Incentives from Toyota, Ford, GM Help March Sales Zoom

ToyotaBolstered by 0 percent financing incentives, new vehicle retails sales are expected to soar 25 percent in March after a dismal February that was rife with Toyota’s massive recalls and bad weather, according to J.D. Power & Associates.
New-vehicle retail sales for the month are projected at 883,300 units, with a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 9.9 million units. That’s an increase of nearly 2 million units compared with February 2010 — and an increase of 2.3 million units compared with March 2009, according to J.D. Power’s data review from more than 8,900 auto retail franchise points.
Much of the impetus for the surge came from Toyota, which initiated at the beginning of the month its first widespread zero-percent financing deals on several popular models. The promotions came in the wake of the worldwide recall for mostly unintended acceleration issues. Ford and General Motors followed with either new 0 APR incentives or expanded deals on purchases or leases.
For the first half of March, Toyota’s daily retail sales rate was running at more than 40 percent higher than the same period last year, and about 70 percent higher than last month, according to Edmunds.com, the automotive resource site. Toyota U.S. officials are considering extending the incentives.
“New-vehicle retail sales increased robustly during the first half of March, and are expected to remain strong throughout the remainder of the month — setting the industry recovery back on track,” said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power. “March sales could outperform projections if the pace does not level off as expected for the remainder of the month.”
However, Schuster added that there is risk of discount deals offered by Toyota sparking an all-out incentive war among several automakers.
“While this may lead to a temporary increase in sales momentum, it could also potentially slow the pace of long-term recovery,” he said.

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