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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Whining won't help Toyota

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Whining won't help Toyota

Toyota Motor Corp. is done apologizing.

The company spent much of early March telling Congress, customers and the media that it was sorry and promised to make permanent fixes to its cars and trucks.

As it should.

And, appropriately, the company now is working to get people back into showrooms after seeing its sales slide 8.7 percent in February.

On Wednesday, auto research firm Edmunds.com said an aggressive incentive campaign could help Toyota report a 30 percent jump in U.S. sales in March. The automaker has taken a page right out of Detroit auto's playbook in offering no-interest loans and discounted leases.

"Americans love a bargain," said Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of Edmunds.com.

Don't blame GM incentives

But Toyota will never get near that number if the company's dealers keep whining about "predatory" practices by competitor General Motors Co. for offering -- and more importantly marketing -- incentives to get people to switch to the Detroit automaker's brands.

In describing the beef against GM for pushing incentives, Toyota Dealer Council chairman Paul Atkinson told WJR radio on Wednesday that "as an American taxpayer," he and other dealers didn't think it was right for GM to be offering money to lure buyers. He went on to not-so-vaguely insinuate that his business has suffered because GM's majority owner -- the U.S. government -- has a vested interest in seeing Toyota sales suffer.

The argument makes sense on the surface. Any deals GM gives to consumers come at the expense of our tax dollars, thanks to the $50-plus billion that Congress allocated to keep the company afloat.

But when examined with any real perspective, the argument is specious at best and alarmist at worst. Toyota dealers' complaints are about as legit as disgraced former Detroiter Kwame Kilpatrick crying about being picked on by the judicial system.

Waa, waa, waa.

Toyota also got tax breaks

Toyota has benefited from millions upon millions of dollars in tax breaks from cities across America. Those big plants in Texas and Kentucky weren't built on Toyota's dime alone, despite the automaker having billions in the bank. Now that Toyota is offering zero-percent financing and other deals, one could logically say it is using "our" tax dollars to provide those benefits.

And to suggest that the U.S. government isn't playing fair is a bit ridiculous as well. The Japanese government's manipulation of currency certainly benefits Toyota as do rules that make the island nation one of the most closed in the world to U.S. automakers.

Toyota has a lot of work to do to win back buyers and the blind confidence they once had in its products.

Dealers complaining that the U.S. government is orchestrating this won't bring buyers back into Toyota showrooms even if those claims have any legitimacy.

As mom used to say: Life isn't fair. Deal with it.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100311/OPINION03/3110383/1148/auto01/Whining-won-t-help-Toyota#ixzz0hsUA0A54

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