POWER PLAY: Mr. Lentz, 48, is trying to evolve the conservative brand with the new, more emotional "Moving forward" umbrella ad theme. The automaker is sustaining its sales momentum, surpassing Chrysler Group's Dodge as third-besting selling brand through August vs. a year ago. Independent Ground Zero, Marina del Rey, Calif., has been hired as first youth agency for several models, and Toyota is kicking off a drive tour with online elements for several models. Other developments: Scion sub-brand has rolled out nationally; exclusive auto partnership with eBay; and more shipments from Japan of the hot-selling second-generation hybrid Prius (first-quarter media buy was canceled due to too many orders for the sedan).
DOWNSIDE: Dents in the armor? Toyota had two major recalls this year: 128,000 Camry cars for a potential side air-bag problem and 367,000 Highlander SUVs for possible faulty child-safety rear door locks. Toyota recently changed rules for dealer awards in its latest attempt to improve customer satisfaction ratings. The automaker continues to lag in customer satisfaction at dealerships; J.D. Power & Associates ranked it No. 28, below the industry average, in this year's annual survey of buyers. Toyota has been trying to make inroads in this arena since at least early 1998.