Without question, Toyota is the benchmark of how to build a successful automotive dealership organization. Toyota did it slowly, painstakingly and judiciously.
The Toyota people have been at it for 50 years, and it's safe to say they will keep at it until they get it right. In the eyes of many in the business, they've already got it right.
Toyota entered the United States in 1957. Those were the days when anyone who could sign his name and put up $5 could get an import-car franchise.
Toyota didn't bite; it wanted quality, not quantity. At the end of 1958, it had 45 dealers. A year later, the total was 93; and two years after that, on Jan. 1, 1961, there were 99.
Of course, Toyota didn't have much to offer the dealers, and its dealers didn't have much to offer the public.
The unsuitable Toyopet Crown had been withdrawn, and the Corona would not arrive until the 1965 model year. All that was left was the Land Cruiser — yep, the same Land Cruiser that still plods along at the bottom of the Toyota volume list.
The Corona was the turning point. The dealership total rose from 208 in 1964 to 346 in 1965 and to 427 in 1966. Much more important, sales climbed from 2,029 in 1964 to 6,404 in 1965 and 20,908 in 1966.
Sales per dealership shared the wealth: seven in 1964, 17 in 1965 and 42 in 1966.
Toyota was on its way. In 1966 it made the top 10 in import-car sales for the first time.