auto

Toyota adds incentives to tantalize buyers

Tara Baukus MelloWould free maintenance make you forget about Toyota's safety issues long enough to buy a new car from the embattled automaker?

That's Toyota's latest incentive to pull you into a dealership.

After a 41 percent boost in March, Toyota is trying to keep its sales momentum going by extending the incentives and cut-rate leases we highlighted last month as well as offering a free maintenance program to all of its new buyers. Current Toyota owners also benefit with improved resale values of their used cars, due in part to the company's sales increases.

Buyers and lessees can take advantage of offers on many models through May 3. Toyota has set up a separate Web site, BuyAToyota.com, to highlight the zero-percent loans and lease specials. The free maintenance program, which was previously offered only to current owners buying a new Toyota, is now available to all customers who buy or lease. It covers all factory-scheduled service for the first two years up to 25,000 miles of driving.

The program encompasses all recommended oil and filter changes (every 5,000 or every 10,000 miles, depending on the model), lubrication of key chassis parts, tire rotation, replenishing of any necessary fluids and a 19-point inspection of key car parts. The deal also includes free, 24-hour roadside assistance including lock-out assistance, jump starts, and fluid delivery, tire changes and towing.

Toyota is capping its roadside assistance at $100 for each service call. That should cover most calls, but if you need a tow over several miles, you may be kicking in some cash. One last caveat: Any fluids or parts provided during roadside assistance are an extra charge.

While Toyota's incentives are higher than they've been in recent months -- $2,058 per car sold in March according to Edmunds.com data -- Edmunds.com reports they are still lower than domestic manufacturers, which averaged $3,413 per car sold in March.

Toyota's boost in sales also means that consumers who currently own a Toyota have gained back at least some of the resale value they lost at the peak of the Toyota recall two months ago. At the time, analyses by Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book indicated resale values for used Toyotas had dropped in some cases by as much as 10 percent. The latest analyses show that resale values are on the rise.

Kelley Blue Book's analysis shows values for three-year-old Toyotas are improving, though at a slower rate than the current industry average. The company's data also show an increasing number of car shoppers are once again considering buying a Toyota -- 45 percent of shoppers surveyed in March up from a low of 28 percent in early February.

While Edmunds.com forecasted the largest drop -- as much as 10 percent on some models -- in early February, its latest data show that used Toyota values are "almost back to their pre-recall levels," senior analyst Joe Spina says. While Spina says full recovery is "on the horizon," the company's continued problems and negative publicity, including coverage of the recent $16.4 million fine by the U.S. Department of Transportation, will mean that car values won't fully rebound until later this summer.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this Web site, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this Web site is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.

Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories. If you have a car question, e-mail it to us at Driving for Dollars.

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Tara Baukus Mello

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