Toyota’s U.S. dealers gathered last week in Las Vegas, where the difference between winning and losing often hinges on the roll of the dice or the flip of the cards. But Toyota’s executives made it clear that the brand’s success will continue to be based on the far firmer foundation of their deep and valued mutual relationship.
“While I can’t predict the future, I can promise you this: You…me…us…this. It’s not going anywhere. It’s staying just as it is,” said Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda. “I don’t know what those other guys are thinking. I can only tell you there is no Toyota without you.”
“Those other guys” refers to competing automakers who have hinted that the industry’s traditional retail model might not survive the transition to a full-on digital marketplace. Toyota made it crystal clear to its retail partners that while fundamental change is afoot — most prominently in the shift from internal combustion to battery electric vehicles — they will ride out this new wave together.
As evidence, Toyota gave its dealers a confidential sneak preview of the next round of products that will soon be made available to them to sell and service, following in the wake of the all-new 2023 Crown and the next generation 2023 Sequoia. And it spelled out a comprehensive strategy to support them in that endeavor.
‘We’re On It’
Dave Christ, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota Division, shared details on the steps Toyota is taking to help mitigate the current industry-wide inventory crunch.
The Inventory Crunch
First and foremost are the steps Toyota is taking to mitigate the current industry-wide inventory crunch brought on by high demand for semiconductors and disruptions to the global supply chain. For instance, Dave Christ, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota Division, said Toyota Motor North America team members have taken up temporary residence at several of Toyota’s key suppliers to apply Toyota Production System (TPS) principles in hopes of improving production efficiency.
“By leveraging TPS with our suppliers, we were able to produce over 40,000 vehicles that would not have been built otherwise,” Christ said. “Obviously this is an ongoing challenge. But I wanted to share with you a bit more detail as opposed to just saying, ‘We’re on it.’”
Another example is Toyota’s commitment to SmartPath, the brand’s digital retail platform that aims to give customers a seamless home-to-store purchase experience. It’s now being used by more Toyota dealerships than any other such system. And its reach will only grow with the rollout of SmartPath Service that aims to apply the lessons learned in the showroom to the dealerships’ service and parts departments.
“Doing business without SmartPath is like using the internet without Google,” Christ said.
Or consider Toyota’s three-pronged approach that offers tools to dealers to turn the tide on service technician turnover including: 1) a new-and-improved Engage app loaded with more than 500 training videos; 2) the launch of Certification Reinvented that provides best practices to boost employee retention; and 3) the introduction of ACCELERATE, a new three-day leadership immersion program for dealership managers offered in collaboration with Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business.
Big Stage, Big Ambitions
Toyota left no doubt about its intentions for 2023 and beyond.
The Connected Car
Meanwhile, Andrew Gilleland, senior vice president of Automotive Operations, said Toyota is investing billions of dollars in systems and software to take full advantage of what he called “the connected car.”
To that end, he announced that all Toyota vehicles that come equipped with the brand’s ’21 Multimedia System will have Safety Connect and Service Connect for up to 10 years (4G network dependent). This means these customers will receive automatic maintenance and repair alerts via their vehicle’s touchscreen and the Toyota app as well as such services as enhanced roadside assistance, automatic collision notification, collision assistance and stolen vehicle locator.
“For dealers, this means you’ll stay connected to the car for 10 years — even if there’s a change in owner,” Gilleland said. “That makes each car we sell is a long-term asset. We will know what our customers want and when they want it, which will allow us to improve the process of buying and owning a Toyota. Together let’s future proof our business so we can make the most of our amazing new products.”
‘Grit, Heart and Determination’
Jack Hollis, executive vice president of Sales, cast the spotlight on Toyota’s continued support for Paralympic athletes through the 2024 Summer Paralympics in Paris.
Playing to Win
In keeping with the meeting’s theme of “Playing to Win,” Jack Hollis, executive vice president of Sales, thanked the dealers for their support of Toyota’s Olympic and Paralympic sponsorships. He said the latter will continue in the run up to the 2024 Summer Paralympics in Paris, most notably through the Toyota U.S. Paralympic Fund.
“It has raised over $5 million to directly support Paralympic athletes and over 80% of our dealers have contributed,” Hollis said. “Your donations provide much needed income to these elite athletes. More importantly, you help them to feel seen and respected. These are athletes who face challenges that none of us can truly understand. And yet they win with grit, heart and determination. “
Odds are, it will be those same values that determine whether Toyota continues to be the No.1 retail brand in the U.S. Toyoda, clearly energized by his first face-to-face meeting with the U.S. dealers since the start of the pandemic, challenged them to play to win.
“I love cars,” he said. “I love building cars. I love driving cars. I love selling cars, with all of you. So thank you for lifting me up today. And thank you for believing in me, in Toyota and in the strength of our future. Together we can win as one.”