When Mario Toyotoshi’s father launched an automotive business in Asunción, Paraguay, in the late 1960s, he had nothing more than his name and the promise to accomplish something great. Today, the company has grown into 14 different operating companies by adhering to its key values: trust, care, and growth. Here’s a look at some of the stats surrounding Toyotoshi’s impressive story.
Initially a Honda distributor, Toyotoshi Group was the only dealership in Paraguay when Mario Toyotoshi’s father founded the company in 1969. “By which I mean [a] one-car showroom with three people in it,” says Toyotoshi, who today serves as president and CEO. Since then, the family business has grown to 14 different operating companies, all started by his father, brother, and Toyotoshi himself.
In 2004, 35 years after the company’s founding, Toyotoshi Group moved to Canada. “We wanted to diversify our business and looked at both Australia and Canada, but Canada seemed better aligned with our skill set,” Toyotoshi says. That same year, the family acquired a Toyota dealership and a Honda dealership—both in Mississauga, Ontario, under the Toyotoshi Group Canada name. “Going into a new country, with no established reputation as we had in Paraguay, was the first challenge,” Toyotoshi says.
“Implementation comes down to how managers are leading from the bottom up, which is very different from traditional car-dealership management.”
Since establishing itself in Canada, the company has opened four additional locations. Two new locations in Mississauga were created—a Toyota dealership and a Kia dealership. Then two existing locations were acquired—another Toyota dealership and a Lexus dealership—in Québec City.
Today, the company is the largest Toyota dealer in the country, as measured by new cars sold. “We’ve been successful because of our human element,” Toyotoshi says. “We’re still a young organization in Canada, having celebrated our 10th anniversary in 2014, but from the beginning we’ve worked hard to establish a fast-paced entrepreneurial environment and to build a strong leadership team.”
Since the inception of Toyotoshi Group in 1969, the company has adhered to three core values, displayed in its motto: “Driven to trust, we care, and we grow.” When the organization started—both in 1969 in Asunción and 2004 in Canada—it had nothing more than its name and the promise to accomplish something. “That’s a weak place to start from, so we ensure that we don’t fail to deliver on any promise, whether it’s made to the manufacturer, customer, or employee,” Toyotoshi says. Meanwhile, caring speaks to how well the company shows true empathy by spending time developing its own people and helping the community. Both trust and caring lead to growth, not just from the corporate perspective, but also on an individual level.
2 years in a row
Toyotoshi Group Canada was recognized, for the second year in a row, as one of the Best Workplaces in Canada by the Great Place to Work Institute in 2014. “We got involved with the Great Place to Work Institute because we wanted to know where we were, not in terms of ranking, but in terms of organizational culture,” Toyotoshi says. “It’s a barometer of our progress.” The company was the only automotive dealer group to receive the award, which recognized the best 100 workplaces in Canada out of 300 nominees. According to Toyotoshi, that is the result of the company’s culture, which is unique within the automotive sector. The company offers full-time employees paid personal days and birthdays off, and it hosts a number of community events, such as drive-in theatre nights.
Thanks to lean practices, a service that used to take a couple of hours now only takes 45 minutes. “The idea has been around since the 1950s, when Toyota developed the lean production system, so it’s a well-established philosophy, and it’s worked well,” Toyotoshi says. “For us, Toyotoshi Group Canada, the implementation comes down to how managers are leading from the bottom up, which is very different from traditional car-dealership management, which is very top down. That kind of environment enables lean practices to succeed.”
Toyotoshi Group Canada has generally followed the industry in regard to marketing practices, but recently the company has branched out, advertising the difference its lean service makes for customers. At Ideal Honda, one of its locations in Mississauga, the company has launched B SYNC, a program created to save customers time while not compromising quality of service. “We’ve been promoting what the time reduction means for them,” Toyotoshi says.“Essentially, they don’t have to break apart their schedules for the day and wait around just to service their vehicles.” It’s endeavours like this that are helping keep the company not only relevant but successful both now and well into the future.