At the 31st North Carolina International Auto Expo in Raleigh, where the Wake County New Vehicle Dealers Association showed off the latest hybrid, electric, SUV, compact and luxury models — AuSM caught up with Toyota’s East Coast communications manager Corey Proffitt and district training manager Rusty Foster.
Proffitt highlighted what Toyota focused on when designing the latest features the brand has presented to its shoppers.
He said that much of Toyota’s latest introduced technology reflects its commitment to improving safety.
“As with anything in our lives, technology is ever-evolving. One of our commitments to our customers and for the brand is safety, so we’re seeing a lot of technology that’s improving safety and approving the ability to be behind the wheel and have the confidence of customer safety,” he said. “If you look at Toyota Safety Sense — it’s our safety system, and it’s now standard on about 90 percent of our vehicles.”
Safety and Tech
Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) is a collection of active safety features available on many new Toyota vehicles at no additional cost. TSS features include a pre-collision system, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, dynamic radar cruise control and pedestrian detection.
Additionally, the system includes radar cruise control, which gives drivers the ability to follow the vehicle in front of them and maintain the speed to keep a safe distance, according to Proffitt.
Toyota's Corey Proffitt (left) and Rusty Foster. Photos courtesy of automaker.
“Along with that, emergency braking, automated emergency braking is also part of that, so if a vehicle is slowing down in front of you, your Toyota will be able to maintain that distance and safely stop on its own,” he explained. “We have lane departure, warning and assist, so if you remove your hands from the wheel or your vehicle starts moving over, it will actually know your lane markings, and the wheel will actually turn to keep you within the lane,” he continued.
Toyota also offers high beam systems that will adjust to the cars coming and going ahead automatically when drivers activate them at night.
“This is a feature that has been introduced and been on the market for a few years, it started sort of as a luxury and more of a high-end feature in vehicles, but we have now brought it to the entire Toyota lineup, and is standard on 90 percent of our models,” Proffitt explained.
In Toyota’s space at the expo, Foster described some of those features and more as he walked around with attendees to highlight Toyota's latest additions and technological advancements.
Among several of the brand's top vehicles on display was the redesigned Toyota Camry.
In May, the popular mid-size sedan took the No. 3 spot on Cars.com’s list of the top five most reviewed cars on its site. And the Toyota 4Runner ranked No. 2 for top five highest-rated cars by Cars.com reviewers.
“Toyota also came in stronger than we anticipated. The Toyota Camry, which was new last year had a positive month,” said Michelle Krebs during Cox Automotive’s sales day call last week.
“Toyota’s being very aggressive at selling the Camry, and that’s to the Accord’s detriment. Krebs explained. “We know that their fleet sales are up …Toyota has been increasing its fleet mix, and they’re aggressive in keeping the Camry the number one selling car.”
Last month, Autotrader highlighted the Toyota certified pre-owned program, which offered customers CPO Camrys with 1.9 percent interest and an additional year of bumper-to-bumper coverage and up to 7 years or 100,000 miles of powertrain protection.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) named the model one of the 15 safest cars.
“Safety and technology are two very great important criteria for us, and as we look at technology; and the adaption of in our models, again, it not only goes back to safety, but what our customers are looking for in their vehicles,” added Proffitt. “Whether you’re looking at new drivers just starting out, we have it on our entry level models and all the way up across the board, so it’s available for everyone who wants to drive a Toyota,” he said.
Proffitt who said he began his career at Autotrader, also discussed how both Toyota and shoppers depend on third-party reviews for practical vehicle information, such as vehicle controls, ergonomics, or space and comfort.
“It’s important for a customer to hear from a third party what the vehicle is. If they’re looking for a new car or used car, even they’re going to go to a variety of websites and magazines and newspapers to get an unbiased review not just presenting facts,” said Proffitt.
Internally, he said that Toyota looks at third-party reviews and asks for customer back.
“We take in that information, and if we need to adapt something or change something, we will — and so it's very important and a big function of what I do,” he explained.
Foster added that in addition to reviews, word of mouth is just as important.
He stressed that creating positive word of mouth begins with sales staff.
“Word of mouth is no less important than it ever has been. Word of mouth is best facilitated by salespeople that follow up with customers,” he said. “There’s an old saying that ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’”