Irv Miller, vice president of sales for Lexus Division, has been named to head the Internet effort of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
Miller will report to Dave Illingworth, Toyota's senior vice president of planning and development. The appointment is effective immediately.
As vice president of what Toyota calls the Office of the Web, Miller will be in charge of e-commerce strategy for Toyota and Lexus divisions. The company is working with selected Toyota dealer associations to develop a joint Internet retailing pilot, launching early next year.
Miller hopes Toyota can develop an Internet presence that will make it unnecessary for dealers to subscribe to third-party Web firms.
'The buy-in services see a weakness in the franchise and distribution system, but they really don't add value. Sometimes dealers are buying referrals of their own customers,' Miller said in an interview during the NADA convention.
Miller reiterated Toyota's pledge that it will not sell directly to the consumer.
'Any strategy we have will include our dealers. The consumer is looking for an alternative to the current retail system, and the Web will play a part, but I don't think direct sales are the answer,' Miller said.
At the same time, Miller realizes developing such a presence is easier said than done.
'If I knew all the answers, I'd be Irv.com,' Miller quipped.
Taking Miller's place as Lexus' top sales executive is Mike Slagter, who will have the title of corporate manager of sales. Greg Kitzens will assume Slagter's duties as Lexus corporate manager of marketing.
Both Slagter and Kitzens were involved in the successful 'Taste of Lexus' program, a road show for invited prospects that combined closed-course test drives with trendy, catered food and music.