Roy Exum: Toyota: The Best Car Ever

Friday, December 28, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I was saddened to learn the Toyota Motor Company has just settled a deal that will pay $1.1 billion to settle dozens of lawsuits related to the sudden-acceleration. Three years ago the unfounded scare captured headlines and championed misguided union efforts but – here’s the better news -- more Toyotas are sold today in the United States and the world than any other brand.

The news of the billion-dollar settlement is sad – and makes me mad -- because I know that Toyotas were then -- and are today -- the best and safest cars that have ever been made in the history of the world. I am dealing in facts here and I am more certain of what I believe than ever before. Millions of consumers will heartily agree.

Three years ago I wrote the whole “automatic acceleration”  deal was a sham. I freely admitted that any brand of car can have a defect but that the paranoia and crush of media scorn that was heaped on Toyota was wrong – real wrong. A Congressional hearing? Fraudulent claims? Oh please.

The fact the circus-like frenzy was quickly fueled by some union-backed Congressmen was equally ludicrous. I have since talked to dozens of Toyota dealers, many Toyota factory workers and hundreds of delighted owners and know, deep in my heart, the whole thing was both untrue and very unfair.

Look, if a parts failure in a Toyota or Ford or Volkswagen results in death or injury, I’ll side with the victim once the truth is discovered but the Toyota sudden-acceleration recall was absolutely a bunch of foolishness. Skilled master technicians at dealerships all across the country couldn’t find anything wrong! In most incidents the Toyota Company, so determined to do the right thing, replaced the parts anyway.

After a series of stories that told how dealer after dealer could find absolutely not one defect in the thousands of vehicles that were recalled, I was lucky enough to get a part-time job at a Toyota and Lexus dealership. I say that as a disclaimer because I’ve since fallen in love with the Toyota brand and all its people. The reason is I have now seen it all up close

I can very honestly claim, after having learned how both Capital Toyota and Lexus of Chattanooga operate and watching them cherish every single customer, that any American who doesn’t drive a Toyota product has been “short-changed.” It is very simple: Toyota-made cars and trucks are – without any question -- the best cars in the world by every possible standard.

In a recent issue of Consumer Reports – which doesn’t allow advertising to insure fairness -- Toyota earned top place in six of 10 new-car categories over 200 other models. Those other four were because the judges didn’t ride with me. And, in the other four categories, Toyotas were still among the top vehicles chosen. By every measure and every reputable source, Toyota is today’s world champion.

Are you kidding me? In Capital Toyota’s service department, there is a bulletin board where service writers once would post photographs of odometers with over 500,000 miles. Now it has become so commonplace they no longer bother. We “wholesaled” a Toyota pickup truck with 800,000 miles and, at last report, the old workhorse has since made eight uneventful trips to Texas and back. You need to know we see this every day!

The Toyota Camry has been the top-selling car in the United States for 14 of the last 15 years. As a result there are more Toyota Camrys on American roads today than any other model. I’ll guarantee you that if you’ll simply change the oil every 5,000 miles a new Toyota will darn-near last a lifetime. Just ask any owner, particularly those with older models.

Drive a new Camry and you cannot find a comparable vehicle at the same cost. It’s the truth. GM, Ford and Chrysler cannot compete because they have over $2,500 of union nonsense they must build into every vehicle. Toyota doesn’t have unions because – this is also a fact – Toyota factory workers are more skilled, much happier and far more respected by their company.

I could go on and on but let’s look at something else:

* -- Toyota has, as of today, created 365,000 jobs in the United States for the American people. I’ll dare say a Toyota has more American-made parts and has been touched by more American hands than most cars a lot of good patriots are driving. Further, Toyota has spent over $25 billion buying parts, materials and components that have all been made in the USA by more American people.

* -- Toyota spends $1 million on research and development in each and every hour of the day. That’s a million bucks every hour to make Toyota and Lexus vehicles the safest and most reliable cars on the planet. No other car manufacturer does that. What that means? The new Camry has – count ‘em – 10 airbags as standard equipment. (Your car does not.)

* -- Since Toyota came to the United States 55 years ago, the Toyota Company has given away over $595 million in philanthropic donations. This does not include a penny of all that the McKamey family has done for Chattanooga, or what 1,500 other dealers have done to embrace their communities. I know what I’m saying here.

* -- Toyota’s direct investment in the United States is now about $18 billion. There are 10 assembly plants (the most recent in Mississippi where 2,000 new jobs were created). The result? Nine different models are now made from scratch in America. And, in Kentucky, I have seen that plant turn out a new car every 55 minutes. It is absolutely stunning and – again – they are certifiably the safest cars in the world.

* -- Toyota is the world leader in hybrid cars with 11 different models now available to trim our nation’s dependence on gasoline. The technology is so amazing – and today’s results are so encouraging – I’ll let you in on an inside tip. Always lease a hybrid instead of buying it. Why? What’s coming is so wonderful that in the next three years your hybrid, which will still be the best car you ever had, will not have the mind-boggling technology that is upgraded by Toyota every year.

Toyota has more patents on hybrid technology than any other manufacturer in the world. Ford has asked for Toyota’s help with its new hybrid F-150 and you would be amazed at how many Toyota innovations are now appearing in competitor’s models. Why? Toyota is the world’s leader.

I’m telling you, the whole settlement thing is ridiculous. While I can see where the Toyota Company is so eager and intent on making things right they would very nobly “settle” for $1.1 billion, I furiously fume over the fact that at the same time General Motors and Chrysler have bilked the American public for untold billions. It is federal bail-out money we will never get back.

Sure, we needed to help GM and Chrysler at the time – I agree with that – but for Chrysler to leave the people of the United States with a $1.3 billion shortfall and now GM is getting ready to gouge our coffers for a far-greater amount is horrible. That is of far-greater consequence to our country than Toyota’s $1.1 billion settlement, don’t you think?

Watch what GM is getting ready to do when it buys back 200 million shares of stock from the government. At $27.50 a share, the loss between what “we, the people” loaned and what we’ll get back will reportedly be $12.5 billion. Doesn’t that make you want to cry? But what you are reading on the nation’s front pages is more about Toyota’s settlement. Go figure.

Regardless, I know Toyota is the best vehicle in the world. I have some wonderful friends who buy other brands and I am happy for them. I love to see people proud and having fun. Face it, other makes and models are better than they’ve ever been because they are desperate to keep up. I know that. But I also know which brand they are trying to keep up with!

Anybody investing big money in an automobile these days should certainly do “due diligence.” That should include reading all about Toyota’s very generous settlement and it should include such things as how other car manufacturers respond to customer complaints, any incentives, the reputation of the hometown dealer and the very honest sales department. Nobody can match Toyota.

Recalls? Every car company has them. But when you read, for instance, that Ford just recalled 90,000 Fusion and Escape models, that doesn’t mean that each one is dangerous. It means they should be checked to make sure they are safe. Very few actual problems are ever discovered in a recall so, in reality, it’s simply a way to assure there will never be one. Unfortunately, our sensation-driven media leads you to believe they’ll all blow up.

The Toyota “sudden acceleration” recall was the biggest ever. Then came the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that pounded Toyota’s factories. Yet today – right now – Toyota is the undisputed world champion in sales, safety, reliability and quality, not to mention looks, comfort and all of that.

So don’t fall for the headlines or be dismayed by the hype. Our nation has evolved into a society where, when you’re at the top of the pedestal, everybody else is going to try to knock you down. Instead, focus on the big picture, the real truth. Toyota is a champion and hardly a chump. It is the best car in the world. And I’ll guarantee it.

royexum@aol.com



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