Toyota Launches Aggressive Customer Retention Promotions

After months on the defensive, Toyota Motor Company is set to go on the offensive with an aggressive marketing campaign and a series of incentives that it says will dwarf the company’s Saved by Zero promotion which launched in October 2008.

Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter said the promotion, which is set to launch this month, is unprecedented in the history of Toyota.

Carter said the campaign will include 0% financing for 60 months, low APR offers, a no-cost 24-month maintenance plan for all current customers, and the most comprehensive leasing program ever offered by the company.

On Tuesday night, Toyota launched its first flight of new television ads aimed at attracting skittish customers back into dealer showrooms.

Carter would not discuss the promotion’s price tag but most analysts expect it to far exceed the $250 million the company spent on last fall’s Saved by Zero blitz. In an email to the company’s dealer network, Carter said, Saved by Zero in 2008 could only wish to be this aggressive.

Last month Toyota and Scion sales in the U.S. fell by 10.6% to 86,240 units.

Carter admitted the negative press associated with the company’s numerous recalls contributed to the drop in sales but he also blamed severe winter weather and said sales to first-time buyers was also down, although he declined to offer numbers to back up the assertion.

He said that over a million recalled Toyotas were fixed by dealers in January and February. He also said that virtually all of the vehicles affected by last month’s sales suspension have now been repaired.

Considering the constant drum beat of bad press, Carter admitted, I’m surprised we sold as many as we did.

Carter said approximately 87% of Toyota’s sales last month were to retail customers.

With the House Oversight and Government Reform hearings behind them, Carter said it’s time to get back to business.

Toyota’s 0% financing and leasing programs will apply to most of the automaker’s most popular models, including the Camry, Corolla and Prius hybrid. Lease rates will vary from region to region and will include some as low as $2,735 down and $119 per month for 36 months on 2010 Corollas. Leases on the popular Camry model will be available from $2,710 down and $149 per month. Generous leasing options will also be available on the Prius hybrid with down payments as low as $2,700 and monthly payments of $169.

Any current customer who buys a new Toyota vehicle will receive free maintenance for two years or 24,000 mile maintenance regardless of whether or not they trade in their current vehicle.

There had been speculation that Toyota would beef up its warranty program to allay concerns that have risen from the company’s recent safety recalls, but Carter said the company currently has no plans to do so.

He said, We developed these programs by talking to our owners. APRs, leases, maintenance — that’s what our customers said they wanted.

Carter said the new incentives are designed to retain existing customers and the company is not currently planning to launch any new incentives to target non-Toyota owners — the so-called conquest market — although he did not rule out the possibility at a future date.

We’ll look at the end of the month to see if we’re on the right track with the messaging, he said.

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