Toyota heir takes center stage in drive to shed 'boring' tag

Mon Jul 1, 2013 1:52am EDT
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By Yoko Kubota

NAGOYA, Japan (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote) executives have sometimes seemed to share the personality of the automaker's best-selling cars - dependable and efficient, but also a bit boring and bland.

That's changing. In recent months, Toyota founding family scion and President Akio Toyoda has emerged from the bureaucratic shadows to present himself as the company's car-loving, fashion-forward salesman-in-chief.

The marketing campaign aides have built around Toyoda is an unconventional move for a Japanese corporate icon where team play is prized above outsized personalities.

In recent weeks, Toyoda has donned a race suit to drive the Lexus LFA super car at the 24-hour race in Germany's Nuerburgring circuit and turned up at a Lexus party in New York with a hipster bow-tie and retro glasses.

Meanwhile his assistants have kept a steady newsfeed on the "Toyota President's Office" Facebook page, which Toyoda was inspired to set up by the popularity of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's page.

"I am at the top of Toyota and drive cars myself," Toyoda told reporters at an event in May when discussing the role he can play in to promote and develop the Lexus brand, which he has been directly overseeing since April. "I was also born with this name."

Toyota, which marked its 75th anniversary last year, for decades let its product speak for itself by building value-priced cars with bulletproof quality.


Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda speaks during an unveiling of the company's remodeled Crown luxury sedan in Tokyo in this December 25, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao/Files