Analysts expect a downturn in local sales of Toyota vehicles is inevitable after bad publicity over global recalls, and believe the fallout could last years.

Complaints from United States customers about faulty steering in their Toyota Corollas have not been matched in New Zealand, but it is the latest of a series of problems that are expected to eat away at the brand and the company's sales here.

Recent figures show Toyota continues to be the top-selling carmaker in the country, following on from its No 1 position in 2009.

Despite a trend towards buying larger cars in New Zealand, 651 new Corollas were sold last month, more than any other car. Toyota also held 23 per cent of the new car market share.

Dog and Lemon Guide editor Clive Matthew-Wilson said it was too early to measure whether sales had been affected by the simultaneous recalls, but a negative impact was "almost inevitable".

"My guess is that it will continue to impact Toyota for three to five years, locally and globally."

He said Toyota could lose buyers in the older market - the most likely purchasers of new Toyotas were retirees, who wanted to invest in a solid, reliable car.

"These are the people that are most likely to change over to a company like Hyundai, looking for better reliability. Retirees want a car that will last them the rest of their life, and they can't afford to fix it if it goes badly wrong."

Mr Matthew-Wilson said the recalls were symptomatic of a car industry that was expanding too fast.

Toyota's brand manager said last week that the company's long-cultivated reputation for quality and safety would outlive the damage from the recalls and subsequent media glare.

Car dealerships said they had not yet seen any signs New Zealanders would break their loyalty to Toyota.

Japanese car importers said an underperforming market was more of a problem than Toyota's tarnished image.

The carmaker has recalled 8.5 million cars worldwide because of safety concerns and halted the sales of eight models of its cars.

The majority of new Toyotas sold here are sourced from Japan, Thailand and Australia, and there was no suggestion they were implicated in the US power steering problem.

Aucklander Geoff Dye's company car, a late-model Toyota Camry, was repaired for a sticky accelerator - one of the flaws behind recalls in the US - but not before he had a hair-raising experience in it.

The accelerator pedal stuck to the floor as he was approaching traffic lights in Pakuranga, and he said only drastic braking prevented an accident.

"If my parents had been driving the car, they'd have been history. I could barely stop the damn thing."

Toyota repaired the car and said it was an isolated problem, but a colleague driving an identical company car had the same terrifying experience.

Mr Dye, whose personal car is also a Toyota, said he would not buy one again.

But he felt that Toyota had such a loyal following in New Zealand that unless people had the scare he did, they would continue to buy the cars.

Mr Matthew-Wilson said Toyota New Zealand needed to make more than "just consoling noises" to improve its situation.

"They are keeping a low profile and hoping it will turn itself around."


* Toyota has recalled 8.5 million cars worldwide because of safety concerns.
* In New Zealand, 61 of the Avensis model have been recalled to repair a sticky accelerator, and 260 of the Prius model were brought in to improve their brake pedal "feel".
* Toyota is the top selling carmaker in the country.