Dawn Ahmed

Toyota Motor Sales USA

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Dawn Ahmed figures it's a natural that she's working for Toyota Motor Sales USA. Ms. Ahmed says she's been passionate about cars since she was a kid, when her dad took her to auto shows and races. At 16, she bought her first car, a 1959 Chevy that she worked on herself in a body shop.
Dawn Ahmed, manager-national sales, Toyota Division, Toyota Motor Sales USA

The Pasadena, Calif., native probably never dreamed back then that she would end up working on one of the auto industry's most successful new-line launches—Scion.

After getting her master's in business from UCLA and two years as a financial analyst, Ms. Ahmed in late 1997 joined Toyota's corporate planning department. In 2000, she moved to the automaker's small Genesis Group, which morphed into Toyota's youth-targeted Scion unit. Ms. Ahmed was Scion's first national advertising manager. Her team brought in new agencies and partners to develop plans that let young prospects discover the Scion sub-brand for its California-only launch in 2003 and nationally in 2004. Last June, Ms. Ahmed moved to manager-national sales, overseeing more than 100 events per month. "Our goal is to make Scion a very small personal brand," she says.

"Part of the challenge in starting and launching Scion was we were marketing a lifestyle brand, which is a pretty big risk for an automaker," says Ms. Ahmed, 37. She's especially proud of being party to the team that developed a brand "that people are rallying around."

Will Travis, president of Scion ad agency Attik, San Francisco, praises Ms. Ahmed for not being afraid to try new marketing tactics and for knowing what's relevant to the target. "She's one to shake up the industry," he says.

Ms. Ahmed was on the move again when Advertising Age called for this interview. She's now national truck communications manager of Toyota Division and is working on the crucial launch of the brand's next full-size Tundra pickup early next year. Pre-launch activities are already under way. The pickup is the lead model for Toyota as presenting concert sponsor of Brooks & Dunn's country music tour for the next two years.
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