The last two months have been devastating for Toyota’s reputation as a quality and safety leader.
However, a new report released by Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business found that despite the eight million Toyota vehicles recalled since October 2009, current Toyota owners are not yet wavering in their support of the company.
The survey-based study of a national sample of U.S. vehicle owners found that the level of overall satisfaction with their vehicles' quality was equally high among Toyota owners and owners of other vehicles, and Toyota owners maintained a more positive view of the company than their counterparts who own other-brand vehicles.
But there was no escaping the press coverage of the safety issues:
Ninety-three percent of each group was aware of the recall.
“The recall does not seem to have dampened Toyota owners’ evaluations of their vehicles,” said Vikas Mittal, professor of marketing at Rice. “Before the recalls, Toyota’s reservoir of brand equity was seen as unparalleled among its customer base. That didn’t just vanish. The consistent and high level of satisfaction with the brand experience means that their current customers are viewing this performance lapse as an anomaly.”
The study found that Toyota's track record created what its authors called a “brand insulation effect,” which shielded the company from the recall’s negative effects coming from current customers.
Of the 455 vehicle owners in the U.S. surveyed, 12.8 percent were Toyota owners, which reflects the current market share of Toyota in the U.S.
The study demonstrated Toyota owners believe the current issues surrounding the brand are “an outlier” and that the Japanese automaker handled the issue appropriately. Despite the multiple recalls, Toyota owners don’t believe that domestic automakers such as GM, Ford and Chrysler are catching up to Toyota and Honda in either safety or reliability.
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