Why Toyota’s Bob Carter, ‘passionate’ dealer champion, is retiring

At a personal level, Carter’s timing is understandable. He said he and Jane are expecting their first grandchild in November, and before that, they plan to head off to Bora Bora and the Galapagos Islands. They also plan to spend this summer traveling across Canada. “We’ve got a pretty packed schedule over the next four months,” said Carter, who will continue to make his home — and keep his garage — in Texas.

“There’s so much in this business that has changed and evolved, and that’s good, but there are a lot of key foundations that haven’t changed,” he said. “This business is really about only two things: It’s about product, and it’s about people. And a big part of my life has been the dealer organization and the retail organization.”

Jim Lentz, whom Carter succeeded, told Automotive News: “Bob has been a staunch dealer advocate, product and motorsports enthusiast and a passionate leader for 41 years with Toyota. His legacy is permanently etched into the cultural fabric of Toyota, and his philosophy of ‘people and products first’ remains as evergreen today as when he started in the business. I will be forever grateful for his role as a change agent, his commitment to the company and his support to help shape the future of Toyota and the industry.”

Carter, who began his career with Toyota as a warranty processor near his home in western Pennsylvania, said the “biggest differentiator of our brands is the relationship we have with our dealers, and the service and the representation they provide in their local communities is second to none.”

He would be in a position to know. Carter frequented Toyota and later Lexus dealerships. He predicted that the collaborative culture that has consistently put the Toyota and Lexus brands atop NADA’s Dealer Attitude Survey will continue unabated, even as it evolves and is enhanced.

“The people behind me, they’ve all grown up in this organization. They understand the philosophy and the connection to retail,” said Carter. “So I feel really good [about leaving now]. Some of these folks already have 20 or 25 years in with the company.”

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