MARK RECHTIN

Toyota's Carter walks the talk

SAN FRANCISCO -- If you talk to Toyota Division general manager Bob Carter, chances are he'll utter what has become a refrain: "Dealers saved our asses last year."

Through the recall crisis, Toyota's dealers stood tall and proud, and backed the manufacturer that was battling unintended acceleration allegations that sprouted like weeds. The dealers' service techs cranked out recall fixes by the millions in record time.

Toyota U.S. sales chief Bob Carter: Showing his appreciation to his dealers
But while words from the ivory tower are nice, it's another thing to back them up. So it was a surprise -- not a big one, but a pleasant one -- to see Carter working the Toyota booth on the NADA Convention floor. Normally, the booth is manned by the regional sales staff, with an occasional pop-in by a luminary from headquarters.

Bob was no pop-in. He was pressing the flesh, answering questions, addressing concerns, all morning and into the afternoon on Saturday. Unlike many people who have to work the floor, Carter didn't look worn out. In fact, he looked more energized as the day went on.

That's leading by example.

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