Since first appearing on the roads of Colombia in 1959, Toyota vehicles have become iconic symbols of Japanese heritage in the country.

More than 60 years later, with consumer demand rising and prosperity growing, the Japanese car giant launched its high-end SUV Land Cruiser this year, a clear vote of confidence in the domestic market prospects.

It was in 1967 when the world’s second-largest vehicle maker selected Bogota-based Distoyota to become its exclusive distributor in Colombia. Adapting to global economic changes and industry trends, Toyota has lived up to its reputation for producing durable vehicles fitted with the latest technology. 

Following the acquisition of a 23 percent stake in state-owned carmaker Sofasa in 1989, Toyota rolled out locally assembled models in 1992 until the end of that partnership in 2008, when the Japanese giant formed Toyota de Colombia as the second authorized distributor in the country. Then, in another shift in strategy, it went into a joint venture with Distoyota called Automotores Toyota Colombia.

“My role as president of ATC goes beyond just strengthening Toyota’s presence in the country. It also involves acquiring deep knowledge of the local culture and a clear understanding of the Colombian market in order for us to implement the necessary actions to satisfy discriminating customers,” said ATC President Edge Egashira, a longtime employee of Toyota first sent to the country in 1991 to oversee its local production.

“The Colombian market for Toyota is very important because it is one of the brand’s oldest business partners in the region. In fact, Japan is the largest source of foreign investment from Asia-Pacific. The two countries hope to finalize and sign a free trade agreement before 2023,” added Egashira, who pointed out that the elimination of tariffs will make Japanese vehicles more affordable for the local consumer.

Following numerous assignments around the world, the Toyota executive returned to Colombia in 2017 on a mission to grow this market of 50 million consumers, majority of them happy to leave behind a tumultuous history and optimistic about the country’s long-term prospects.

Since starting the new position nearly three years ago, Egashira has seen sales nearly double and market share grow from 3.7 percent to 6.1 percent within one year. Toyota has become the most popular car brand among vehicle dealers across the country.

“Toyota’s dominance in all segments can only get better,” said Egashira, who plans to launch more accessible models, customer loyalty programs and corporate social responsibility activities in Colombia.