Bob McKamey was so captivated by the sound of a Toyota Corolla’s door shutting that he founded the first Toyota dealership in Tennessee in 1966. The franchise cost him $1,875, and the 21 Toyotas he purchased cost $1,485 each. At first, customers, especially war veterans, were hesitant to invest in Japanese-made cars that differed wildly from autos from Detroit. But, the quality of the vehicles changed minds.
The success of Capital Toyota, which sustains as the only Toyota dealership in Chattanooga, wasn’t just due to the incredible lineup of new and used cars it sold. The dedicated staff, under the inspired leadership of McKamey, propelled Capital Toyota to earn the respect of its customers and hit multiple milestones. These milestones included being the first Toyota dealership to sell 100 Toyota vehicles in one month across 14 mid-America states and the first Toyota dealer to sell 100 trucks to the U.S. government.
McKamey stretched his leadership skills as founding director of the Toyota Dealer Advertising Board, and in organizations including the Toyota National Council, Toyota Dealer Council, the Cincinnati Regional Dealer Advisory Board, the Chattanooga Automobile Dealers Association and the American International Automobile Dealers Association. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Toyota Finance Company, which is now the Toyota Motor Credit Company.
Through every success, milestone, and expansion, McKamey had the support of his team. These employees were treated like family, and so became a family. Some started with McKamey on day one and worked with him for more than 20 years.
In addition to McKamey’s dedication to his staff, growing Capital Toyota, and improving trade negotiations with Japan, he was also dedicated to his community. He and his family founded the McKamey Animal Center, which provides a compassionate shelter for animals, medical services for pets and educational programs for the community. He was also the largest private donor in Tennessee to the March of Dimes as well as supported the American Cancer Society and Toys for Tots.
Throughout his career and through his philanthropic work, Bob McKamey made an indelible mark on the world that will live on forever.
--Robert (Bob) Gerald McKamey - a son of Chattanooga - died on January 8, 2019.