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In the first half of 2008, the Toyota Prius was selling like hotcakes. But sales considerably cooled off as gas prices dropped in the last months of the year. As a result, Toyota is now offering tried-and-true dealer incentives, and customer perks, to stimulate sales.
According to Automotive News, a trade publication, dealers will get a $750 “spiff” for every 2009 Prius they can sell. But that’s not all. The company announced a newly established certified used Prius program, adding more buyer protection for those who might be hesitant about picking up a used hybrid. The program extends warranties, and reduces financing, for 2002-2006 Priuses that go through the inspection program. All of the components will be covered by Toyota under a three-month/3,000-mile comprehensive warranty, seven-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty and the same seven-year, 100,000-mile 24-hour roadside assistance plan that comes with all other certified Toyotas.
Great Time to Buy
Dealer discounts, extended warranties and reduced financing make it a great time to buy a new or used Prius. “It’s no longer a seller’s market,” said Earl Steward, a Toyota dealer in North Palm Beach, Fla. But will the perks be enough for Toyota to bring back Prius magic? A number of key factors will make it tough:
- Toyota just unveiled the third-generation Prius at the Detroit Auto Show. The new model is faster, slightly bigger, and more fuel-efficient. Car shoppers may wait for the new and improved version, leaving the existing model on dealership lots.
- The 2010 Prius will face serious competition from Honda in the form of the slightly smaller but less expensive 2010 Honda Insight. If the economy stays in the doldrums, the more attractive price on Honda’s dedicated hybrid, also a sloped-roof hybrid hatchback with great fuel economy, might win customers over from Toyota.
Toyota may be taking heed of Honda’s low-cost approach to gas-electric vehicles. According to Japan’s Nikkei newspaper, Toyota plans to extend the life of the older Prius model by selling a discounted stripped-down version, even after the new Prius goes on sale this spring. Toyota declined to comment on the story.