The intense media spotlight has been focused directly on Toyota as its recalls of over 8 million vehicles for acceleration-related issues has begun hitting the Japanese automaker where it hurts most. Toyota sales were down year over year in January and a similar story unfolded for the month of February.

Automotive News is reporting that a recent Consumer Reports survey of Toyota owners shows that the embattled automaker should expect more customers to jump ship in the short-term. The Japanese automaker was leading the industry in consideration as recently as December, as CR data shows that 70 percent of Toyota owners were planning on purchasing a new Toyota when it came time for a new vehicle. Just two months later and the number has dipped to 60 percent, dropping Toyota below Honda in overall consideration.

The negative Toyota press is no doubt hurting the automaker, but the news isn't totally (and completely) bad. While Toyota dropped below Honda in owner loyalty, the Japanese automaker is still ahead of Chevrolet (52 percent loyalty) and Ford (51 percent loyalty). Toyota also fared better with customers 45 and over, as the demographic reportedly has remained loyal to the brand. Customers age 18 to 44, however, are more likely to switch to another brand.

While it looks like Toyota is doing a decent job of weathering the sales storm during its time in the media spotlight, consideration could possibly take another hit in March. CR surveyed Toyota customers prior to the three congressional hearings with the automaker.

[Source: Automotive News, sub. req. | Image: Philippe DeSmazes/AFP/Getty]

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