60th Anniversary Reflections

Ever wonder what it was like to work at Toyota back in the day? Read on.

August 29, 2017
We’re fortunate to have so many seasoned team members working among us. Driver’s Seat asked them to take a trip down memory lane, revisiting their first jobs, favorite memories and the reason why they’re proud to come to work every day. Not surprisingly, the cultural values that inspired them in the early days — respect for people, teamwork, focus on quality and continuous improvement— still ring true today. If you have a favorite memory to share, please send answers to the questions below along with a photo to driverseat@toyota.com and it could appear in a future Driver's Seat article or on digital signage.


 

Jim Lentz

Chief Executive Officer
TMNA

What year did you start working for Toyota? 1982
What was your job? Merchandising manager
What is your best memory from back in the day? This was soon after I started with Toyota in the Portland Region. I had a habit of getting into the office early before anyone else. One morning I heard a knock on the door and saw a Japanese couple standing out in front. It turned out to be Toyota Motor Sales President Isao Makino and his wife. He wanted a car and a map so he could go visit dealers to find out what was going on with customers. So, I gave him a Cressida and a map, and he spent a week visiting with dealers. No advance calls, no entourage, just plain talk with our dealers. That’s when it hit me that Toyota was a very different kind of car company. It was the Toyota Way’s genchi genbutsu in action and it made a huge, positive impression on me.
What message do you have for team members, dealers as we celebrate our 60th anniversary in America? You’re in the right place with the right company. As One Toyota, we’re reinventing the way we do things and it will set the pace for the next 60 years.
 

Keith Kidd

Group leader
Quality Control, TMMK
 
What year did you start working for Toyota? 1988
What was your job? Team member in Assembly, Trim Line
Best memory from back in the day? The first Avalon kickoff ceremony in 1994. I announced the Avalon on the stage in front of the media and the TMMK Team. (I was seated next to Mr. Eiji Toyoda, I believe it may have been his 82nd birthday.)
What message do you have for other team members and dealers as we celebrate our 60th anniversary in America? Awesome vehicles are built at TMMK by an amazing workforce of really good people.
 

Vince Harris

Regional Training Manager
Chicago Region

What year did you start at a Toyota? 1988
What was your job? Toyota Dealer Network system
What is your best memory from back in the day? Yuki Togo at all associate meetings: “Sell, sell, sell like hell!”
What do you love about the company now? Our social consciousness
 
 
Rob Ginis
General Manager
Avondale Toyota, Avondale, Arizona

What year did you start working for Toyota? 2004
What was your job? We opened the dealership in February 2005 and my position at that time was finance director.
What is your best memory from back in the day? Starting a business from the ground up with a One Price/One Person sales process that was revolutionary in the industry. None of us had the recipe and we were all working together to build a unique and special business platform.
What do you love about the company now? How forward-thinking Toyota is, not only in the automotive industry, but from a massive international company perspective. Toyota looks to the future and is always pursuing R&D to improve and prepare for the next generation, for example, looking at complete mobility needs.
 

Vince Bray
National manager, Corporate Communications
Toyota Financial Services

What year did you start working for Toyota? 1998
What was your job? Graduate management associate, Market Planning
What is your best memory from back in the day? Ordering my first ever new car, a silver Corolla
What do you love about the company now? We’ve evolved into a diverse organization that embraces new ideas.
 
 
 
April Smythe
Export analyst
Toyota Logistics Services

What year did you start working for Toyota? 1990
What was your job? Supply chain secretary
What is your best memory from back in the day? When Yuki Togo was CEO we received “Togo bucks!”
What do you love about the company now? Toyota is respectful of employees and it shows in its actions.
 
 
Fred Marks
General Manager
Classic Toyota, Waukegan, Illinois

What year did you start working for Toyota? 1997
What was your job? Sales
What is your best memory from back in the day? Growing our business from about 50 new Toyotas a month to over 100. We did this out of a 7,500-square-foot building. Today we operate out of a 50,000-square-foot facility.
What do you love about the company now? Toyota’s commitment to the future of mobility whether it’s conventional vehicles, hybrid, fuel cell or electric. They are focused on being a difference maker in whatever the future might be.


Bob Carter
Executive Vice President – Sales
TMNA

What year did you start working for Toyota? 1981
What was your job? Warranty processor
What is your best memory from back in the day? I’m a product person so my best memories involve some of the iconic vehicles in my 36 years at Toyota: the 1993 fourth-generation Supra, the first-generation Prius in 1997, the introduction of Lexus in 1989 and the first RAV4 in 1996. These are the vehicles that really changed the industry.
What do you love about the company now? Toyota is built on relationships, internally among team members, and also with our dealers, suppliers and parent company in Japan. It’s been a pleasure for me to witness all of the entities of Toyota coming together in one location. The new campus is gorgeous, there’s a lot of energy there, but even more important is we’re setting the foundation for next 60 years of Toyota. We’re becoming much more nimble and able to react to the marketplace.


Tiger Feng
Vehicle operations manager
Lexus Southern

What year did you start working for Toyota? 2006
What was your job? Management trainee
What is your best memory from back in the day? Rob Weitekamp threw a Halloween party, my cousin happened to go and met his next-door neighbor and now they are married and living in Florida.
What is the one thing you want customers or others to know about Toyota? There’s good people working both here and in our dealer body. I wish the public could get to know the people in our stores the same way we do, and see the videos we show at our dealer meetings of how they get involved in the community. They would want to join the Toyota family for the people, in addition to the vehicles we make.


Michael Scarlett
Parts manager
Toyota of Whittier, California

What year did you start working for Toyota? 1968
What was your job? Parts driver
What is your best memory from back in the day? Seeing all the new models come in, and I've seen a lot of them. We used to test drive all the new models.
What do you love about the company now? I love the way Toyota keeps the “traditions of Toyota alive” with great looking vehicles, advanced technology and excellent customer service.
 

Teresa Ranck
Production control specialist
PC-Admin, TMMWV
 
What year did you start working for Toyota? 1998
What was your job? Machining team member, Con-Rod/ Piston Pin
What is your best memory from back in the day? Building lifelong relationships and learning with our Japanese support. Toriumi-san dressing up in the early years as Santa made me realize that this was more than a job.
What do you love about the company now? The flexibility in the company and the opportunities that are open not only to the team members, but also to contractors. It’s awesome how Toyota is interested in improving the lives of our team members and local citizens through education and programs such as the AMT program. I love the spirit of community that extends beyond our walls, especially in times where Toyota team members rally and lend a hand to our neighbors in need, as was very evident during the floods and the cleanup.

By Karen Nielsen
 

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