DETROIT - Toyota Motor Corp. is giving U.S. dealers payments of up to US$75,000 to help win back customers' trust in the wake of a massive safety recall.
"Within the next several days, you will receive a cheque from us (no strings attached) with a simple request - 'Do the right thing on behalf of Toyota customers,"' Toyota group vice-president Bob Carter said in the letter to dealers that was sent late Tuesday and obtained by The Associated Press.
Carter thanks dealers for extending service hours and providing car washes and other services. He also suggested other measures, like additional hires to help with recall repairs, mobile repair services, dedicated recall service lanes and complimentary oil changes.
"Toyota dealers already know the first and most critical step of rebuilding the confidence and trust of Toyota owners is the interaction and service they receive in your dealership," Carter said.
Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. last month because their accelerator pedals may stick and cause crashes. The automaker is sending parts to repair the pedals this week. Separately, Toyota recalled five million vehicles to fix floor mats that could inadvertently trap the accelerator pedals.
Toyota is sending cheques this week based on the number of cars each dealer sold last year. Dealers who sold fewer than 500 cars will get $7,500. Dealers who sold more than 4,000 will get $75,000. Toyota has around 1,200 U.S. dealers.
Carter said Toyota is considering other marketing efforts to win back customers' confidence, but he didn't elaborate.
Toyota Canada won't be offering its dealers cheques, but said it is introducing a loyalty program that will give existing Toyota owners or lessees a $1,000 incentive toward the purchase or lease of eligible new Toyota vehicles. The program will be in place until March 1.
Toyota has halted sales of the eight models involved in the pedal recall. When sales resume, Toyota may have to offer incentives like low-interest financing and rebates to lure customers, said Paul Ballew, a senior vice-president at Nationwide Insurance Co. and a former General Motors Corp. sales analyst. Ballew said that would be good news for consumers, since other automakers will have to match those deals.
But Ballew said it's too early to tell what the lasting impact will be on the company and the auto sales market.
"We don't see the deals going away any time soon," he said.