NEW YORK — Toyota Motor Corp.’s monthly sales were down 9 percent in February, and the automaker has launched a nationwide zero percent financing campaign in an effort to reverse the trend. The incentives plan runs through April 5 and will be extended to customers with “good” credit, according to a Toyota Motor Credit spokesman.

The new incentives were characterized by the company as its “most far-reaching sales program” in its history. It covers eight models — the 2010 Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, RAV4, Tundra and Yaris — at zero percent for up to 60 months. It also includes low lease rates for qualified lessees on the same models and a complimentary, two-year premium maintenance campaign for returning Toyota, Lexus and Scion buyers.

“We launched this program to expand the focus on our customers, and thank them for their loyalty by adding value to our products,” said Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Division for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. “We are standing behind our customers and our vehicles. It’s a great time to buy a Toyota.”

Industry insiders had predicted a steeper dropoff for Toyota’s U.S. sales for a month in which fallout over the company’s recent recall debacle reached its peak. However, the company’s closest American competitors reported high gains: Ford Motor Co. was up 34 percent for the month and General Motors Corp. gained 13 percent. GM and Chrysler both announced competing zero percent financing incentives on their most popular models.

F&I managers may be encouraged by comments from Toyota Motor Credit spokesman Justin Leach, who told that the incentives will be extended to customers whose bureaus are “good,” but not necessarily spotless.

"We evaluate every deal on a number of factors beyond just the credit score," Leach said.