SMAP speeder to stay in Toyota ads


Toyota Motor Corp. said it will continue using SMAP singer Takuya Kimura in its advertising campaign even after the pop star was suspended from driving for speeding.

“It’s unfortunate,” Amiko Tomita, a spokeswoman for the carmaker, said Thursday. “We strongly hope he follows road rules,” she added, declining further comment.

The 39-year-old celebrity, known to his fans as “Kimutaku,” appeared in TV and print ads for the Corolla Fielder and ReBorn campaigns from October, according to Toyota.

Kimura was fined for exceeding the speed limit by 20 kph on a freeway in Chiba Prefecture last September, and again on a Tokyo road in January, said Tsugio Yada, a lawyer for Kimura’s agency.

“Japanese companies tend to be relaxed about the conduct of celebrities, even if they’re strict on their own company’s compliance,” said Satoru Ashiya, a Tokyo-based economist. “It’s important for carmakers to promote safe driving. This may have a negative impact on their reputation.”