Driving Force: Ken Mills Toyota

Image source: Photographer Megan Gill

In a rapidly changing landscape there’s comfort, confidence and trust in a proven brand to steer us into the future. John Caruso buckles up for what’s next in the automotive industry.

Toyota is one of the most trusted, reputable, and reliable car makers globally so when the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Brett Mills arose, I jumped at the chance to take a deep dive into the famous Toyota brand and the road ahead for motorists.

“It’s nice in a community like this to sell a car that when the customer takes delivery of it, you shake their hand and you’re probably not going to see them again until they come in for a service or they want to trade it,” says Brett, Dealer Principal for Ken Mills Toyota.

It’s true, my Toyota Corolla hybrid is notching up 280,000 kms since I bought it 12 years ago and I’m not looking to replace it anytime soon – although the new bZ4X EV has sparked my interest!

Brett’s dad, Ken, originally ran the Gympie Toyota dealership and in 1993 bought the Kingaroy dealership.

While studying at university, Brett worked in the Kingaroy business before moving to Sydney as National Dealer Planning Manager for Toyota. This provided him with a clear understanding of how the dealer network and manufacturing and supply elements of the global business operated.

In 2002, at age 27, Brett became Australia’s youngest Toyota dealer when the family took over the dealerships in Maroochydore and Nambour.

“Joining the family business wasn’t planned however I’ve always had a real inkling for it, and was excited to be involved,” Brett said.

Brett said the future direction for car manufacturers on a mass market level in terms of Electric Vehicles (EV), hydrogen or hybrid; not to mention self-drive or autonomous, was an interesting space.

“There are early adopters – and we saw that when Toyota introduced the Prius in 2001 – there are also realists who support the idea of lowering emissions, however they’re waiting for solutions that don’t compromise what they most want out of a car – power, and range,” he said. “Toyota’s approach is to take a multi-path strategy. We know from our hybrid experience with the Prius that until we can get reasonable price parity and overcome the negative perceptions, achieving mass market acceptance for EVs will be an interesting journey.

“Electric cars are really cool – super powerful, great to drive and quiet, however, globally we’re seeing that resale values can be low.

“To address this Toyota’s first EV, the bZ4X can be purchased on a full-service lease, meaning Toyota will guarantee the value of that car at the end of the lease if you want to trade it in,. This provides protection for the consumer and reduces uncertainty over resale values.

“It’s a RAV4 sized SUV available in two-wheel and all-wheel drive and if you put your foot down, it has a lot of power off the mark, with about 450 to 500 kilometres on a full charge.”

Brett said the high spec version of the bZ4X was around $66,000, with the top-of-the-line model in the mid-seventies, plus on road costs.

“I’m excited about owning and driving an EV and to better understand it from the consumer’s perspective,” he says. “There are buyers who’ve been waiting for Toyota to release an EV to give them confidence and providing the full-service lease removes the resale risk.”

Along with his role as dealer principal for Ken Mills Toyota, Brett is also Chairman of the National Toyota Dealer Association, an independent body representing dealers and working closely with Toyota at a senior level to improve customer experience, brand strength and have complex conversations.

“The relationship that the Association has with Toyota Australia is envied in the motoring industry,” he says. “It makes us all winners, including the customer.”

As the motoring landscape changes, dealerships and the people that run them are also moving with the times.

“The learning curve never ends; you must continuously evolve,” he says. “In my Dad’s day it was all about growing market share from Commodores and Falcons so he had fun with aggressive strategies and incentives to sell as many cars as possible.

“Now the Australian market has matured and we only sell 1.2 million new cars a year with limited growth, so we must be more efficient in how we operate. In the past, most dealer principals were salesmen; now there’s accountants, economists and lawyers running complex businesses.”

With a focus on understanding consumer needs and a multi-pronged approach to new technology, it’s clear that Toyota is not just along for the ride, they will continue to be a driving force for the exciting journey ahead.

WANT MORE? Download the full interview with Brett Mills from our podcast.

About the Author /

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After 30 years in radio, John now runs the Conversations IN Noosa podcast and in between being our writer, sanity checker, accounts manager, event MC, and delivery boy; he spends time with his first love, recording a daily Drive program for regional radio from home (often in his pyjamas); and presenting Saturday mornings on Hot 91.1. He has previously worked for FoxFM Melbourne, Triple M Brisbane and SeaFM, as well as managing and presenting on ABC Sunshine Coast.

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