Toyota wooing young drivers - East Valley Tribune: Business

Toyota wooing young drivers

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Posted: Saturday, May 15, 2004 7:20 am | Updated: 4:28 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

TOKYO - With video games, baby strollers and manicure kits to welcome visitors, dealers at a Toyota showroom in suburban Tokyo are working to convince buyers that today’s models have nothing to do with their parents’ boring old cars.

‘‘We try to create a warm feeling especially to appeal to young women so they feel they can drop by casually,’’ said Hiroshi Ishizawa at the dealership, which also holds costume parties and raffles with DVD recorders for prizes to win customers.

Such efforts by Toyota dealers have paid off in Japan and around the world. This past week, the Japanese automaker marked its second straight year of record profits, earning $10 billion for the 12 months ended March 31, up 55 percent from the previous year. Sales boomed in all key regions — the United States, Europe and Asia.

Last year, Toyota surpassed Ford Motor Co. of the United States to emerge as the world’s second largest automaker after General Motors Corp. in terms of vehicles sales.

‘‘The results drive home what an awesome company Toyota has become,’’ said Kunihiko Shiohara, an analyst at Goldman Sachs in Tokyo. Toyota has freshened up its image in North America as well. Having scored big success with baby boomers around the world with its reputation for good mileage and durable quality, Toyota is determined to extend its appeal to boomers’ children.

Toyota began a marketing campaign last summer in California called Scion to revamp its image by linking videogame contests, hip-hop CDs and underground film showings with two low-end car models targeting youngsters.

The campaign will expand to the entire United States next month with a third model. Although Scion sales at 29,000 so far are minuscule compared to the 410,000 U.S. 2003 sales for the Camry, the nation’s best-selling car, numbers are picking up.

‘‘If you get people to buy your brand as their first car, chances are good they’ll keep coming back,’’ said Shinji Kitayama, analyst with Shinko Securities in Tokyo.

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