Bloomberg News

SMAP Pop Star Stays in Toyota Ads After License Suspended

March 15, 2012

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), Japan’s biggest carmaker, said it will continue using SMAP singer Takuya Kimura in its advertising even after the pop star was suspended from driving after speeding offenses.

“It’s unfortunate,” Amiko Tomita, a spokeswoman for the carmaker, said today. “We strongly hope he follows road rules,” she said, declining to comment further.

The 39-year-old celebrity known by his fans as Kimutaku appeared in TV and print ads for the Corolla Fielder and “ReBorn” campaigns from October, according to Toyota. Kimura was fined for exceeding the speed limit by 20 kilometers per hour (12 miles per hour) on a freeway in Chiba prefecture last September, and again on a Tokyo road in January, said Tsugio Yada, a lawyer for Kimura’s agency.

The Toyota City, Japan-based maker of Corollas and Camry sedans is forecasting its global auto sales to increase 21 percent to 9.58 million units this year. Toyota is trying to regain market share after being outsold by General Motors Co. (GM) and Volkswagen AG (VOW) last year.

“Japanese companies tend to be relaxed about the conduct of celebrities, even if they’re strict on their own company’s compliance,” Satoru Ashiya, a Tokyo-based economist, said by phone today. “It’s important for carmakers to promote safe driving. This may have a negative impact on their reputation.”

Kimura was suspended from driving for either 30 or 60 days, according to Yada. The lawyer said he didn’t know when the suspension started or how much the fine was.

To contact the reporters on this story: Anna Mukai in Tokyo at amukai1@bloomberg.net; Masatsugu Horie in Osaka at mhorie3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net


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