How The First Toyota Dealer In Florida Was Born Of Desperation And Fought Stereotypes To Survive

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One of Robert Zinn’s earliest memories is of riding around in the back with his two older brothers in a boxy economy car his father was trying to sell. The big sign mounted on the roof read “30 MPG,” but it was 1965 and gas was cheap, so nobody gave a damn. It was a perilous start to their father’s new business: selling cars in America from this relatively obscure Japanese company called Toyota.

It’s almost impossible to have a day where you go outside and you don’t see some kind of Toyota. They’re everywhere. A Toyota has been America’s best-selling car for over 10 years. The company has six manufacturing plants in the U.S. alone, and thousands of dealerships across the nation selling its cars. It, General Motors and Volkswagen are always vying to be the world’s largest automaker.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Toyota opened its very first dealership in the U.S. in Hollywood, California, on Oc. 31, 1957, with the charge into the American market headed up by Shotaro Kamiya, Toyota’s president of motor sales, as noted by Hemmings. In the mid-1950s, the company sent a few cars over to test on our roads in order to work out a plan to sell them here.
https://jalopnik.com/how-the-first-toyota-dealer-in-florida-was-born-of-desp-1820984268

Interesting story about one of Toyota's Florida dealers, the Zinn family.
 

mmcartalk

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Interesting post.

The idea, though, that gas was cheap back then, so no one cared about mileage, is a little overplayed. I remember my late father, who always cared about mileage...he was a firm believer in the Plymouth/Dodge Slant Six engine for its durability and economy.

Anyhow, as far as Asian cars went, back in those days, the term "Made in Japan" was considered a joke.....often for good reason. Thirty years later, of course, "Made in Korea", with the first Hyundais, Kias, and Daewoos, became an equal joke.....and both, of course, were eventually proved wrong with time. But there is no question that, by American standards at least, the first Toyopets sold here in the 1950s, and the first Hyundais in the 1980s, were, in fact, quite sub-standard. I wasn't old enough to drive when the first Toyopets came here...but, of course, I did sample the first Hyundai Excel in 1987. I found it one of the two worst new cars I had ever sampled......the other being the Pontiac Fiero and its notoriously bad build quality. The Excel, though lacking, wasn't quite as bad as the Fiero in the build-quality department, but it drove like a toy, and, with the A/C on, wouldn't get out of its own way (for those of you who are wondering, no, I never sampled a Yugo, which may have been even worse). The Smart-for-Two was even worse-driving than the Excel, but was, at least, reasonably well-screwed together.

Ten years or so after the Toyopets were first introduced, Toyota had made notable improvements in the quality of their vehicles, and a high-school friend of mine had a brand-new, first-generation, late-60s Corolla that seemed very well-built and tightly screwed-together....more so than most American cars of the time. Our friends laughed at it, but it was dependable, economical, and rarely malfunctioned. My friend always used to say....."Sure beats walking". ;)
 
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Bulldog 1

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A very educational piece. I always thought Jim Moran, founder of the J.M. Lexus empire was behind all this, but he was actually the Southeast Toyota distributor. Nice to know the Zinn family were the first dealer. I worked for Craig for a stint at the Pembroke Pines Lexus location. Do my business now at his other store, Lexus of North Miami. Got tired of the sinking, subpar experience that has invaded J.M. as of late.
Zinn's other claim to current fame is their Lamborghini Broward, which was recently voted the Number One Dealership in the U.S. to work for. It hosts an amazing event once a month called Supercar Saturday, where millions of dollars of exotics come out of their humidity controlled garages and allow the public the chance to ogle and breath in what a million dollar car feels like. Craig Zinn usually shows up with something from his personal collection to brother Warren's soire. They actually own quite a few different franchises throughout the State of Florida including Range Rover, Audi, Acura, Lexus and I may be missing something somewhere...
 
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A very educational piece. I always thought Jim Moran, founder of the J.M. Lexus empire was behind all this, but he was actually the Southeast Toyota distributor. Nice to know the Zinn family were the first dealer. I worked for Craig for a stint at the Pembroke Pines Lexus location. Do my business now at his other store, Lexus of North Miami. Got tired of the sinking, subpar experience that has invaded J.M. as of late.
Zinn's other claim to current fame is their Lamborghini Broward, which was recently voted the Number One Dealership in the U.S. to work for. It hosts an amazing event once a month called Supercar Saturday, where millions of dollars of exotics come out of their humidity controlled garages and allow the public the chance to ogle and breath in what a million dollar car feels like. Craig Zinn usually shows up with something from his personal collection to brother Warren's soire. They actually own quite a few different franchises throughout the State of Florida including Range Rover, Audi, Acura, Lexus and I may be missing something somewhere...
Craig owns Subaru and Acura franchises in the area; Lambo Broward is owned by his brother Warren Henry's dealer group. I didn't realize that Toyota of Hollywood was Craig's too. When I drove through Hollywood, SR7 was all beat up back in May going past it.

http://www.czgroup.com/dealership/about.htm
 
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