LOS ANGELES — Rich and powerful Toyota, stung by a stunning collapse in sales last month, will spend a ton of money in October on a nationwide TV blitz that brags about the company's captive finance arm.
The message: In a credit-crunched America, Toyota Financial Services has plenty of cash to lend. Executives say they're trying to do what General Motors' "Keep America Rolling" campaign did after 9/11 — get the country rolling again.
The "Saved by Zero" ad campaign began Oct. 2. It promotes a 0 percent financing program on 11 vehicles. Dealers say Toyota will shell out at least $250 million this month to cover the cost of the subsidized loans and to fill the airwaves with commercials.
Calling it "mind-boggling," one dealer who asked not to be named said he doesn't believe Toyota has ever spent so much in a single month on incentives and advertising.
"We thought they had dried up on us," said Dave Conant, a large-volume Toyota dealer in Los Angeles. "But they said they have plenty of money and would still be strong and aggressive on deals that make sense."
To get regional dealer ad associations to deliver the same message — that Toyota Financial is doing deals — the automaker will pay out 50 cents for every dollar that associations spend in October. That's up from the 32.5-cent rate ad groups normally get.
"This is big, really big," said Fritz Hitchcock, another large-volume L.A. dealer.
Toyota Division dealers need the help. Sales plunged 31.2 percent in September. "Traffic is bad," said Conant. "We hope this messaging will help."