Hail a black car by smartphone in the Dallas area, and there's a decent chance you'll find "Toyota of Plano" on the license plate frame.
By offering hefty discounts and tailored online advertising, the dealership in Toyota's soon-to-be U.S. hometown has aggressively gone after customers who drive for Uber, a smartphone-powered taxi service that allows people to earn money giving rides to strangers. The dealership sells about 200 cars annually to Uber drivers -- about 6 percent of the 3,200 new cars it sells in a year.
Uber drivers get the dealership's best offers. It's a form of marketing: Future passengers may notice a Toyota of Plano license plate holder when they get picked up by a shiny new car. And when the driver and passenger start talking, a driver who got a great deal is far more likely to gush about Toyota of Plano.
"Word of mouth is still the best advertising there is," Rusty Gentry, general manager of the single-point dealership, said in an interview. "So we'll take an aggressive deal. We know what the advertising's worth."
Losing money on a sale might seem like a bad strategy, but Gentry said it makes sense considering that dealers spend an average of $400 on advertising per car sold.
"If I lose $1,000 to sell a car and [an Uber driver] sends me three customers," he said, "I still come out ahead."