Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Toyota's Goose is Cooked

For years, car buyers in the U.S. worshipped Toyota.  It was hyped as the most reliable, most trustworthy, safest, requiring the least maintenance, happiest car around.  The Consumer's magazines rated it through the roof.  Miles of column inches of hyperbole praised Toyota's high technology and standards and the absolute trustworthiness of the Japanese manafacturers.  It was almost an article of religion that they were beyond reproach when it came to integrity.  If they failed, legend had it, they would lose face and be forced to eviscerate themselves, so they adhered to a strict policy of high ethics. 

Because we largely believed that line, Americans bought Toyotas when Fords or Chevys might have actually been better -- to the point that we almost put the American car-makers out of business.  Some of them did go under.  So what if the Japanese models were more expensive?  So what if we were putting our own people out of work?  It was a matter of integrity.  We trusted the Japanese cars.  We believed Detroit made drek.  We bought accordingly. 

I read the reviews when I finally learned to drive at age 44.  I needed a reliable car, and Toyota seemed to be the best and safest bet.  I checked the consumer's journals for the best reviewed car and found the exact model and year they said would have the fewest problems of any car ever made.  A Toyota, of course.  In two years, it was totally rusted out and ready for the scrap heap.  It got decent gas mileage, but the electrical problems they told me would never happen happened all the time.  It was a disaster.  Went straight to a Ford and never looked back.  I would never buy a Toyota again if it meant having to ride a bicycle.

Toyota's ticket to ride in the U.S. was its impeccable reputation.  Maybe there was a reason for it at one time, though I am skeptical, given my experience in the early1980s.  Now that the nasty underbelly has been revealed, with Toyota's attempt to cover up a massive and dangerous design failure by blaming it on floor mats, that impeccable reputation is tarnished beyond repair.  Who will ever believe the hype again? 

Once we've seen the wizard, Oz no longer glistens in our eyes.  There's no place like home, and Detroit is looking very homey, these disillusioned days.

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