One of the strongest selling points that Japanese brand vehicles like Toyota and Honda have had going for them over the past decade or two has been the stronger resale values that have resulted from perceived higher quality. While increased depreciation doesn't matter much to people who buy their vehicles and keep them for more than a few years, it does hurt manufacturers. In recent years, a large portion of those pricey trucks and SUVs have been leased, where the monthly payments are largely based on the vehicle's expected residual value at the end of the term. When that residual is lower than expected, the automaker's financing arm loses money – a phenomenon that has been a particularly painful reality for Detroit's automakers.

Now, like the rest of the industry, Toyota is starting to get hit by falling residuals on both cars and trucks. Some of that is surely due to the general market conditions right now, but some critics suggest that the fact that Toyota's residuals are falling faster than other companies could point to growing awareness of quality issues. At the end of 2008, an average three-year-old Toyota was worth 46.5% of its original value compared to 50.5% two years earlier. Like other brands, Toyota's trucks have been especially hard hit, dropping from over 60% to just 45.4%. In particular, Tundra residuals are on a big downturn, nosediving to 40.1% from 59.5% just one year earlier. Despite the drop, the Tundra's resale value remains higher than Chevrolet's Silverado (39.8%, down from 49.6%) and Ford's F-150 (32.2%, down from 45.6%), so while all is not lost, the race for residual supremacy is getting tighter. Thanks for the tip, Leonard!

[Source: Automotive News - sub req'd]