When independence re-turned in 1991, the words "automobile" and "prestige" and "reliability" were synonymous with Germany. This was so ingrained in the local mentality that car dealers specializing in Japanese brands had to fight an agonizing uphill battle.
A decade has gone by, however, and now these dealers find themselves on top. "All the credit for the performance of Toyotas in the Baltics goes to the Toyota Corporation of Japan," says Alexander Oskin, manager of the Wess auto salon. What the locals did was create the image of reliability and quality that are synonymous with Toyota. The way the salesmen did this, Oskin explains, was to point out to consumers where their video recorders and television sets were from. The answer 's the land of the rising sun 's was enough to sway skeptical car buyers that it was worth having some of the Japanese technology in their garage as well as their living room. As a result, Toyotas have been the most popular car in Latvia for four years running, and in Oskin's opinion, they will continue to be in first for a long, long time.