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Toyota executive says NASCAR providing value
Toyota’s presence in NASCAR has had a little different purpose than other manufacturers in the sport. Sure, the company wants to sell vehicles. But before Toyota could get NASCAR fans to buy its vehicles, the manufacturer had to get NASCAR fans to consider buying its vehicles.

That’s where NASCAR came in – just to be in the mind of a potential car-buyer to look up a Toyota vehicle on the Web site or come into the dealership.

To that end, NASCAR is producing results, said Bob Carter, a Toyota vice president who oversees Toyota Racing Development as the general manager for Toyota Motor Sales USA.

Toyota had dabbled in the NASCAR Dash Series before joining the Truck series in 2004 and then moving into Cup in 2007. It became the first foreign-based manufacturer to make a foray into NASCAR’s top series.

“NASCAR continues to deliver what our goals were when we entered the sport,” Carter said. “We’ve been involved in racing for 30 years. NASCAR has certainly positioned itself as the premier series within the U.S.

“It has a huge fan base. In 2004, for many of the NASCAR fans, we weren’t necessarily on the short list when it came to buying a car. In fact, compared to Chevy and Ford among the [NASCAR] people who were shopping, we were 20 points behind Chevy and Ford. In our third year of Sprint Cup, we’re virtually identical with Ford and Chevy.”

Carter was at Bristol Motor Speedway last week as the company celebrated hitting the 20 million mark in vehicles built in the United States. Awareness of the product and sales has grown because of the NASCAR program, Carter said.

“[NASCAR] has delivered more benefits quicker than we had originally had hoped for,” Carter said. “Our goal being at the race track is to be top of mind among all these race fans when they’re considering their next car purchase. This was a push on a market that we saw an opportunity to expose the product.”

Carter said the organization is happy with its teams and drivers, including the winning but controversial Kyle Busch.

“The teams that we’re associated with have done a great job,” Carter said. “[Kyle] is fun. He’s got a persona, and he does an outstanding job on the track.” Scenedaily.com

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