Unsold vehicles are piling up on Toyota dealership lots.
After extensive coverage of safety recalls pushed the Toyota brand's U.S. sales down 10 percent in February, dealers had enough stock on March 1 to last 93 days, about double traditionally lean levels.
That may have contributed to the decision last week by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. to offer 0 percent 60-month financing, leasing and customer loyalty incentives.
"We are standing behind our customers and vehicles," said Toyota General Manager Bob Carter.
Overall U.S. supply on March 1 stood at 67 days, close to the industry's ideal level and the lowest March 1 days supply since 2002. Inventory totaled almost 2.2 million units, the eighth-lowest level in 19 years of comparable records.
Manufacturers continue to keep inventories in line with lower sales rates.
Since March 1, 2008, automakers have cut 1.3 million units out of inventory, which is down 37 percent.
Even though U.S. sales rose 13 percent in February from the auto slump's worst month a year earlier, manufacturers slashed almost three quarters of a million units from inventory over that period.
Ford Motor Co. outsold all others last month, up 43 percent to 142,006 units. It started March with only 424,200 units in stock, down almost 10,000 units from a month before.
"We will stick to our plan to match production to actual sales," Ford Motor's sales boss Ken Czubay said.
George Pipas, Ford's chief sales analyst, said Ford intends to keep dealer stocks at about 300,000 units, with an additional 100,000 in the pipeline between factories and lots, until a general sales recovery takes hold.
"As long as the industry sales rate hangs, then 400,000 is the level of inventory we're comfortable with," Pipas said.
Other automakers, which trailed Ford in February sales, have even lower inventories.
Nobody has slashed supply more than General Motors Co. Over the past two years, GM has cut more than a half million vehicles out of inventory; on March 1, it had 418,100 units in stock -- fewer than Ford.
Chrysler Group has reduced inventory by more than half over two years. Supply had fallen to 56 days on March 1 from 100 a year ago.
Of the seven biggest-selling automakers, Toyota Motor Sales had the largest supply on March 1: 86 days; the lowest are Hyundai-Kia Automotive with 48 days and Nissan North America with 50.