- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 10, 2006

Robert B. McCurry Jr., former captain of the Michigan State University football team and an auto executive who introduced rebates as a sales incentive, died Nov. 13 of complications from prostate cancer at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. He was 83.

Mr. McCurry was born July 10, 1923, in Burnham, Pa. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, then attended Michigan State, where he played center and was elected football team captain from 1946 to 1948.

Mr. McCurry was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1948 but chose to stay in school and earn his business degree.

He then joined Chrysler Corp. as a district manager in Green Bay, Wis., and spent 28 years with the company, advancing to group vice president of automotive sales and marketing.

After retiring from Chrysler in 1978, he became general manager of Mid-Atlantic Toyota, a private distributor in Maryland.

In 1982, Mr. McCurry joined Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., in California, as general manager of the Los Angeles sales region.

He became executive vice president of sales operations and was promoted to vice chairman, retiring in 1993. Until his death, he was an honorary adviser to Toyota Motor Corp. in Japan.

At Chrysler, he helped develop successful sales and marketing programs that used such memorable personalities as the Dodge Sheriff.

In late 1974, he helped develop the idea of cash rebates as incentives for buying new cars. His idea debuted during halftime of the Super Bowl IX telecast on Jan. 12, 1975, when former baseball player Joe Garagiola told viewers, “Buy a car, get a check.”

Mr. McCurry also used golf, NASCAR and other sports to market vehicles. His love of golf helped create major tournament sponsorships including the Skins Game and the Chrysler-Bob Hope Classic.

He also was responsible for adding a wide range of Toyota vehicles, including the Lexus luxury brand in 1989, and began Toyota’s efforts to enter the full-size pickup truck market.

His collaboration with Yuki Togo, the president of Toyota’s U.S. sales organization, resulted in Toyota becoming the first import brand to sell more than 1 million vehicles in a single year in 1986.

In retirement, Mr. McCurry and his wife, Jane, spent winters at their home in Palm Desert, Calif., and summers in Delaware.

He served on the board of directors of several corporations and remained active in community relations, charitable events and sports associations including the Detroit Police Athletic League Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1997.

In addition to his wife of 61 years, Mr. McCurry is survived by two daughters, Jody Burton of Edgewater, Md., and Meg Rapp of Crofton, Md.; and four grandchildren.

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