Toyota hopes 0% financing will lure customers

by Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer

NEW YORK ( -- Toyota's U.S. arm is again looking to 0% financing to pull it out of a sales slump.

The last time Toyota rolled out a nationwide incentive plan like this was in late 2008, as the entire U.S. auto industry was getting crushed by tight credit and a collapsing economy.

Buyers can get 0% on a Rav4 through April 5.
10 best cars: Consumer Reports
The influential magazine names the cars, trucks and SUVs it rates highest in popular categories.

This time, it's Toyota's own missteps that have caused the crisis. With its public image dented by massive high-profile recalls, the Japanese automaker's sales were down 9% last month compared to a year ago, even as Ford sales were up 43% and General Motors were up 12%.

The Japanese automaker estimates it lost about 18,000 sales last month due to the recalls, said Bob Carter, group vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, USA's Toyota division.

Toyota called the incentive program, which begins immediately and runs though April 5, "the company's most far-reaching sales program in its history," in a corporate announcement.

Toyota is offering 0% financing for as long 60 months on eight of the automakers' most popular models. They are the Avalon full-size car, Camry mid-size car, Corolla and Matrix compact cars, Yaris subcompact, Highlander and Rav4 crossover SUVs, and the Tundra truck.

Taken together, Carter said, these vehicles account for about 80% of Toyota's sales in the United States.

As an alternative, customers are also being offered low-payment lease deals on these models. For example, customers could lease a Corolla for $179 a month, a Camry for $199 a month or a Prius for $239. Lease offers will vary by region, a Toyota Motor Credit spokesman said.

Zero-percent financing is available for customers with at least a "good" credit rating, Toyota Motor Credit spokesman Justin Leach said, but their credit doesn't necessarily have to be spotless.

"We evaluate every deal on a number of factors beyond just the credit score," he said.

Customers who already own a Toyota product are also being offered free scheduled maintenance for two years or 24,000 miles.

A print and TV marketing campaign featuring actual recent Toyota buyers, most of them repeat customers, was being rolled out beginning Tuesday night to let people know about the incentive deals, Carter said.

Toyota typically focuses its incentives on reduced interest rates rather than cash incentives, said Jesse Toprak,, an analyst for the auto pricing Web site That's because cash incentives tend to damage a car's resale value, something that's traditionally been a strong point for Toyota.

What's striking, Toprak said, is the scope of this offering. Other automakers often announce big incentive plans, while Toyota rarely announces a nationwide program like this.

"It's not that what what Toyota's offering is unusual," he said. "It's just that it's unusual for them."

General Motors, for instance, announced its own incentive plan for March at about the same time as Toyota. GM is offering 0% financing on many of its most popular models including the Chevrolet Malibu, Impala and Cobalt cars.

Chrysler Group also announced its own incentive plan featuring 0% financing offers on most Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models.

Low interest rate financing plans makes sense now, Toprak said, because customers are more focused on their personal bottom line and anything that reduces a monthly payment will be attractive.

"Right now, customers are much more concerned wit monthly cash flow issues," he said. To top of page

Just the hot list include
Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Find Your Next Car
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 24,700.21 -287.26 -1.15%
Nasdaq 7,725.58 -21.44 -0.28%
S&P 500 2,762.59 -11.16 -0.40%
Treasuries 2.89 0.00 0.00%
Data as of 3:28am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Advanced Micro Devic... 16.69 -0.42 -2.45%
AT&T Inc 32.39 0.20 0.62%
General Electric Co 12.95 -0.25 -1.89%
Bank of America Corp... 29.26 -0.14 -0.48%
Micron Technology In... 59.25 0.80 1.37%
Data as of Jun 19


Wells Fargo's quest to clean up its act requires workers to shine a light on shady activity when they see it. More

While patents are intended to protect intellectual property, they're also seen in the tech industry as a way to boost the brands of companies and their employees. More

The state's booming industries will be looking for skilled workers and this online community college intends to retrain them. More