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Toyota offers freebies to steady sales

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Toyota offers freebies to steady sales



Toyota is offering interest-free loans, discounted leases and, for current owners, free service to stabilize sales that have fallen two straight months in the wake of three recalls covering nearly 6 million vehicles in the U.S.

Beginning now through April 5, the automaker is offering zero-percent financing for 60 months on 10 models: Avalon, Corolla, Camry, Matrix, Prius, Yaris, RAV4, Venza, Tundra and Highlander. Toyota also will discount leases on those models.

The automaker also is offering free maintenance for two years to existing customers, a perk not available to new Toyota customers.

Bob Carter, general manager of the Toyota division, declined to estimate the cost of this program.

Toyota's U.S. sales fell 8.7% in February and its market share shrank to 12.8%, far below the 17% it captured for 2009. For the first two months of the year, Toyota sales are now off by 12.4%.

Ongoing publicity from the recalls and congressional hearings have put the spotlight on Toyota executives and cost Toyota about 18,000 in lost sales in February, Carter estimated.

For a company that has traditionally spent less on incentives than other automakers, this aggressive incentive campaign represents a substantial change.

"Clearly we have some work to do," Carter said.



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