Volkswagen and Toyota Brands Slug It Out Everywhere But the Super Bowl

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VW vs. Toyota

There will be a plenty of competition among auto brands advertising in the Super Bowl including Hyundai, Kia, Honda, Buick and Mercedes-Benz.

But the world’s two biggest car brands—Toyota and Volkswagen—won’t be represented in the Big Game. Instead, they’ll keep duking it out for what is arguably an even more important prize than the glare of the Super Bowl: the title of world’s best-selling automaker.

Interestingly, both the Toyota-owned luxury brand Lexus and Volkswagen’s Audi premium brand will be advertisers in Super Bowl LI. Volkswagen still has lots of image repair to do in the wake of Dieselgate before its brand is ready for the Big Game stage again, while the product launch cadence didn’t fit for Toyota to be in the Super Bowl this year as it often has been.

But VW and Toyota are slugging it out everywhere else. Volkswagen AG, as a total manufacturer and stable of many brands, narrowly beat out Toyota—including all of its brands—in 2016 global sales. Volkswagen hit 10.3 million vehicles (up 3.8 percent from the year before) while Toyota hit 10.2 million (up only 0.2 percent), which is why Toyota lost its crown to Volkswagen. Lackluster late-2o16 sales in the crucial US market didn’t help Toyota.

When it comes to individual brands, Toyota is still by far the largest, selling 8.5 million passenger and commercial vehicles under its main brand last year compared with just 6.5 million with the VW logo.

Toyota continues to push the envelope with all sorts of marketing that isn’t Super Bowl advertising, such as its outreach to American Hispanic Toyota owners with something called The Book of Names, a limited-edition, hard-cover illustrated publication.

The book contains thousands of monikers that have been shared by Toyota owners with the brand during its Mas Que Un Auto (“more than a car”) loyalty campaign, which taps into the special predilection of many Hispanic owners to name their cars. “Pinata,” “Gorilla,” “Magic Bus” and “Rocker” are among the names that Toyota collected in the book, which also features charming stories and fun facts behind some of the most popular “given names” for individual Toyota vehicles.

“The Book of Names represents an enduring tribute to the loyalty and spirit of Hispanic owners and Toyota’s genuine appreciation for them,” said Mia Phillips, Toyota’s national manager for brand multicultural and crossline marketing strategy, in a press release.

A “live” version of the book online also features in-person readings by actress Rosario Dawson and TV hosts, actresses and editors, and a special performance by Grammy-award-winning band La Santa Cecilia and top US disc jockey Alex Sensation. Guests can also order their own personalized badge and add their unique car-naming story and photo.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen is relying on new technology as an important way to sharpen its competitive position relative to Toyota and other brands, including experimentation with a head’s-up display that is enhanced by augmented reality in a new all-electric concept car.

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