Las Vegas — Although some auto makers' financing arms have stopped or curtailed vehicle leasing, Toyota Financial Services is committed to it “across the line,” says its president and CEO, George Borst.
The firm isn't doing it just out of a sense of duty.
“We like leasing,” Borst says here at F&I Management and Technology's annual conference centered on auto finance and insurance.
“Leasing brings customers back, increases loyalty and attracts consumers with good credit,” he says. “And more than any other product we have, it highlights Toyota's residual values.”
Leasing also provides a steady supply of inventory for auto makers' certified used-car programs. In that regard, car companies that have backed off leasing, most notably Chrysler LLC, may face supply problems.
“Our competitors might have helped us on this,” Borst says, citing a high demand for low-mileage, off-lease vehicles. When Toyota vehicles currently being leased come back for remarketing, “there will be a lot less competition.”
Some auto makers have stopped leasing fullsize pickups and SUVs because of the heavy residual losses those vehicles have sustained as high gasoline prices spurred many consumers to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Toyota Financial is not selectively leasing some vehicles and refusing to lease others.
“It would be easy to say we'll just lease Priuses, knowing their residuals will be high at the end of the leases,” Borst says.
“We've made (residual) adjustments on big SUVs and trucks so we're comfortable there won't be any surprises” with actual residual values turning out to be much lower than the predicted values used to structure the lease deals at the front end.
About 20% of Toyota's vehicle deliveries are leases. That was about the industry average before the leasing retrenchment by other auto makers.
Borst declines to comment on Chrysler exiting the leasing market. “They must have their reasons,” he says.
Other auto makers, such as General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., have cut back their leasing programs in the face of falling residual values for certain vehicles, such as big pickups and SUVs.
“Clearly the deterioration of used-car values has affected manufacturers differently,” says Alex Sarafian, director-consumer credit and risk management at GMAC North American Operations.
“We remain committed to leasing, but it has gotten very expensive,” he says. “Anything with eight cylinders has taken a residual hit.”
GM still offers leasing programs for Cadillac and Saab because they are premium brands. Luxury vehicles typically attract the most lessees.
But customers looking to lease other vehicles might suffer a bad case of sticker shock.
“Leasing has become very expensive because we're not subventing it anymore,” Sarafian tells Ward's. “You can still lease a Chevrolet Malibu, but it will cost you.”