Toyota Goes E-Commerce Alone

Toyota Motor Corp. has announced its intention to remain independent in its business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce efforts, rather than affiliate itself with a major portal.

Unlike Ford Motor Company and General Motors, which recently announced deals with Yahoo! and America Online, respectively, Toyota will use other means to promote its products.

“We are going it alone,” said Kosuke Yamamoto, executive vice-president in charge of Toyota’s e-commerce division. “This is not a strategy that’s just for the time being, but it’s what we intend to do.”

Going it alone for Toyota means further development of its gazoo.com Web site, a Japanese and English language portal that offers product information on Toyota cars, as well as a service that directs potential customers to dealerships in their area.

Plans To Expand Gazoo.com

Gazoo.com offers an array of such products as stationery, food, gift items, fashions, furniture and other consumables. Current plans call for the expansion of Gazoo.com into an online brokerage and a financial mall, as well as the addition of books, CDs, DVDs and videos to its online offerings.

Many observers believe that Toyota’s strong financial condition and loyal customer base render the company ideally situated to raise the capital needed to launch a financial services venture.

Although plans have not been finalized, it is likely that the company will offer financing and insurance products for its vehicles as a start. Currently, the company reports that 13.6 percent of consumers who access Gazoo.com for prices and information on Toyota cars buy them from their dealers within six months of referral.

Gazoo.com gathers useful data on potential customers by offering a free membership to the site in exchange for some information about the consumer. By the end of last year, Toyota said that the site had 430,000 members, and projects a membership of one million by the end of this year.

Additionally, Toyota expects that figure to quadruple by 2003, with projected e-commerce revenues in excess of $5 billion (US$).

Strategic Move To Retain Market Share

Toyota finds itself in the enviable position of not needing other Internet companies to market its products. In Japan, Toyota commands 40 percent of the automobile market, a dominant share that has remained constant for some time.

Because of its widespread acceptance among the Japanese people, and its consistently strong sales figures, the company enjoys great influence over its dealerships. With that power, Toyota has chosen not to align itself with middlemen on the Internet, such as Autobytel.com or MSN’s CarPoint.

However, both of those organizations are now operating in Japan, and it is likely that individual Toyota dealerships will sign up to test the waters of an expanded Internet presence.

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