For Toyota, sticking with Jim Moran was never a tough decision.
Despite churning up the occasional muddy swirl of bad publicity for the image-sensitive Japanese corporation, Moran remained Toyota's man for the long haul. Toyota executives never flinched in their endorsements for the guy who basically was Toyota in five Southeastern states.
Because to reap profits and competitive advantage in America, all Toyota ever had to do was hang on as Moran skippered his yacht at full throttle through the waters of the U.S. car business.
As the independent distributor of all things Toyota to dealers in five states starting in 1969, Moran virtually printed his own money. And he so successfully penetrated the markets and pocketbooks of the Deep South and coastal America that Toyota could only stand back in awe.
In 1968, Toyota sold 72,000 vehicles across the United States. Last year, Moran's Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based Southeast Toyota Distributors Inc. wholesaled 415,000.
Moran enjoyed exclusive authority to set prices, determine product mix, dictate trim packages, create marketing plans and appoint dealers. He died in April 2007 with a personal net worth of $2.4 billion.
Toyota learned from it all.
Starting from humble origins in Chicago, Moran hustled and bootstrapped his way to become America's largest Ford dealer, largest Hudson dealer, largest Pontiac dealer and, ultimately, its largest Lexus dealer — in addition to running Toyota's southeastern U.S. business.
His why-not-try entrepreneurial instincts triggered new practices in auto sales. He was among the first retailers to embrace TV in the late 1940s. Early on, he developed the idea of offering his own extended warranties, car insurance and dealer financing.