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Toyota Dealer Hopes Woes Are In Rearview Mirror

At Expressway Toyota in Boston, co-owner Robert Boch says sales are rebounding thanks to loyal customers and big incentives such as zero percent financing.
Chris Arnold
/
NPR
At Expressway Toyota in Boston, co-owner Robert Boch says sales are rebounding thanks to loyal customers and big incentives such as zero percent financing.

Toyota Motor Corp. says sales are rebounding sharply after much bad press this past winter over its accelerator pedal recalls.

The automaker has been offering zero percent financing and other incentives to get customers back into showrooms this spring. That appears to be working: Sales for April jumped 24 percent compared with a year ago.

Among the beneficiaries is Expressway Toyota, a Boston dealership.

Robert Boch, who runs the dealership with his brother, is much happier when he drives in to work these days. "It feels good," he says. "It feels better than it did."

When the recalls were first announced in January, the Bochs, like dealers everywhere, had to stop selling cars and weren't sure what would happen next.

"When the stories first broke and we did the stop sale, I was very concerned," Boch said.

Brothers Robert and Richard Boch own and operate Expressway Toyota in Boston. Richard (right) holds a reshaped replacement gas pedal for a Camry.
Chris Arnold
/
NPR
Brothers Robert and Richard Boch own and operate Expressway Toyota in Boston. Richard (right) holds a reshaped replacement gas pedal for a Camry.

Offering Incentives

But the recalls are now behind him. Boch says loyal Toyota customers jumped on incentives such as cash back and zero percent financing on the automaker's most popular cars.

"The month of March was very good," he said. "And in April, we sold 110 new cars and we sold 56 used cars."

That's nearly twice as many new cars as the dealership sold during the same time last year. Boch says he thinks it's a combination of the economy improving and the special deals.

He says the Toyota brand still has some repair to do, but the company has a strong reputation to fall back on.

Ori Crawlle, a graphic designer, says he wasn't too worried about the gas-pedal recall. Only a small number of cars actually had accelerator problems, and he figures the company has fixed that.

Crawlle came into Expressway Toyota to get an oil change on his 2007 Toyota Corolla. "It's perfect," he says about his vehicle. "Drives good; no problem. Love it."

Some Customers Deterred

But other customers are still a little worried.

Ruby Baez is thinking about trading in her Camry, but she's not sure whether she's going to replace it with another Toyota. She says she didn't like getting a recall notice in the mail, especially as she has a 2-year-old.

"What could happen to my daughter that I drive to day care every single day of the week?" she asks. "I was scared."

But for most existing customers and car buyers in the dealership, it may be becoming a distant memory.

Andrew Tambling, a 25-year-old student at Boston University, came to the dealership for a new Toyota. He says he thinks the news media exaggerated the recall story.

"The media just made a frenzy out of it because it was something to talk about," Tambling says. "It was the first thing in a long time that could knock on Toyota."

Regardless of what's going on in the showroom, Toyota's problems are not all in the rearview mirror.

Federal regulators are still investigating the company over what appears to be rare but dangerous cases of unintended acceleration. Toyota is facing a mounting number of lawsuits, and there's always the chance that more acceleration problems could come to light -- beyond those already identified through the automaker's recalls.

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