Power Players 2009

Toyota's Bob Carter Is Ad Age's No. 9 Power Player

Strong Prius Blitz and Shift to Retail Focus Mark Tough Year for the Biggest Carmaker

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Last Year
THE POWER: Toyota Motor Sales USA's mass-market brand of the same name has remained the nation's biggest seller by volume so far this year after the Japanese global juggernaut unseated General Motors as the world's biggest carmaker in 2008. Bob Carter, head of the Toyota Division and a 28-year veteran of the company, kept the pressure on this year with a well-recalled blitz for the third-generation Prius hybrid. Reacting to the industry slump, Mr. Carter temporarily shifted marketing dollars earlier this year toward a more retail-focused approach in order to reach in-market buyers. But, in the final quarter, he's spending his big split of the company's $1 billion for ads and incentives.

THE NUMBERS: Even in the industry slowdown, the Toyota line has eked out a small share jump to 14.1% through September -- from 13.9% a year ago -- even though the brand's new-vehicle sales slid by 26% to 1.09 million units. First half measured media spending declined 17% to $430 million from the same period the year before.

THE KEY LIEUTENANTS: Other key players on Mr. Carter's team: Scion chief, VP Jack Hollis; Toyota brand's Allen Vaught, manager-internet marketing; and Michael Nelson, manager-interactive communications, Toyota brand. Mr. Carter's counterpart at Lexus is Mark Templin, with David Nordstrom the luxury brand's VP-marketing.

THE CHALLENGES: It's lonely at the top. Historically untouchable, Toyota has seen some of its Teflon wear off this year after the carmaker's biggest U.S. recall ever for floor mats and a probe into potential corrosion problems with its Tundra pickup, which has suffered from sagging sales. High-profile lawsuits surfaced this year: One alleges an online "terror marketing campaign" for the Matrix and another claims the eco-friendly and popular Prius has a safety defect -- upgraded optional headlights can fail. Still, many auto experts predict these won't do much to damage Toyota's sterling quality image.

THE AGENCIES: Despite creating much-liked Prius launch spots in June, creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi, owned by Publicis, faces a jump ball against Dentsu for a spring assignment.

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