Reputation Survey - Toyota: Recalls put off public

Things are going from bad to worse for Toyota - a probe into steering problems is the latest crisis to hit the car maker, magnifying the loss of public trust in the brand.

The key issue for Toyota, following the recall of millions of cars owing to defective accelerator and brake pedals, is whether the public still has faith in its products.

In total 40 per cent of our 3,000 respondents said they trusted the manufacturer less following its problems. Just nine per cent said they would trust Toyota more, thanks to its honesty and proactivity in dealing with the problems. A further 40 per cent of respondents said they would be put off buying a Toyota in future.

It is also telling that Toyota is now the second lowest-ranked car manufacturer in terms of safety and reliability - just Smart, the Mercedes-Benz city car brand, scored lower.

Possibly more troublingly for Toyota, the company's green credentials appear to have been damaged by the problems it has experienced. Until recently the Prius - one of the models affected by problems - was a practically untouchable brand in terms of environmental credentials, with celebrities queuing up to own one.

Toyota was voted the best green car manufacturer of 2008 by TheGreenCarWebsite.co.uk. But our poll found Toyota has slipped in terms of environmental ranking. Smart was voted the top brand in terms of environmental responsibility, with 'no brand' coming in second and Toyota third, ahead of Honda, Volkswagen, Ford and Volvo.

'In this kind of situation it is critical a brand makes swift changes to its business to fix the problem,' says Caroline Randle, director for corporate EMEA at Waggener Edstrom. 'Communications is not enough on its own.'

HOW I SEE IT - Mike Seymour, International director, crisis & issues management, Edelman

Predictably these survey results show Toyota's reputation for quality has been damaged. This has translated into unwillingness to buy.

Toyota has been found wanting on three drivers of corporate reputation - great products and services, open and transparent communications, and being perceived as a company to be trusted.

Surprisingly, the recall response has been seen as adequate, with their cars being rated safe. But the most serious signal lies in the manufacturer's safety and reliability rating.

Now as management seeks to salvage sullied reputations, the challenge becomes how to rebuild trust. Such a demanding task will never be achieved by limited or short-term methods - the survey results make it clear the YouTube apology was seen as inadequate in the UK. In a crisis only clear and consistent comms will be seen as credible.

Moving forward Toyota must act as well as say - otherwise reputation will be damaged forever.

Are you reassured that Toyota cars are still safe?

Unsure 36%
Yes 36%
No 28%

Was posting videos on YouTube an appropriate way for Toyota to apologise
for the faults it identified?

Unsure 28%
Yes 20%
No 52%

RESPONSE: 51% feel the response from Toyota in recalling cars was adequate

SALES: 41% would be put off buying a Toyota car in future after the recent recalls

CONFIDENCE: 40% say their confidence in Toyota cars has been affected by the recent problems the manufacturer has experienced

HANDLING: 40% feel Toyota has handled the situation well regarding the faults it has identified in cars and the subsequent recalls

- Survey of 3,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll.

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