Hello, Toyota’s president wants to win China friends

BEIJING • Akio Toyoda opened an account on Weibo seeking to win over friends in China, an uncommon social media presence for the Toyota Motor Corp boss.

Toyoda, 61, the president and CEO 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 sales, behind the US and Japan.

“Hello everyone, I’m Akio Toyoda and I’ve started using Sina Weibo,” read the solo entry on his account, 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 has an Instagram account, opening an account on the Chinese micro-blogging service is a departure from the norm for the heads of Japanese automakers including Honda Motor Co Ltd and Nissan Motor Co Ltd. 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 Twitter.

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

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