The recent recalls of Toyota automobiles have undermined the carmakers’ reputation: Consumers who have a positive perception of Toyota’s commitment to building quality cars fell to 21.8% in March 2010, down 58.2 percentage points from the 80.0% recorded in 2008, according to America’s Research Group.

Though almost one-third of US consumers (31.8%) say Toyota can, over time, rebuild its image for quality, another 22.1% are undecided about whether it can, and 18.0% say Toyota cannot rebuild its image.

The biggest challenge for Toyota is among its potential buyersthose who have never purchased a Toyota but have considered doing so in the past: 52.6% say they will no longer consider buying a Toyota in the future.

Among consumers who have recently purchased Toyotas, opinions regarding future purchases are mixed.

American car manufacturers may ultimately be the benefactors of Toyota’s quality issues: 69.1% of car buyers are now more likely to purchase an American-made car, compared with 38% who said so two years ago.

“While their reputation is on the line, Toyota’s problems don’t stop there, because buyers are now wary of the Toyota brand,” said consumer-trend expert C. Britt Beemer, CEO and founder of ARG. “Toyota has some real selling to do just to convince current Toyota car owners to buy another one.”

“The sad part of this story is that it takes 20 years to build a quality image but only six months to kill it.”

About the data: Findings are from a BeemerReport survey among 1,000 US consumers via telephone interviews conducted from March 12 to 14, 2010, at ARG headquarters in Charleston, SC. Findings from 2008 were originally published in the book The Customer Rules, by C. Britt Beemer, published by McGraw-Hill.