Other car dealers try to woo Toyota customers

Posted January 28, 2010 6:16 p.m. EST
Updated January 28, 2010 7:00 p.m. EST

— Since Toyota put the brakes on sales of eight models of its cars and SUVs, other car dealers are offering deals to win over Toyota customers.

Toyota in the last week has recalled more than 3.4 million vehicles and suspended U.S. sales and production of the Camry, Corolla, RAV4, Tundra and other vehicles until it could fix faulty pedal systems that could stick and cause acceleration without warning.

Trey Baker, general sales manager of Sport Durst in Durham, said he doesn't wish fellow car dealers any ill will, but he said Toyota's troubles represent an opportunity for him.

"There's a lot of people who are going to be disheartened with their vehicle, and they are not going to feel safe," said Baker, who sells Hyundais and Mazdas.

"Hyundai has actually come out with a $1,000 voucher that is good on anybody that actually owns a Toyota," he said. "We actually have a $500 coupon that came out from Mazda that is going to cover anybody that owns a Toyota, Honda or Nissan."

Ford Motor Co. is taking a similar approach, said Eric Kaplan, manager of Crossroads Ford in Cary.

"If you trade in a Honda, Toyota, Scion (or) Lexus, Ford is giving an extra $1,000 rebate to trade that in," Kaplan said.

Although Crossroads Ford has already received calls about the deal, he said, it's too early to tell just how much extra business the dealership could pick up because of worried Toyota drivers.

"Do I hope it happens? Absolutely. Do I think it's going to happen? I think there will be some," he said. "You know people are going to be concerned about it and may want to switch brands."

Kaplan said it's also too soon to say whether the value of Toyotas people trade in will fall.

"We haven't seen enough people bringing in their cars to have them appraised," he said.

Area Toyota dealers referred questions to the company's corporate communications staff, but they quickly noted that the carmaker and its supplier are working on a solution to the faulty accelerator pedal, so Toyota owners don't need to go out and buy new cars.

Sport Durst has already had at least one customer looking to trade in a Toyota, Baker said, and traffic to the dealership's Web site has increased in recent days.

"We'll have to just test the market," he said.