Thursday, February 4, 2010

Toyota’s troubles

As if there hasn’t been enough coverage of troubles with Toyota’s accelerators on many of its vehicles and with brakes on the 2010 Prius, I’ll chime in that Toyota still makes some of the best vehicles in the world.

And, if I had any money, I’d buy a Prius right away.

My 1995 Camry needed its first brake job at around 143,000 miles. The factory battery died after 7 years. Show me an American car ever to achieve such durability. It’s still running with more than 150,000 miles on it. Never had an American car do that without needing either a new engine or transmission.

It should be noted in all this media frenzy that the Toyota accelerator trouble is an American problem. Toyotas made in Japan have no such issue.

When we bought our Camry in 1995, we made sure it was made in Japan. Likewise, when we bought our Honda CR-V in 2008, the VIN number starts with a J signifying made in Japan. I would urge all Americans, if they want a more reliable vehicle, to choose one made in Japan over anything made in America. Also, go to the repair shops at the dealerships. They’ll tell that American-made Toyotas or Hondas have more quality problems than the Japanese-made versions.

In this country, we plan for things to break down so that the supply chain never stops. Well, those chickens finally came home to roost this past year as GM and Chrysler went into bankruptcy.

Yes, the Prius with the faulty brakes is a Japanese Toyota problem and one that, I’m sure, will be addressed and solved in no time.

The Japanese automakers make quality products unrivaled by any of its American counterparts. Like many Americans, I’ve owned American and Japanese vehicles. We have spoken with our pocketbooks that we prefer Japanese over American and, certainly, European-made cars, which are are overpriced.

Part of the reason for the decline in automobiles made in this country is that it is hard to get reliable information about these vehicles. Daily newspapers run “advertorial” sections on automobiles that seldom tell readers what they need to know about vehicles. These sections are just ads in another format. Trade magazines are sponsored by the auto industry so the information in those publications is merely P.R.

American automobile manufacturers have always viewed their quality problems as a marketing issue. Consequently, while P.R. campaigns became more sophisticated, the vehicle quality declined and sales plummeted.

It didn’t help that in this anti-government era when everything must be privatized or cut back, government vehicle pools, largely supplied by American automakers, dried up. With those sales gone, there were few left to buy GM, Chrysler or Ford products. Ford may be in better shape than the other two brands, but their products are second rate next to the Japanese.

Yes, the underdogs love it when the top dog, Toyota, gets its lumps. Don’t be gloating too long, because Toyota will leave you in the dust.

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