Those who think of Toyota Motor Corp. as an unstoppable juggernaut that sells flawless products at or above sticker price should be prepared for a double-barreled jolt.
Just as Toyota was preparing to bask at the Tokyo auto show, the automaker was forced to recall 1.4 million vehicles -- 1.27 million of them in Japan -- because of faulty headlight switching systems.
That recall came just a week after Toyota told 75,000 Prius owners in the United States that it needs to fix a software problem that causes the hybrid vehicle to stall.
Now Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. is using retail rebates to move unsold trucks in the Midwest.
Most of the rebates -- Toyota calls them "Customer Cash'' -- are on carryover 2005 models, ranging up to $3,500 on V-8 Toyota 4Runners. Through the end of the month, there also are cash rebates on the 2005 Tundra, Sequoia, Land Cruiser and Highlander. There's even $500 on the hood of the 2005 RAV4.
As for 2006 models, there is $500 on the Toyota Highlander and 4Runner and $1,300 on the Tundra.
Get this: It's all going on in broad daylight. The rebates are being advertised on the radio in Detroit, and sales personnel are giving them out to any customer who phones the dealership and asks for them!
How can this be? Toyota discourages its dealers from advertising price.
Does this mean Toyota is circling the drain?
Not at all.
It's a blip.
It means that even for Toyota, trucks aren't moving as quickly as they did before the spike in gasoline prices after Hurricane Katrina, at least in the Midwest. Nationally, Toyota Division started the month with a 43-day supply of trucks.
That wasn't as skinny as its supply of unsold cars, but it was less than every other brand except BMW, which had a 17-day supply of trucks, and Toyota Motor's Lexus, which had a 16-day supply. The industry average on Oct. 1 was a 74-day supply of trucks.
You can bet that Toyota will make the necessary adjustments, and by next month the rebates will be little more than a warm memory for customers who took advantage of them and bought a Toyota truck for several grand less than sticker.
For everyone else, it's an object lesson.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at