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Few car dealerships have as much history as Toyota of Hollywood, which is located at the site of the original headquarters of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., founded on October 31, 1957.
Today, Toyota is among the top 10 largest companies in the world, and one of the top automobile manufacturers in the United States. In the beginning, its headquarters were located in space leased in a former Ford Dealership that is now Toyota of Hollywood at 6000 Hollywood Blvd. The company’s legacy in America began with two Toyota Toyopet sedans that were shipped over from Japan to test whether consumers would be interested in the vehicles. By 1958, Toyota Motor Distributors was founded, 45 dealerships — including Toyota of Hollywood — had been established, and 288 Toyotas were sold in the United States.
The company’s first vehicle offered commercially in America was the Toyopet Crown, which sold for around $2,300. The following year, sales reached 1,028, and nearly 100 dealers had signed on. Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor posed with a Toyopet Crown at the Los Angeles Auto Show that year, and Toyota was on its way to becoming a household name.
“It was the first franchised Toyota dealership in North America,” said Don Mushin, general manager of Toyota of Hollywood. “We have been part of the Hollywood community for over fifty years, and are proud of the history we have here.”
Toyotas sales skyrocketed in the 1960s, bolstered by vehicles such as the Land Cruiser, Corona, Stout (Toyota’s first pick-up), and the Corolla, which was introduced in 1968. By 1970, Toyota offered 14 models, and new vehicle sales surpassed 200,000. The company continued to grow, with new models being offered in the 1970s such as the Celica, as well as new versions of the Corolla. In 1978, Toyota became number one in import truck sales, and by 1986, Toyota became the first foreign automaker to sell more than 1 million vehicles in the United States. Mushin said some of the other milestones included the introduction of the Toyota Camry in 1989, and the introduction of the Prius in 2004. Toyota of Hollywood is the number one Prius dealer in the world, selling approximately 125 to 150 each month.
Mushin said the dealership’s location in Hollywood, where many people are environmentally-conscious, drives the high number of Prius sales. He said the vehicles are loaned for events such as the Academy Awards and The Grammy Awards, and the company sells the Priuses to Zipcar, a company that offers local vehicle rentals by the hour.
Hollywood Toyota has family-oriented environment, with its staff of approximately 130 employees, many of whom have been with the company for decades. Mushin also said it is not uncommon for several generations of one family to purchase their Toyotas from the dealership.
“At a lot of dealerships, when they see people outside, they are ready to pounce on you. We are a little more casual, but we are very process-oriented. Every customer who comes in meets one of my managers, and if they are not ready to buy, somebody will follow up,” Mushin added. “That’s the reason our volume is so high. It’s a very family-friendly environment. There is a real easy sales process.”
In addition, Toyota of Hollywood has a complete automotive service department, which offers a wide range of monthly specials.
Mike Sullivan, the owner of the L.A. Car Guy, of which Toyota of Hollywood is a subsidiary, said he is extremely proud to be part of the Toyota legacy. Sullivan said his father was the general manager at the former Ford dealership at the site in the late 1950s, and he remembers visiting the dealership when he was a child. Sullivan has owned Toyota of Hollywood for the past 14 years, and said while things have changed since the beginning, the commitment to offering a quality product at a reasonable price remains. Sullivan said he plans to build a new sales and service facility on the property within the next three years, and said the dealership will remain a part of the Hollywood community for years to come.
“I’m proud of the dealership, and we are working on plans right now,” Sullivan said. “We stay very involved, it’s just a natural.”
Mushin added that he also stays very involved in the local community, and works closely with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and Hollywood Property Owners Alliance to improve the surrounding neighborhood. A future project that the dealership will be involved with is a plan to distribute paint that has been donated to clean-up some of the storefronts along Hollywood Boulevard.
“We are in the planning stages, but are looking for property owners who want to participate,” Mushin added. “We are part of the community, and we are committed to making it better.”
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