It cannot be much of a pleasure to run a Toyota dealership at the moment. The company's German dealers made clear their displeasure with the automaker at their annual meeting in Berlin. Among their reproaches: Wrong products and pricing; poor crisis management during the unintended acceleration recall campaign; boring advertising; and marketing mistakes.
Toyota dealers mentioned cases where customers had come into their showrooms to look at the latest Corolla. Unfortunately, Toyota's marketing bosses incomprehensibly decided to change the Corolla name for the European variant of the big-selling global model to Auris. The automaker also reduced the number of variants of the car.
Would Volkwagen drop the Golf name? Would Mercedes-Benz decide to rename the S Class?
Toyota's sales in Germany show that the company may not be making the right decisions.
Therefore the courage of a Toyota Berlin dealer, Detlef Slupinski, who invested 1.7 million euros (about $2 million) in a brand that is not trendy in times of economic crisis is all the more remarkable.
Slupinski followed Martin Luther's statement of faith: "Even if I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would still plant my apple trees."
Slupinski's Handelsbetrieb Motor Company in Berlin is an impressive example of how customers can be won in difficult times and with only average products.
Dealers who sell cars from Audi, BMW, Skoda or Hyundai operate with advantages such as attractive products, a good brand image or value for money.
Toyota and Lexus dealers have the more difficult task in comparison. But Slupinski's new dealership shows that a good dealer can still move metal.
Fellow dealers can learn something from his success. There's enough doom and despondency in Germany at the moment.
Guido Reinking is editor of Automobilwoche.