With more than a decade at the helm of sales and marketing initiatives at Toyota Financial Services, Group Vice President Karen Ideno has been instrumental in developing and growing the TFS brand. In turn, Ideno’s appointment this year to oversee the captive’s newly created Mazda Financial Services business was a natural fit.
In her new role, Ideno is responsible for Mazda Financial Services’ sales and marketing activities, product development, market planning, branding, remarketing, analytics, insurance, and operations functions. She reports to Pete Carey, TFS group vice president and president of Mazda Financial.
With 550 dealers nationwide, Mazda North American Operations reported an 8.2% sales decline — to 252,061 vehicles — through November 2019. “Currently, we’re focused on assembling a top-tier salesforce to support Mazda dealer needs, and we’re preparing to deploy innovative technology solutions in advance of our launch in April,” Ideno said. “We’re already providing wholesale financing solutions since that was an area where some dealers had immediate needs.”
Ideno, who joined TFS in 2006, took the reins of marketing strategy during the launch of ToyotaFinancial.com and the captive’s corporate social responsibility function. Additionally, her experience includes leading Lexus Financial Services’ sales and marketing planning and product development.
TFS — which boasts a $92 billion portfolio, according to Big Wheels data — had announced in August 2019 that it would serve as Mazda’s private-label finance provider, taking over for Chase Auto, which has served as Mazda’s financial arm under Mazda Capital Services since 2010.
When the nation’s largest auto financier entered third-party financial services via a private-label finance agreement with Mazda — the competitive atmosphere of the auto finance market thickened. As the newest player in the private-label financing space, TFS is competing with big banks like Santander Consumer USA, TD Auto Finance and Chase Auto, whose books of business range from $22 billion to $82 billion.
Yet, the captive’s move toward providing private-label financing for third-party auto lenders is a natural extension of its business. Ideno shared with Auto Finance News her primary focus on Toyota’s newest brand and her expectations for the sales landscape in 2020.
What follows is an edited version of Ideno’s conversation with AFN.
Auto Finance News: What strategies or tools are you investing in to expand the Mazda Financial Services business?
Karen Ideno: As we developed our proposal to provide services to Mazda, we spent a lot of time with them to really understand their needs. We then tailored the creation of Mazda Financial Services to support Mazda North America and the Mazda dealers.
As such, we’ve developed a customized private-label solution that leverages Toyota Financial Services’ core originations, servicing, and data and analytics competencies as well as the Toyota Financial Savings Bank operation in Nevada. We’re dedicated to creating an organization that supports Mazda sales and delivers an exceptional customer and dealer experience that drives customer loyalty.
AFN: How do you plan to deliver that exceptional experience?
KI: To create the exceptional customer and dealer experience that drives loyalty for Mazda, we have to fully support the Mazda brand. As Mazda delivers a premium experience for customers, Mazda Financial Services must also support dealers and the brand by ensuring our products and positioning reinforce that same feel and level of service.
So, it’s important for us to have a team at Mazda Financial Services that’s highly capable and skilled in both dealer and customer relations. As we’re setting up Mazda Financial Services operations, we’re drawing upon the team’s deep knowledge and expertise.
AFN: How are the marketing needs different for Mazda vehicles versus Toyota vehicles?
KI: Mazda’s brand positioning, customer expectations and dealer needs are unique from all other automakers in the market. In order to create appropriate products and services, the MFS leadership team has worked closely with Mazda North America to understand and embody their brand and their strategic business objectives to support their customers and dealers. Importantly, MFS has a separate, dedicated salesforce exclusively for Mazda that is laser-focused on meeting the needs of Mazda dealers and reinforcing the customer brand experience.
AFN: What innovative technology solutions are on the radar prior to the April launch?
KI: We’re partnering with RouteOne and many other critical business partners that are helping us create the appropriate technical solutions that will meet the unique needs of Mazda. We’ve just embarked on a dealer-enrollment project to get Mazda dealers onto the systems we’ll be using when we start operations on April 1.
AFN: What headwinds are on your radar from a sales, product and marketing perspective?
KI: 2020 is shaping up to be a highly competitive vehicle sales environment. That means our ability to provide the finance and insurance solutions that meet and exceed customer expectations is more important than ever in supporting sales. To ensure the success of Mazda dealers, we’re working closely with Mazda North America and Mazda dealers to develop products and programs that will really resonate in the market to drive sales and create brand loyalty.
AFN: What do you think is the most underrated sales and marketing strategy in auto finance?
KI: We’ve found that there can be no longterm success without ensuring that our dealer partners succeed. Taking the time to build relationships with dealers, understand their needs and provide appropriate solutions that support their profitability while caring for their customers is critical.
AFN: What are your sales and marketing priorities for 2020?
KI: My focus is exclusively on ensuring that Mazda Financial Services successfully launches on April 1 and immediately begins delivering value to Mazda North America and Mazda dealers. Once our retail finance and insurance products are up and running, we’ll closely monitor their ability to drive sales, add value to dealers, and promote customer loyalty. We’ll then adjust our programs and processes as needed.