How Toyota used Nascar to sway loyal American car buyers

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) — One year into its Nascar Sprint Cup experiment, Toyota took new driver Kyle Busch on a tour of its offices and plants. Not in Honshu or Hokkaido, but rather California, Texas and Kentucky.

“They showed us just how American the company is,” said Busch, who last week drove his No. 18 Camry to the Sprint Cup Series championship -– the biggest victory for Busch in his 11-year racing career and the biggest Nascar achievement for Toyota Motor Corp., too.

For nine years the Japanese auto company has been delivering that same message to a much tougher audience, and Nascar fans are growing more receptive.

Two out of three now say they’d consider buying a Toyota, roughly on par with the sport’s domestic sponsors like Ford Motor Co. and General Motors’ Chevrolet — and double the number who said they would when the carmaker joined the cup series in 2007. From 2011 to 2014, the company also saw its biggest market-share gains in Nascar’s traditional strongholds, according to research firm IHS Automotive.

“Nascar fans may still be more likely to buy a Chevrolet or Ford just based on the domestic, Americana nature of things,” said Peter Laatz, executive vice president of the Americas for research firm Repucom. “So they’ve got work to do in that crowd. But they know that crowd is open to the message they’re putting out, because they are supporting Nascar, Kyle Busch, and their other drivers.”

American pride

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