Toyota and Sony have topped a poll of the businesses with the best corporate reputation in Australia, with Toyota ranking first and Sony third, according to a study released last week, Kyodo News reported.

Toyota moved into the top position, up from third place in the previous two years on the AMR Interactive survey, which was first held in 2001.

''This is the first time Toyota has topped the list and in fact the first time a car company has topped the list,'' AMR Interactive chairman Brian Fine told Kyodo News. 'I think it's been a case of building the pillars.''

Kyodo said the poll, which Fine said is ''all about the perceived reputation'' of a company, is good news for Toyota, whose financial performance is in a slump with sales falling 2.2% in the first seven months of 2005 on the Australian market, compared with market growth of 4.9%, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Toyota's market share dropped from 21.2% to 19.8%, less than 2% above its nearest rival GM Holden with an 18.1% share, the newspaper reportedly said, but it still retains the No. 1 position in Australia's car and truck market.

Fine told Kyodo News the poll is ''extremely important...We have been able to demonstrate from our analysis that there's a strong relationship between a good reputation and people's willingness to pay for a product and service.''

Of the areas ranked by the survey, Toyota reportedly placed first in products and services and workplace environment and ranked second in all the other categories comprising emotional appeal, social responsibility, financial performance, and vision and leadership.

Kyodo said Sony ranked first in emotional appeal, or ''how good people felt about a company,'' which is the major contributing factor to rated reputation, according to Fine. ''If you like a company on emotional appeal, then it's going to perform extremely well on reputation,'' he said.

But it was outranked by Toyota in every other category, Kyodo News noted.

The survey, conducted in June and July this year, reportedly involved a two-stage process starting with identifying the 25 most visible companies in Australia based on a survey of the companies with the best and worst reputations. The top 25 companies were then evaluated on reputation.

Kyodo noted that Sony did not rank in the top 25 most visible companies last year and therefore was not surveyed on its reputation. In 2002, however, it was perceived to have the best reputation in Australia with its overall score of 80.5 outperforming Toyota's score of 77.5 this year.

''I think there's probably a harsher assessment of companies in the current climate than there was in 2002,'' Fine, who believes there is a ''sense of corporate mistrust'' at the global level today, told Kyodo News.

The report added that Mitsubishi Motors, which did not rank in the top 25 most visible companies, was surveyed as a ''competitor company,'' showing great improvement in rated reputation according to Fine.

But Kyodo noted that Mitsubishi Australia reported a $A588 million ($US443.7 million) net loss on Monday for the financial year ended in March, according to the Australian Associated Press.

According to AAP, the company said the loss was mainly due to costs associated with closing an engine plant in October and write-offs resulting from an aborted attempt to develop a long wheelbase car for export.

Mitsubishi expects to return to profitability this financial year due to an expected increase in demand for its new, locally built car, the 380, which will be launched in the last quarter of 2005, AAP reported, according to Kyodo News.