For the first time in three years, President Akio Toyoda attended Toyota's National Dealer Meeting in the U.S., bringing a great surprise for a special guest.
In September, Toyota held its annual U.S. National Dealer Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, bringing together dealership heads from around the country.
Each year, separate events are organized for the Toyota and Lexus brands, providing opportunities to thank dealership representatives for all their hard work and to communicate the direction of the company’s sales initiatives. These meetings also offer an early glimpse of under-development products, boosting anticipation for Toyota and Lexus offerings.
Since becoming president, Akio Toyoda has made every effort to go and deliver his message in person. Even so, three years have passed since he was last able to attend.
His main mission was to express his gratitude to the dealership leaders who have been there for Toyota’s customers, even as parts shortages led to limited inventory and longer delivery times.
Akio had another objective, as well.
Bob Carter, an executive vice president of sales at Toyota Motor North America, retired in June 2022 to the regret of many. Bob had worked with dealers for over 40 years, helping build the trust that underpins Toyota’s sales. To show his appreciation, Akio prepared a wonderful surprise.
Below, Toyota Times shares the speech Akio delivered before around 4,000 participants from across the country.
Playing to win
At these emphatic words from Toyota Motor North America’s executive vice president Jack Hollis, the assembled crowd stood as one amid thunderous applause to welcome Akio back as he took the stage.
Raising his hands in the air time and again, a smiling Akio addressed the venue even as applause and cheers continued to ring out.
It has been too long! I am so HAPPY to finally be back here with you, feeling your energy in person! It’s like a shot in the arm! And I don’t mean the covid vaccine!
By the way, none of you look a day older, you all look fantastic! Me, on the other hand... maybe you guys can back that camera up a bit?
So how are you? Feeling good? I know your pockets are full, which is great, but your lots are empty, which is not.
So please let me offer my own apology for the inventory issue. I know it can’t be easy when you have waiting lists as long as your arm, or in this case, your leg.
But thank you for your patience and understanding, and for taking care of our customers during these difficult times. We’re truly doing everything we can, and if it means I have to build the cars myself, I will!
Mixing in plenty of humor, Akio kept his speech casual, as though he was simply chatting with the attendees and pausing regularly to take stock of his audience’s reaction.
The topic shifted to Toyota’s electrification strategy and the pursuit of carbon neutrality.
So, when they told me the theme of this year’s meeting was “playing to win,” my immediate response was, well… you know at Toyota we like to keep our head down and not talk about our success, but when I heard you became number one in the U.S. last year, I actually did a little “happy dance” in my office. Thankfully nobody saw it!
But for me “playing to win” also means doing things differently. Doing things that others may question but that we believe will put us in the winner’s circle the longest.
I introduced an entire line-up of Toyota and Lexus BEVs in Japan last December. And last year, we also opened a multi-billion-dollar battery plant in North Carolina well ahead of the recent U.S. government mandates, as part of our global investment in BEV.
So, trust me, we’re on it! But just like the fully autonomous cars that we were all supposed to be driving by now, BEVs are just going to take longer to become mainstream than the media would like us to believe.
In the meantime, we have many options for our customers, like performance-oriented hybrids, and plug-ins–which, by the way, are really the best bridge to an all-electric future. So, our goal remains the same: pleasing the widest possible range of customers with the widest possible range of powertrains.
Personally, I’m planning to get myself the new Crown that you’ll see tomorrow. It will be the fastest and most powerful Toyota sedan we’ve ever sold in the United States.
We revealed the car to the press in Japan a couple months ago and since it’s the car I grew up with as a little kid, it’s near and dear to my heart.
Actually, one of my very first memories is watching my dad’s driver wash our Crown. And as soon as he was done, I would grab the hose and spray it with water. I was a naughty boy, a troublemaker even then!
Maybe that’s why I like to talk about other ideas like synthetic fuels and hydrogen.
Carbon-neutral strategy and commitment
On the topic of hydrogen, Akio shared a story from Round 9 of the World Rally Championship (WRC) in August.
In fact, I was recently in Belgium for the WRC race. and I drove our new hydrogen-powered Yaris for the press and public. This was my first time driving it and I was blown away by its performance. And you know how hard I am to please!
At this point, the audience was treated to footage of Akio’s demo run in the hydrogen-powered Yaris and the interview that followed.
The venue once more buzzed with excitement at seeing him behind the wheel of a hydrogen-powered car, making this future option seem nearly within reach.
By the way, guess who has a double-digit lead right now in WRC? TOYOTA GAZOO Racing!
Bottom line, when it comes to powertrains and carbon neutrality, I believe “playing to win” means playing with all the cards in the deck, not just a select few. So that’s our strategy and we’re sticking to it.