Jay Amestoy, retired head of PR for Mazda, dies after lengthy illness

Jay Amestoy was named an Automotive News All-Star in 2008 after more than 4,700 new Mazda cars were damaged on a ship that almost capsized near Alaska. Mazda turned a potential public relations disaster into victory by scrapping the vehicles and recycling the parts instead of trying to sell some of the vehicles as used.

Jay Amestoy, who spent more than two decades at the public relations helm at Mazda North America and previously worked in public relations for Volkswagen Group of America, died late Thursday at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota of complications following a long illness. He was 70.

Amestoy retired in 2012 as vice president of public affairs and motorsports for Mazda. At the time, he was the longest-serving officer at Mazda North American Operations, where he worked for almost 22 years guiding the Japanese automaker’s internal and external communications with the public as well as government officials.

Before joining Mazda in 1991, Amestoy worked briefly at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, where he headed the Mazda account, joining the public relations firm after spending nearly a decade in public relations for Volkswagen Group of America.

In 2008, Automotive News named him an All-Star after more than 4,700 new Mazda cars were damaged on a ship that almost capsized near Alaska. Mazda turned a potential public relations disaster into victory by scrapping the vehicles and recycling the parts instead of trying to sell some of the vehicles as used. Under Amestoy, Mazda generated widespread media coverage for the move.

Amestoy began his career as an automotive journalist, longtime friend and colleague Tom McDonald said Friday.

“He started off in the mail room at Road & Track, and then he went to work for a magazine called Hot VWs,” McDonald recalled. The two met in 1973 while McDonald was working in public relations for VW and Amestoy was writing about its vehicles. Their careers intertwined for the next 40 years, working with and for one another at VW, Hill+Knowlton and later Mazda, and the two were still close.

“He was a great guy to work with and work for,” McDonald said. “We were talking to each other still several times a week.”

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