Michael Dee, a New York police officer of 20 years, joined tens of thousands of Americans in buying a new Toyota Camry earlier this year. This otherwise unremarkable transaction turned out to be a milestone of sorts — the 50 millionth car Toyota has sold in the United States since it opened its first dealership in Hollywood, Calif., in 1958.
To mark that rollover of its odometer, Toyota executives decided to surprise Dee at his home in suburban New York. With some help from Dee's family, Toyota's U.S. sales chief Bill Fay got some balloons, put on his best suit and strolled into Dee's backyard barbecue with a couple of gifts, including something shiny parked in Dee's driveway. Yes, it's a bit of a marketing ploy, but no company gets 50 million customers without knowing how to make them happy.