Toyota's Jim talks; Ford's doesn't

Jason Stein is editor of Automotive News.
NEW YORK -- Ford's global marketing boss Jim Farley and Toyota's U.S. sales chief Jim Lentz were both scheduled to speak this morning on a panel during the NADA/IHS Global Insight Automotive Forum.

One Jim showed up to answer questions; one didn't.

And it might not have been the Jim you expected.

Farley didn't make the conference, but Lentz spent an hour answering questions about Toyota quality, the outlook on incentives and expectations for a recovery in Toyota confidence.

Lentz's most interesting point: Toyota had to offer heavy incentives in March.

In the face of increasing recalls, the brand was on life support in the marketplace, he said.

"We went dark in the market," Lentz said, "and we lost a lot of momentum. We needed to make sure our dealers understood we were back in the business."

Lentz predicted Toyota will be "up 35 percent" in March. But don't expect the Japanese automaker to stay in the incentive game.

"Incentives are not a strategy; they are a tactic," he said. "It's a short-term plan. Our intent is not to stay on incentives for a long period of time."

He said Toyota will always use incentives to correct production missteps or move less popular products.

"But the day we use incentives as a strategy, and price up our products to then incentivize them down, is a dead strategy."