Toyota refilling dealer stocks

Mark Rechtin
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Automotive News — February 13, 2012 – 12:01 am ET


LAS VEGAS — After months of inventory shortages triggered by last year’s earthquake, Toyota dealers should return to full volumes within a few weeks.

Carl Swope, chairman of the Toyota National Dealer Advisory Council, said competitors have “misread” Toyota capacity levels stemming from parts shortages.

“The challenges have been inventory shortages, but we are backfilling and will be full speed ahead by March,” said Swope, who also owns dealerships selling Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Nissan, Hyundai and Mitsubishi in Elizabethtown, Ky.

Toyota is moving away from using customer service measurements for its dealerships, instead focusing on owner retention, Swope said. The Toyota brand traditionally falls short in the J.D. Power customer and sales satisfaction surveys, yet it has among the highest customer retention rates in the industry.

Toyota also will update its dealer-advertising covenant, and is working with the dealer council on the language, said Fritz Hitchcock, CEO of Hitchcock Automotive Resources in City of Industry, Calif.

The original covenant was drafted in 1994, “in the print advertising environment,” Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter said. But now that digital marketing and social media are prominent, Toyota needs to amend the voice-and-tone standards. A new covenant should be drafted this summer.

Toyota wants dealers to bring stores up to Image USA II standards, but also is in the early stages of its “dealership of the future” program. The program examines how consumers will shop for cars in the future, without alienating current buyers, Carter said. “My peers and my kids’ peers are looking for different retail experiences,” Carter said.

Toyota also will continue its regional method for incentive allocation, which occasionally triggers spats about how the funds are administered in different regions, Swope said. But, he added, the flexibility the method provides is worth the effort.

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