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When it All Began

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Toyota Motor Sales President Shotaro Kamiya (seated, left) and Jim Moran sign the distributorship agreement at the Bank of Tokyo in Japan.

After an unsuccessful attempt to enter the U.S. market in the late 1950s, Toyota came back to America in the early 1960s and was establishing a very small foothold. In South Florida, there was only one Toyota dealership and it sold just five or six cars a month. A friend in Chicago told Jim Moran that Toyota was looking for a distributor in the Southeast and was interested in talking with him. Although he was unfamiliar with Toyota vehicles, after he had an opportunity to perform a rigorous test drive of a 1968 Corona RT-52 Coupé, he was so impressed with the quality and performance that he believed Toyota could revolutionize auto retailing in America. Mr. Seisi Kato, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, asked Jim Moran what turned out to be the critical question: "What would you do Moran-san, if I shipped you ten thousand cars?" He replied with the only answer he could think of: "I’d sell them." Jim Moran signed the franchise agreement in Tokyo, Japan on October 26, 1968, establishing Southeast Toyota Distributors and becoming the exclusive distributor of Toyota vehicles in the southeastern United States.