As Toyota's recall issues hit a fevered pitch over the past few months, customer confidence faltered and sales predictably suffered. We were wondering how Toyota would react to the comparative dearth of showroom traffic, and the answer was to take a page out of the domestic's tattered handbook: big-time incentives.

On March 1, Toyota announced zero percent financing, subsidized leases and free maintenance for two years, and the early results appear to be extremely favorable. Automotive News reports that analysts are seeing big-time gains for the Japanese automaker, with evidence that sales are up 50 percent so far for the month. A 50 percent sales increase for the month would more than wipe out Toyota's depressing January and February, but analysts like Edmund's Jessica Caldwell reportedly feel sales will level out to a predicted 30 percent rise by March 31. "Incentives work best in the early going, but they start to peter out as the month goes along."

So does news of a Toyota sales increase means that Americans are tuning out the recent influx of bad news including a pair of reported runaway Prius hybrids in the interest of saving money? AN reports that analysts like Caldwell and George Magliano at IHS Global Insight feel Toyota loyalists are jumping at the company's big-time incentives, and the brand will have to try new things to attract new customers in the months ahead. That may be true, but we're thinking Toyota must be more than a bit relieved that customers are coming back to showrooms, at least for now.

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req. | Image: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images]