LOS ANGELES -- Toyota says it's ready to battle back with a marketing campaign and a wave of incentives that will dwarf the brand's giant “Saved by Zero” promotion in October 2008.
“This promotion for March is unprecedented in the history of Toyota,” said Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter in a sales call today.
The March incentive blitz includes 0 percent financing for 60 months; various low annual percentage rate offers; a free two-year free maintenance plan for current Toyota owners and what Carter says is the division's most comprehensive lease program ever.
And tonight, Toyota will begin airing nine separate commercials that show customers in dealerships purchasing Toyota vehicles.
Carter would not say how much the monthly promotion will cost. But the budget is expected to far exceed the $250 million the company spent on “Saved by Zero.”
“Saved by Zero in 2008 could only wish to be this aggressive,” dealers were told in an e-mail from the automaker.
Sales of Toyota and Scion vehicles declined 10.6 percent in February to 86,240 units.
Carter blamed the recalls, negative publicity and winter storms on the East Coast for the decline. He also said sales to first-time customers were down, but he did not say by how much.
Carter said Toyota dealers were busy fixing recalled vehicles in January and February. He said more than a million have been fixed and virtually all of vehicles for which sales were suspended are now repaired and ready for sale.
“I'm surprised we sold as many as we did,” Carter said of the February results.
He said about 87 percent of the month's sales were to retail customers, a higher retail rate than both Ford and Honda.
Now he says it's time for Toyota to “get back to business.”
The lease and zero percent programs cover most of the brand's top-selling vehicles, including the Corolla, Camry and Prius. Though leasing rates vary from region to region, some three-year leases are now being offered for as low as $119 a month with $2,735 down for the Corolla; $149 with $2,710 down for the Camry; and $169 with $2,700 down for the Prius.
The two-year/24,000 mille free maintenance program is available to any current owner of a Toyota vehicle who buys a new car. No trade-in is necessary.
Carter said reports that Toyota may introduce a more robust warranty program were only speculation.
“We developed these programs by talking to our owners,” Carter said. “APRs, leases, maintenance -- that's what our customers said they wanted.”
Though purchases by non-Toyota owners were down, Carter said he does not believe a separate program is needed to target conquest buyers.
“We think we're on the right track,” he said. “We'll look at the end of the month to see if we're on the right track with the messaging.”