* Toyota extending record discounts until at least June 1
* Toyota sales up 12 percent so far in 2010
* Toyota sees continued slow recovery for U.S. auto sales
By Bernie Woodall
DETROIT, May 3 Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T)
(TM.N) is extending heavy discounts to boost U.S. auto sales
for a third month, U.S. Toyota executives said on Monday, as
the automaker tries to recover from a series of damaging safety
The company's record incentives, which will now continue
through at least June 1, include zero-percent financing for
seven models including its top-selling Camry and Corolla sedans
and two years of free maintenance to all new buyers.
"Our brand has taken some bruises over the last couple of
months," Bob Carter, group vice president responsible for
Toyota brand U.S. sales, said in a conference call as the
carmaker reported higher April U.S. sales. [ID:nN03209439]
"We've got to rebuild the brand to remove any cautions
consumers have," Carter said. "We're going to do what it takes
to keep ourselves competitive in an improving but challenging
Toyota's April U.S. sales rose 24 percent from a year
earlier, helped by incentives "that continue to be a home run
for our consumers," Carter said.
In the first four months of the year, Toyota's sales were
up about 12 percent from a year ago when the industry had its
lowest sales mark since the early 1980s.
Toyota was No. 3 in U.S. auto sales in April at 157,439
vehicles sold, behind General Motors Co [GM.UL] at 183,091 and
Ford Motor Co (F.N) at 167,542. [ID:nN03209439]
The Japanese automaker's sales fell in January and February
as the world's biggest automaker was forced to stop production
of about half of its lineup and as more than 8 million vehicles
were recalled for safety issues.
Incentives have since helped boost sales in March and
April, but Carter admitted that Toyota has work to do to dispel
negative images of the carmaker's product line, which was
thought to be among the most reliable in the industry before
the recall woes.
According to industry tracking firm Edmunds.com, Toyota's
incentives hit record levels for the automaker in March, near
$2,750 per vehicle, and slipped slightly in April to $2,500 per
vehicle sold. The industry average for April, Edmunds said, was
about $2,650 per vehicle.
"Toyota continues to buy its market share," said Aaron
Bragman of IHS Global Insight.
Carter said that in the short term, Toyota will keep the
incentives near current rates, but longer term, the company
will go back to its low incentives.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall, editing by Matthew Lewis)