Toyota Motor Corp's <7203.T> U.S. sales jumped about 35 percent in March from a year earlier after the automaker offered steep discounts to win over consumers who had shied away after massive recalls, a U.S. executive said on Tuesday.
Toyota U.S. sales chief Jim Lentz said the company is still reviewing incentive plans for April and has yet to decide whether to extend zero-financing offers and other unprecedented discounts beyond March.
For a week or so in January, we lost a lot of momentum in the marketplace. We needed to make sure the market and our dealers understood that we were open for business, Lentz told reporters on the sidelines of a forum sponsored by the National Automobile Dealers Association and IHS Global Insight.
They (incentives) are a short-term plan. Our intention is not to stay on incentives for a long period of time, Lentz said.
Toyota, which has traditionally spurned steep discounts in order to protect resale values, launched zero-percent financing for five years on top-selling models, including the Camry, and free maintenance for two years in March in what it called its most far-reaching sales program in history.
Lentz said about 1.7 million customers have had their vehicles fixed at dealerships. About 100 of them have complained that the fix did not address unintended acceleration, he said.
Toyota's U.S. market share plunged to 13.4 percent in the first two months of this year, down from nearly 17 percent for all of 2009. Toyota has been behind General Motors Co
(Reporting by Soyoung Kim and Deepa Seetharaman, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)