What Is Southeast Toyota Distributors?

Toyota's largest independent vehicle distributor invented the Toyotathon.

Southeast Toyota Distributors Toyota

Article QuickTakes:

When a company that builds vehicles overseas needs a partner to get its cars, trucks, and SUVs into dealerships, it turns to a distributor. Because vehicles can't just roll off the boat and into the showroom, distributors handle all of the logistics at the port of entry, and then arrange transportation for each automobile to the network of dealers, keeping a steady supply of product moving through the pipeline.

Some distributors focus on specific geographical regions, while others integrate with any domestic production that might exist to complement cars coming in from overseas. Here's a deeper dive into one of the biggest and most successful vehicle distributors in the United States: Southeast Toyota Distributors.

What Is Southeast Toyota Distributors?

Southeast Toyota Distributors handles the logistics of distributing Toyota and Lexus vehicles to 177 dealerships spread out over five states. The company, which operates in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, is responsible for about 20% of Toyota's sold each year in the United States, and nearly 25% sold in 2021.

Southeast Toyota Distributors sometimes installs post-production accessories, such as roof racks or floor mats. If these items are installed on a vehicle, they're listed on a window sticker addendum.

A Brief History of Southeast Toyota Distributors

Jim Moran founded Southeast Toyota Distributors in 1968. At the end of World War II, he made the transition from owning a small gas station in Chicago to selling cars. Moran grew his dealership interests and demonstrated an early aptitude for show business by tying his car sales to television and movie productions as a form of promotion. It was these innovations that attracted Toyota to Moran when seeking U.S. distribution for its small line of cars.

It didn't take long for Moran to work his sales magic with Toyota just as he had with domestic brands beforehand. Within a year the distributor was partnered with 42 dealers, a number that would nearly double in the next year. At the beginning of the 1980s, Moran's pioneering work with Toyota was credited with helping the company outsell another import upstart, Volkswagen, thanks in large part to Southeast Toyota Distributors servicing more than 150 dealerships.

Jim Moran's leadership of Southeast Toyota Distributors is also notable for introducing the country to the “Toyotathon” sales promotion, which began in 1976 and eventually became not just a national sales strategy for Toyota, but also an enduring piece of pop culture.

How Big Is Southeast Toyota Distributors?

In 2021, Southeast Toyota Distributors handled nearly 25% of Toyota's sales volume in the U.S. That translates into just under 500,000 vehicles sold in all of that year. In addition to bringing in vehicles from Toyota's Japanese factories, a full three-quarters of those automobiles were built in the United States. Altogether, Southeast Toyota Distributors isn't just the largest independent Toyota distributor in the world, but it's also responsible for more Toyota Certified Pre-Owned vehicle sales than any other region in the country.

This site is for educational purposes only. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their opinions, products and services. Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The information presented in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change. The images shown are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.
author photo
Benjamin Hunting
Benjamin Hunting is a writer and podcast host who contributes to a number of newspapers, automotive magazines, and online publications. More than a decade into his career, he enjoys keeping the shiny side up during track days and always has one too many classic vehicle projects partially disassembled in his garage at any given time. Remember, if it's not leaking, it's probably empty.