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The interesting thing one Toyota Exec sees as Toyota’s top strength

If you are expecting Bill Fay, General Manager of Toyota to say “our people” or “our reliability” you guessed wrong.


On what must be a slow news day, Toyota U.S. (TMS) today issued a press release of an interview with General Manager, Bill Fay. Bill’s 33-year career has exposed him to a lot of challenges. The Tacoma’s rusting frames comes to mind. So does Toyota’s sudden acceleration debacle. It has also exposed him to a lot of successes. Toyota having the most IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rated cars and Toyota having the most cars with zero driver deaths would have to make that list along with being the most profitable automaker in the U.S. market. What caught our attention, though, was how he answered the question “What is one of Toyota’s biggest strengths as a company?”

His answer was not the throw-away line most Execs use to answer that, “Our People.” Nor did he single out Toyota’s vehicles as being better than the competition. Rather his answer was “Our relationship with the dealers. We do a good job of executing, and a good part of that is the partnership we have with the dealers. If you look at what we went through in 2010 and 2011, our recovery is due to a lot of reasons, but one of them was because we have a good partnership with our dealers.”

Every Toyota owner that ever came away dissatisfied with a dealer experience may be reaching for the keyboard right now, but Toyota and Lexus have long enjoyed top-rated dealer satisfaction in customer surveys. Only Jaguar ranks higher than Lexus (which is a division of TMS). Toyota ranks fourth among mass-market brands. However, Bill Fay was talking about Toyota’s relationship with dealers more than the dealers relationship with customers.

Toyota introduced Toyota Care, which provides two-years of complementary service to buyers of new Toyotas five years ago. Since then, 16.5 million customer visits to Toyota dealers have resulted. Toyota is helping customers find a reason to try their dealer for service rather than a local shop or other brand’s dealership service department.

Other tidbits we liked were Bill Fay crediting his mom’s work ethic as his most vivid childhood memory and his mentioning that his first car was a VW micro-bus.