Thursday

You Can Tell the Economy Sucks When ---

Even Toyota is feeling the pain from a lousy US auto-industry downturn.

Leasing problems have contributed to some pretty painful profit (or lack of it) numbers in Tokyo, where Toyota Motor Corp. reported a 38.9 percent drop in operating profit. How would you like to take a 39% cut in your pay? Not a good thing for anyone.

Toyota was rising to take over the number one spot from GM for motor vehicle sales and now has been hit by falling vehicle values as it takes back thousands of off-lease cars and trucks that it can't resell for what was the projected lease-end value back in the glory days of leasing. That's a lesson Chrysler already learned the hard way when it announced it was getting out of the leasing business altogether, much to the loudly-voiced dismay of its dealer network, some of whom are reported to have pushed more than 80% of their sales through leasing arrangements. Moody's Investors Service downgraded its ratings of Chrysler LLC further into "junk" status and warned that it might cut it even lower. It's now 7 levels below what Moody's calls "investment" grade. I don't know what that means, but it doesn't sound good.

But it's not just leasing numbers that is hurting Toyota. Even the normally hot-selling and gas-sipping Prius sales are slipping (3.9% through July compared with the same period of 2007). That's a sign that the dismal economy in general is hurting Toyota sales beyond the luxury and low-mpg vehicle lines.

Still, the numbers aren't as bad as GM, where they took a $2 billion painful hit in the first quarter at the same time Ford was writing $2.1 billion off its books.

But don't fret for Toyota. Their profit was still at a hefty $3.93 billion, according to Automotive News reports released Aug. 7, on a revenue of $59.2 billion. To help cope with the fallilng numbers, Toyota cut its sales target by 200,000 units while the Toyota corporate suits said the North American market was in a "challenging situation" right now. Yeah, right. No kidding, guys.

If you can avoid buying a new car, you might be better off keeping that money in your pocket for now. And if your dealer is giving you the run around on repairs, now's the time to be careful.

Got a lemon and can't get satisfaction? Call or email us right now. The economy may be tough but we can help you out.