Saturday, February 6, 2010

Spend the Rest of the Week Visiting Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Kia Dealers

It took way too long but Toyota corporate is finally on the right track with their messaging. In short--they are apologizing to their consumer base, assuring one and all that they are 100% focused on solutions and very mindful of their obligation to communicate openly and honestly and live up, once again, to the heretofore perception of being a top quality auto company. One that we can trust with our safety.

Toyota dealerships should be piggy-backing this marketing strategy locally coupled with an appeal for an appreciation of their years of service to their communities and sincere pledges to double and redouble that good citizenship. A promotion with an obvious and meaningful community service component would likely go a long way to support the sincerity of the message.

Meanwhile, as Toyota pushes uphill with the weight of the negative PR world on their shoulders, Honda, Hyundai and Kia should be attacking frontally and from each flank. Honda's begun to do so taking the high road using "safety" as almost, that is almost, a throwaway word in its national advertising.

Kia, having overcome its original U.S. image as a cheap-only car and graduating to an inexpensive and pretty reliable car, and Hyundai with its ten year/100,000 mile warranty also have only a handful of weeks to seriously and perhaps permanently prevent Toyota from regaining its top imported car market share. Certainly these same weeks provide an unparalleled opportunity to sell cars that might have gone to fill new Toyoda family coffers.

I know that there are dealers who tell media sales people that they are waiting to see how things shake out before they invest. Any great seller who hears that will probably answer with something along the lines of, "Actually Mr. Jones, it seems to me that plan is a little like waiting for the enemy (well, competitor anyway) to resupply its troops with ammunition so as to ensure a fair fight."

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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  1. Bob, in many of the markets I have visited in the last two weeks (in Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia), some local Toyota dealers have been running "reassurance ads" on radio, often with the owner of the dealership either speaking directly to consumers or being interviewed. In Birmingham, one of the local dealers has even hired additional personnel to speed performance of recall work, and made that a key copy point in their advertising. This has been in sharp contrast (as you have pointed out) to the slow reaction of Toyota nationally. I found it interesting that during the Superbowl game, Toyota spent 2.5 million to advertise the new Camry rather than addressing their massive PR problem. With 100 million viewers, they missed a huge opportunity to repair their image (and most importantly back up local dealers). For the automotive category, this is certainly a "game changer" and those who recognize it as such and respond correctly will see a difference in market share.

  2. Right on all fronts, Bill. Although beginning yesterday Toyota started messaging correctly. Time will tell if it was too late.