Toyota extends incentives into May

The move is designed to boost sales, which rose 41% in March.

By Charley Blaine Apr 6, 2010 7:28PM
Toyota Motor (TM) has extended its March customer-incentive program into May and broadened its complimentary maintenance program to all buyers.

The extension is a bid for Toyota to continue sales momentum in the face of its recall crisis. It will put pressure on key competitors such as General Motors, Ford Motor (F), Honda Motor (HMC) and Nissan (NSANY).
Starting today and running through May 3, Toyota will offer free financing for five years on six models, two-year free maintenance for all customers and low lease rates, the company said in a statement.

Toyota shares in New York (technically American Depositary Units) slipped 0.5% to $80.84 today. Ford, Nissan and Honda shares were also lower.

Helped by big incentives in March, Toyota chalked up a 41% increase in U.S. sales from a year earlier.

That made it the second-best-selling automaker for the month, after GM but ahead of Ford, suggesting that many Toyota buyers were unperturbed by its recall of more than 6 million vehicles in the U.S. for sticky accelerators and other issues.

The Department of Transportation said Monday it plans to seek a $16.4 million fine against the Japanese carmaker, saying it "knowingly hid" safety problems from regulators.

The proposed fine, the maximum allowed under law against a carmaker and far exceeding the previous record of $1 million, is the first linked to Toyota's safety record, which was heavily scrutinized in congressional hearings earlier this year.

While Toyota's March incentives were below those offered by U.S. competitors, they were 44% more than what the company offered in March a year ago, according to Edmunds.com, the auto-shopping site.

Honda and others have had to jump in with their own promotions recently to keep customers coming to their dealers.

"This is going to cost everybody," James Bell, an analyst with auto information company Kelley Blue Book, told the Los Angeles Times.  "The other manufacturers are going to have to pay to play for the next several months."
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