LOS ANGELES -- High-flying Hyundai may be in the best position to take advantage of all the trouble at Toyota.
Independent researchers say the Korean brand is growing in consumer awareness and acceptance -- and not just because its Japanese rival is damaged.
"Hyundai is benefiting from a perfect storm," said James Bell, market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "It's a result of introducing new products like the Sonata and Tucson, while Honda's mainstream vehicles, like the CR-V and Accord, are a bit stale, and Toyota is experiencing a huge consumer perception crisis."
Kelley Blue Book says Hyundai surpassed both Toyota and Honda in February to become the No. 1 brand in customer loyalty. And KBB said Hyundai's redesigned mid-sized Sonata sedan, which went on sale in February, cracked its top 10 list of most-researched vehicles for the first time.
Meanwhile, the redesigned Tucson was the most-considered vehicle of all 454 models on Edmunds.com last month. The crossover surged from No. 83 in December, when the new version debuted.
To Edmunds, "consideration" means a Web site visitor looks at reviews, videos, photos and digs deep by checking out all trim lines.
Not only is that the first time a Hyundai nameplate has been on top, but Edmunds analysts say no vehicle has ever moved up as quickly as the Tucson. The Sonata was No. 4 in February, up from No. 33 in both December and January.