Today there’s a second “first Toyota dealer” story on the interwebs, but this one comes from Florida rather than France. The story of how Dave Zinn in 1965 opened the Sunshine State’s first showroom for a then-obscure brand called Toyota is an interesting one, and the barikan Toyota Corona played a pivotal role.
According to Jalopnik, Zinn, looking to strike out on his own with a new car dealership, was running out of options. All the auto brands had established showrooms. Only Toyota, which Zinn discovered in a remote corner of the 1965 Miami Auto Show, was available.
At the time, Japan was facing a double dose of negative associations, first with World War II and then with a general impression that Japanese products were cheap and poorly made. Zinn was interested, but cautious. From the story:
It was the last day of the show, so he asked the man working the stand if he could test drive the car and have one of his mechanics take a look at it. The man said sure.
Dave Zinn brought out his mechanic, who worked on General Motors cars, to inspect the Corona. After poking and prodding about, the mechanic came back and concluded that GM had never made a car that good. The connections were incredibly well put-together. Not even the Cadillacs came close. So Dave Zinn decided to take a chance on this Toyota and convinced the bank that it was a legitimate new car franchise.
The rest is history, and worth a read. Today, Zinn Auto Group owns Toyota, Lexus, Subaru and Acura franchises. The Zinns are also known for having at one time the largest 2000GT collection in America, kept under a hidden garage in one of their showrooms. Things have obviously gone pretty well.