Business

Hello, Toyota's president wants to be friends with you in China

Bloomberg

Akio Toyoda has opened an account on Weibo seeking to win friends in China, an uncommon social media presence for Toyota Motor Corp.’s boss.

Toyoda, 61, the president and chief executive officer of Asia’s biggest automaker, got more than 16,000 followers within hours of his post. China is Toyota’s third-largest market in terms of volume, behind the U.S. and Japan.

“Hello everyone, I’m Akio Toyoda and I’ve started using Sina Weibo,” read the solo entry on his account Wednesday, written in Chinese. “Starting today, I hope to become friends with everyone here.” He ended the message with a smiley face.

For Toyoda, who doesn’t have a presence on Twitter but does have an Instagram account, using the Chinese microblogging service is a departure from the norm for the heads of Japanese automakers, including Honda and Nissan. Just as in Japan, the bosses of German carmakers — Dieter Zetsche at Daimler AG and his Volkswagen AG counterpart Matthias Mueller — also haven’t embraced the 140-character tweet revolution. In the U.S., Mary Barra of GM has a Twitter account but Jim Hackett at Ford doesn’t.

A Toyota China spokesman said Toyoda chose to open the Weibo account to communicate with consumers in the country. Weibo is China’s biggest microblogging site, with 340 million monthly active users as of March.

Toyota’s sales in China rose 6.2 percent to 732,900 units in the first seven months of this year, the company said Wednesday, on track to beat last year’s full-year tally of 1.21 million vehicles.

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