Toyota of Hollywood team leader Scott Sandmeyer, right, uses a hand file… (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Washington -- Toyota Motor Corp. and Goldman Sachs were among the biggest gainers in brand image last year after a rough 2010 that saw each of them enmeshed in controversy, according to U.S. corporate brand rankings made by an online market research firm.
More than 13 million product recalls in the U.S. related to sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles starting in 2009 pummeled Toyota's image in 2010, said YouGov, a British firm that tracks brand perception daily with a panel of 2.5 million people worldwide. A Times series helped draw attention to Toyota's problems, which led to congressional hearings.
Toyota's BrandIndex Buzz score saw the biggest improvement in 2011 compared to 2010, although it has yet to regain its auto industry leading position, YouGov said.
BP had the best image in the oil and gas industry before 2010, but its Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico beginning in April that year hit the company hard. BP's score began recovering in July 2010 and continued to improve through 2011, placing it third on YouGov's list, which was released this week.
And Goldman Sachs, whose brand image dropped during the financial crisis in 2008, took another hit in 2010 after the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud suit against the Wall Street investment bank. The firm agreed to pay $550 million to settle the case later in 2010, and Goldman's brand image had the fifth-best improvement in 2011, YouGov said.
Interestingly, two Apple Inc., products also were in the top five for image improvement -- not because they had a poor image in 2010, but because an already good image got better.
The iPhone, boosted by the release last year of the 4S version and helped by a "halo effect" after the death of Steve Jobs, had the second-biggest Buzz score increase, YouGov said. The iPad came in at No. 4.
Among the other top improvers was NBCUniversal at No. 9. The company's image had suffered in 2010 after Comcast Corp. struck a deal to acquire it in late 2009.
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