Optimism seems to have left Detroit — and what’s missing from all the gloomy press conferences at GM and Ford can be readily found in any speech by Toyota’s Jim Press. You just can’t get a better sense of how good things are at Toyota than to listen to the stump speech delivered everywhere by the company’s U.S. sales chief, one car exec who seems to have a life beyond the boardroom and the walk-in humidor.
Press, and Toyota in general, have moved light-years beyond their timid talk of the 1980s and even the 1990s. The crowing at today’s Tundra press conference about being bigger and better sounded as if all the confidence drained from GM has filled its California counterpart’s coffers. And Press’ casual references to the President’s State of the Union address and to “what we can do as an industry” in Chicago were all the more striking since not once did he refer to Toyota as a Japanese company.
Press gets it. His ambassadorship isn’t all hubris and no charm. He’s funny — when was the last time you heard Bill Ford crack jokes in his keynote address? — and clearly is up on the cultural stuff. He’s engaged in speeches, not dispassionate. You get the sense he knows what an iPod is when he talks about the “iPodding of America.” And by our count, he’s the first car exec to lay claim to “Gen Z” buyers — though we do have a problem with his glaring omission of Gen Xers from the Toyota sales bullseye. What, are we dead to you, Jim?