Honda outsells Toyota?
TrueCar forecast that Honda and Acura would sell 82,981 vehicles in February, compared with 80,543 sales for Toyota, Lexus and Scion.
Other gainers at Toyota's expense would be Ford, Hyundai and Mazda.
Much of the Toyota slide followed the interruption in sales of eight models, or about 60 percent of the company's lineup, in late January and early February. But consumer skepticism has played a part as well, said Jesse Toprak, TrueCar vice president of trends and insights.
Toprak does not see Toyota's sales swoon continuing, especially if the Japanese automaker cranks up incentive spending in March, as expected.
For the year, he estimates Toyota will lose 1.5 to 2 points of market share, compared with about 5 percentage points for February.
A Toyota spokesman declined to comment on the automaker's sales pace. Last year, Toyota Motor Sales held 17.0 percent of the U.S. market.
The company has taken a major hit in consumer sentiment. At the beginning of the year, Toyota was the highest-ranked brand in the BrandIndex automotive sector, with an index score in the 40s.
On Feb. 23, Toyota's score was zero, translating into an equal number of positive and negative reactions, according to the research group's consumer polling. Only Chrysler and Hummer rank lower.
After two days of testimony in Washington, Toyota's BrandIndex score dropped to minus 1.8
“The drop in score implies a serious problem for Toyota,” said Ted Marzilli, BrandIndex global managing director.
“When we have seen drops of this magnitude, the recovery period has been a minimum of six months. In this case, with the prolonged news cycle that the brand has gone through, we expect the impact to last closer to a full year.”
Despite tough questioning aimed at Toyota by Congress and critics, the automaker is large enough to ride out a yearlong media storm, some analysts speculate. But they also say that a spate of class-action lawsuits or more deaths linked to unintended accelerations would keep the controversy alive.