In an article from The Detroit Bureau (“The Voice of the Automotive World” – although Crain’s Automotive News might take exception) the headline a couple days ago read:
The most ‘American’ car on the road? Toyota Camry.
For the second year in a row the Toyota Camry is the “most American” vehicle on U.S. roadways, according to Cars.com’s annual American-Made Index.
The index determines the most American vehicle based on factors such as American-made parts content, location of the final build and overall sales. In order to get on the list, vehicles must have at least 75% of their parts produced domestically.
This is the stumbling block for most vehicles. In fact, only eight vehicles made this year’s list, and five of the eight come from foreign nameplates. The last time an American vehicle topped the list was in 2014 when the Ford F-150 was top dog; however, less than 75% of its components are made in the U.S.
Reading this piece brought to mind a commercial I did back in the mid-1980’s, during the Reagan presidency, when “Buy American” was the rallying cry for so many domestic businesses and brands. Lots of businesses had signs in the windows and on their marquees and reader-boards exhorting customers to buy American-made products.
Enter Esselburn Toyota, our local Toyota dealership in Moscow, Idaho. It had been called College Place Toyota, but the Larry Miller group of Salt Lake City purchased it and sent one of their superstars, Ed Esselburn, to run it. In those days, they were selling as many Toyotas as they could get their hands on. Ed eventually purchased the dealership, ran it successfully for a number of years, then sold it and retired to pursue golf and other interests.
Ed was a fun guy to work with. We built a successful campaign around his “Crazy Eddie” persona – “Call me crazy, call me Eddie, or call me Crazy Eddie. Just call!” and he was a regular fixture on the local airwaves.
In 1986 Toyota was in the news because they were building a manufacturing plant in Kentucky. It occurred to me that it might be fun to try to “Americanize” the local Toyota dealership, and eventually I hit on the idea of having a local barbershop quartet sing a song about Esselburn Toyota. What could be more American-sounding than barbershop?! And one of its members happened to be the guy hosting our then-new radio auction program. So one evening I stayed up late, rewriting the lyrics to “Lida Rose” (a song popularized by the Buffalo Bills in the movie version of The Music Man), and brought the barbershop quartet in to record it at the radio station.
The result was this:
Corny? You betcha. But the irony of a barbershop quartet singing about a Japanese brand was not lost on the audience, and Esselburn Toyota got plenty of attention for it. Today, 30 years later, it seems a fitting reminiscence as we head into the Independence Day weekend.
Hope you have a safe and happy Fourth of July!
Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He became sales manager for the Pullman Radio Group in 1979 and served in that position until 2006. He continues to serve clients in the region as the stations’ senior account executive. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales, providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at PalousePics.com.