An estimated 1,300 dealers heard from Toyota Motor Corp. CEO Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.'s President Yoshi Inaba and COO Jim Lentz at the Las Vegas meeting. The three executives outlined a back-to-basics plan that included:
-- Launching a $1 billion fourth-quarter marketing campaign, Toyota's biggest ever for that period.
-- Revitalizing Lexus and Scion.
-- Adding the Prius name to other hybrid models.
-- Restoring Toyota quality.
-- Giving Toyota's U.S. operations more resources and autonomy.
Stewart said Inaba promised to “bulldoze” any barriers between the Japanese and U.S. units that impede operations.
Inaba said, ‘If I need any thing, I'll get Akio on the telephone,'” Stewart said.
It has been a troubling couple of years for Toyota Motor Corp., which saw a decline in U.S. market share in 2008 for the first time since 1994 and has continued to lose ground this year.
“We're seeing challenges from some of the upstarts like Hyundai,” said Stewart, a member of the Toyota President's Cabinet of 12 top dealers. “I think Toyota sees this as kind of a watershed moment in their history.”
Dealers welcomed Toyota's marketing blitz, which includes advertising and incentives for Toyota, Lexus and Scion, plus dealer advertising support.
“The timing couldn't be better,” said Adam Sims, general manager of a Sunnyvale, Calif., Toyota dealership. “We're coming off some real success with the cash-for-clunkers program.”
Toyota also plans to offer better lease rates by raising the projected resale value of its vehicles. The higher residuals reflect rising used-car prices more than an effort to subsidize leases, said Irv Miller, group vice president of environment and external affairs.