation, and environmentally friendly/green.

"In ranking those factors, respondents considered safety to be the most important, up slightly from the previous year. Quality ranked second," officials pointed out.

"These attributes have historically been associated with Toyota, exposing vulnerability as these traits are drawn into question as the automaker manages its crisis," Consumer Reports added.

Officials also mentioned that they plan to conduct their next Brand Perception Survey later this year.