By on November 22, 2006

2000gt_red_library340w2222.jpg"Arguably in every parameter that you can look at, the Toyota Production System is the finest product system in the world for designing and manufacturing products. They make products that people want and they do it with less resources and less time than anybody in the world. They're a magical machine." Not my words, but those of Alan Mulally, now charged with pulling a carmaker out of the swamp marshes of Fordor. Like Alan, I admire Toyota’s manufacturing processes, quality control and after-sales. But I also know their weakness…

First, to those of you who are tired of hearing what a great company Toyota is, Toyota is the world’s foremost manufacturer. Bar none. Other manufacturers must study, learn, apply and improve. That’s the only way they’ll build the war chest they need to fight back from a position of strength. Until they do, they’ll be playing a hopeless game of catch-up.

Back to Alan for a moment. Every day a 737 pumps out of the hangar at Boeing, and after a 35 minute flight it’s in revenue service. Of course, they told Mulally it couldn’t be done – ”You can’t build planes the same way you build cars!” Yes you can, and doesn’t Airbus wish they were? This was Mulally’s gift to Boeing, and in a strange game of hopscotch it could become Toyota’s gift to Ford channeled through a disciple. Bill Ford only wishes he’d thought of it sooner.

Reaching parity with Toyota– and adding a few bells and whistles of their own– is the best Ford can hope for. It’s a long shot, as ToMoCo isn’t standing still. But Mulally is a self-professed disciple of The Way and if Ford’s resources don’t run out first, he’s the man who can give it the best shot. Who would you rather have making the effort: Wagoner and Lutz in their constant states of denial, or someone who’s actually hit the bullseye already?

Mulally is already applying his knowledge to the task at hand. For example, he knows that Ford must align itself more closely with its suppliers’ best interest. FoMoCo’s suppliers are wobbling with fatigue, having been squeezed dry by their overlords. They’re so fed up they’ve started to squeeze back, exploiting the weakness of the rulers up at the Castle. Hopefully both sides will see the light before they force one another off the field of battle. Ford’s already seeking a more constructive relationship with its key suppliers, so don’t think Mr. Mulally is simply holding Thursday chat sessions.

Mulally’s also begun realigning his forces in the field, making the various divisions understand they’re answerable to High Command and that the brandmash has got to stop. That’s going to be the tough one. There are hundreds of stakeholders who will be resisting any transfer of power back to the corporate mothership. I suspect this is why Mulally insisted on being co-director along with Bill Ford. A fly on the wall would have heard this: ”I’ll do it, but only if you’re willing to rain hell on the holdouts that will be fighting my changes. You and me Bill, we’re in this together.”

Assuming Mulally can get Ford’s ducks in a row, it’s time to reveal Toyota’s weakness: a legacy. They don’t have one.

Where do Toyota owners go to proudly display their classic Toyotas to other owners? Right, nowhere. What comes to mind when you think of Toyota’s history? Nothing. Yes, 25 million Camrys sold is fantastic. But Toyota is not a brand builder. They’re blandbuilders. They’re not building dream machines. Instead, they are experts at playing the law of averages to their consumers’ satisfaction.

Without a legacy you’re not building brands, you’re building cars, you’re providing transportation. Toyota is aware of this. That’s why it’s in F1 and NASCAR. That’s why they’re pushing the envelope on alternative drive-trains, and spending without limit on Lexus. And that’s why they put the brakes on building more Scions – sensing an opportunity to harness brand cachet. They are wising up. Toyota is trying to build a legacy before their opponents notice their weakness. While we wonder whether there’s a future to GM and Ford (a pity given their past achievements), there is no past in Toyota, only a future that’s going to be better than average.

If Ford (or any of the domestics) want to take on Toyota, they’ve got to show what brand spirit is all about. Ford and GM have some choice morsels in their history, ready to be added to the mix. Of course, to do that Ford and its cohorts need to get rid of their spreadsheet ”car makers” and tune their brandlines for an exhilirating roll of the dice. Which is the topic of my next column.

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168 Comments on “Toyota: The Weakness...”

  • avatar

    thought you might enjoy this article


  • avatar
    jerry weber

    All of this may be true but let’s look at mercedes of 1990. Mercedes felt the new lexus ls400 to be bland and derivative in styling (it was) and it had no heritage to bank on. However, with perfect execution of a well made machine good new dealers and a 30% price break over an S class mercedes, they sold the things and made the next model better and larger. No, they didn’t put benz out of business, but when the suv’s are figured in (here benz did a worse job than lexus), they outsold benz who had a 30 year head start in this country. In cars there are value buyers who perceive a deal and will let the sizzle of prestige, and perfomance take a second place to transportation and upkeep costs not to mention depreciation. Now the Koreans are taking care of the low priced road on this and the Japanese are working the middle and high end. until American cars get this “value” thing down, they cannot dethrone the competition with heritage and sizzle.

  • avatar


    the article u give us says that toyota is not an american company. I fail to see what that has to do with anything.

    Secondly, to the legacy idea, good luck. It seems to me that the very people who remember this legacy are the ones who will not buy “american” cars. This is a hard sell, no matter what.

    Still i am usually touched by the plight of the underdog. I wish Ford well, in spite of a really really bad Mustang in the mid 80’s. I won’t buy one, but maybe others who never owned one will.

  • avatar

    I once owned an 1987 5 liter stang and I dont remember not being proud of it… but a toyota????
    I’d hide a toyota

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    I have to admit finding it ironic that you state Toyota has no heritage, yet your photo is the Toyota 2000GT built from 1965-1970, as a semi-exotic with an extremely advanced dual ovehead camshaft inline six, superlative styling (NOT derivative of anyone else), and that my book “The Complete Book of Collector Cars” also adds the 1985-90 Toyota MR2, 1988-93 Toyota Celica GT AWD, 1991-95 Toyota MR2, 1993-98 Toyota Supra. I also recall that Toyota built sporting cars during the 1970’s, the 1970-77 Celica, which another one of my books considers collectible. Then there was a restyle in 1978 and 1981 and again in 1985 and 1989. Before you laugh, would you rather have a collector Celica from 1974, or maybe a Mustang II? Yeah, me too.

  • avatar

    I hope this editorial and it’s promised follow up represents a new direction for TTAC. One in which solutions and opportunities are presented without the tone of criticism. The DW articles do have positive suggestions, but the underlying tone is one of criticism. Now there is nothing wrong with that in an of itself. Especially in the beginning you have to state your case for why things are not going well and if the reader is from the company who is the subject of the DW article (and I’m sure there are employees of those companies who read it) you sometimes have to get “in their face” to get their attention and get them to face reality.

    But once that’s done you have offer some solutions or take an honest look at a companies strengths and how they can be leveraged.

  • avatar

    Toyota doesn’t make a single car that’s of any interest to me. The Supra and the MR2 are long gone and they were the only products that rang my bell.
    Why Toyota continues to spend zillions of dollars in Formula One is beyond me, unless they’re hoping to learn (copy?) from the others.
    Toyota is also the worlds most hypocritical company as it pushes hybrids, pretends to be green and goes ahead producing the largest pick up truck in the world down in Texas.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned a Toyota for almost six years now and am looking at other brands, simply because the after-sales service at three Toyota dealerships has been terrible.

  • avatar

    You could argue that their legacy is the generic attribute of dependability, reliability, and resale.

    That’s their legacy. Consumers associate them with quality. For the big 3 it’s about specific model’s, for Toyota, it’s about attributes that the public now assumes applies to all their cars.

    So I’m not so sure it matters that they don’t have a place at the car show. The majority of the american public is not passionate about cards, they just want to buy a good transportation appliance.

    And it’s only going to get worse as all the young’un’s with their tricked out Civic’s and Supra’s grow up. This is a whole generation growing up not thinking about small block chevy’s, but instead about how good the jap cars are, and how cheap they are to mod.

  • avatar

    Glenn A:

    Thank you. I would’ve stressed the “If-it-were-any-slower-it-would-be-a-Ferrari” MR2 more, but yes. I’m not a Toyota fan at all, but I do know some.

    On the other hand, the “legacy” is smaller than that of Ford’s, for example.

    All in all, an absolutely terrific article!

  • avatar

    I read that lack of legacy supposedly means something in the EU market, that it impedes sales of Lexus as they’ve only been around since 1989. From the looks of Toyota’s sales in the US, the lack of a legacy isn’t getting in the way of expansion.

    Speaking of legacy and the US market, did you know that Fiat is 108 years old this year?

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    Usually I look forward to TTAC editorials for the insight they provide on the auto industry. I must disagree though with the legacy of auto manufacturers.

    Sure, I own a 1967 Hemi GTX. An awesome piece of Detroit high performance machinery. This does not influence in any way my purchase of American cars.

    What does influence my purchasing decisions is my old 1998 Grand Cherokee and 2000 Suburban which are absolutely the last American vehicles I will ever own.

    That is the legacy Detroit has left me. It is most distressing. Thank you Detroit, I now see the light.

  • avatar

    You are absolutely wrong. Toyota does have a legacy in the US. That legacy is one of… Reliability. Obviously. There’s also a whole generation in love with the classic boxiness old Toyotas and Hondas that you’re completely disregarding. People have grown to love those cars as more than just basic transportation.

    It may be hard to love an ’05 Corolla, but you can’t deny that the car has a legacy behind it which is most likely responsable for much of its sales. Camry too has a legacy of being the mom friendly car. That may not hold to the same standard as the machismo of a ‘Stang. But denying Toyota’s strength in that area for the sake of writing this article does this site a disservice. Pointing out a non-existant weakness, which even if it does exist is not effecting sales or reputation, also seems questionable.

  • avatar

    Toyota’s legacy is Toyota as the company not individual models. When someone says Ford the first thing I think of is the F150 and the Mustang. When someone says Toyota the first thing I think of is dependable and reliable. Both companies have legacies they are just different.

    I really do wish GM and Ford well. I’ve owned Ford products before and have been happy with them. The last four vehicles my wife and have purchased have been Japanese not because we have a dislike for domestics it was simply that they had nothing that we were looking for.

    With all of Ford and GM’s involvement in racing you would think that a lot more of it would trickle down into their production models. Why is there no Euro Focus with AWD and 300+ hp here in the states? Ford just won another rally championship, why not capitalize on that?

  • avatar

    Glenn A,

    How can you claim that the above pictures Toyota is NOT derivative?

    How many of us saw the pic and at first glance asked “Isn’t that an odd looking Jag?”

  • avatar

    “Still i am usually touched by the plight of the underdog. I wish Ford well, in spite of a really really bad Mustang in the mid 80’s. I won’t buy one, but maybe others who never owned one will.”

    I learned on an 1984 Crown Vic. My first car that I owned was a 79 Mustang straight 6 cyl auto. Later I had an 88 Mustang 4 cyl 5 speed. Then a 5 door 3 cyc Geo Metro. Finally my last non-brand new car was a 1985 Chysler Lebaron 4 cyl Tubro.

    Since then I have driven a 2000 Altima & now a 2004 Sentra. They may not be the most exciting vehicles ever made, but they are both faster than anythnig else I have driven.(including both Mustangs) The Sentra is very fuel efficient at 34 MPG on the highway. Yeah, to an extent, some might say that it has the soul of a kitchen appliance.

    Well, I’d say maybe. Atleast thru 42,000(+50,00 on the Altima before It went back) I haven’t leaked a drop of fluid or been stuck once. Regular Oil Changes, a cheap break job, & a covered recall for the California Emissions Cat Converter. Oh, and the E on the word sentra on the back of the car feel off.

    Much better than having a Tranny leak on the Lebaron; an oil leak on the 2nd Mustang, several engige problems on the Metro, a leaky sunroof on the 1st Mustang, and about 4-6 Tranny’s on the 84 Crown Vic.

    I am not really asking for much. All I demmand is reliable transportation. Granted they were all used,(and both Japs were brand new) but why would someone like me ever buy another american car?

    If a U.S. automaker made a(Prius killer) hybrid that got better MPG, a lower price, & = driving dinamics & interior space & safety, I would consider buying the vehicle. But, then, I don’t see the 2.5 making that vehicle.

    It is that simple. If the Japs give me what I want, I am buying that vehicle.

  • avatar
    Ed S.

    Toyota has not made decisions specifically in an attempt to establish a legacy, but they haven’t run from the idea either. By keeping model names for decades (minus Tercel & Previa) that creates a defacto legacy…the rest is really up to the market.

    I think their biggest mistake in the legacy department has been to drop plans for a new Supra. I think that a I-6 RWD sports car in the $28K base-price-range would sell very well, especially in a basic (read: easily modifiable) form.

    Ultimately, I do think that Toyota will be hurt by their current place in the tuner-crowd pecking order. The question I have is: have any of the other more favored tuner brands such as Honda, Subaru and Mitsubishi actively encouraged or assisted tuners in their design of the car? Or do they simply have more street credibility for various reasons of economy and availability of parts.

    I ask this because if Honda, et al. did nothing in the design of their cars to encourage tuners, then is Toyota really at fault for their dowdy image? Or are they simply unlucky to be a brand associate with parents driving slow Camry’s.

    My prediction, in 20 years there will be a strong classic car market for more expensive Japanese cars such as the 350Z, S2000, etc, but not for Civics.

  • avatar

    Wasn’t the VW beetle once known for being boring, slow, and basic transportation… now look, I’d say there’s quite a following. Old boxy Volvo wagons, once the epitome of lame and boring are also enjoying a resurgence.

    So maybe Toyota does have a chance at a legacy.

  • avatar

    @Glenn A

    If there were cut-out, black&white truths then all would be simple, wouldn’t it?
    I am convinced of my main point. Toyota has not had a consistent sense of the value that myth and heritage add to brand perception. Fits and starts have petered out, as the company has gone for the safety of the center in a way that give the majority of the car buying public the hardest time imagining where Toyota is coming from. For a long time, the company has simply been reiterating itself with new model years while settling in the middle of the road.
    That said – they have done a brilliant job of it.

    I’m not going to write my next articles in this post – that would be trying your patience. But the road ahead for the majors must build on differentiation and excellence — the middle of the road is too crowded. Which is where their legacies play a role.

    As to the success of Lexus in the U.S., etc. – the U.S. market is evolving in interesting ways that are opening up opportunities that are much more varied than what were in place in 1989.

    (And I have owned a Jag E-Type. The Toyota in the picture does a good job of copying it).

  • avatar

    You are absolutely wrong. Toyota does have a legacy in the US. That legacy is one of… Reliability. Obviously.

    That’s not a legacy. That’s a brand promise relative to the customer experience.
    What we are looking at here are what we can do to help the majors distinguish themselves once they get their production lines and brand offerings sorted. Sure – they can copy Toyota 100%, but then I’d just lift the phone, call Nagoya and discuss a merger.

    We’re looking at some truly exciting times ahead. The majors have gone face-first right into the concrete wall, and now they have to pick themselves up, do a reality check and get going – again.
    Excellence and differentiation, exploiting the brand legacy (and quite a lot remains) is one way to go.

  • avatar

    I couldn’t disagree more in the end. Legacy is something that is an advantage only up to so far. It is why the Mustang gets a nod from the press despite really not being that good. It is why the Ford GT was cooler than it would have been as just another exotic.

    And what is the rest of Ford’s legacy. I can’t think of a single classic Ford that is relevant today except for those two. And frankly the 2000GT is a bit of legacy waiting for Toyota to exploit, and there is a whole generation which would rather have a Supra than a classic Mustang.

    Toyota has one major weakness and that is the lack of any sporting pretensions. And, in all honesty, it is a minor weakness given that most people do not buy sports cars. They could easily create a cheap sports car from the IS platform if they feel the need…

    Their minor weakness is styling, but they are trying, witness the bull-nose of the current Camry (and the Jetta shamelessly copying the Corolla silhouette).

    Ford’s strengths are Mazda and Volvo right now. American car manufacturers are almost at the point where their desperation will give them massive political influence. The threat of American car manufacturers being driven into bankruptcy is actually their greatest negotiation asset with Congress. If they use it to break union strangleholds and local dealership monopolies, to establish JIT/click-to-order purchasing, and all the other things people want in this modern age; they will do well.

  • avatar
    Jan Andersson

    The readers of this site are gear- or pistonheads (I don’t know the exact difference) who want their cars to taste like a fresh strawberry every morning. Being one myself, I know very well some of Toyota’s weaknesses. A test drive will convince you, it’s more like a raw carrot.

    I have one important question to the TTAC community: is it possible that a lot of people simply doesn’t like the strawberry cars, but prefer the cars that we gearheads reject, even if they had the chance to make extensive comparisons? Or are they just insensible to auto delikatessen? Or firmly believe that carrots are healthier than strawberries?

  • avatar

    Toyota’s trucks have legacy. FJ40? Land Cruiser? SR5?

    In my neck of the woods, there are a lot more people driving old Toyota trucks covered in mud with 250k+ miles on them then there are any other brand. That kind of reliability and service is what builds legacies with trucks.

    I see what you mean about Toyota’s cars, though.

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    I’d say Toyota’s legacy beats any other Japanese carmakers’ bar Nissan. Compare them to, say, Honda, which was making motorcycles and kei-cars when Toyota started its sports car drive. Even Nissan has only one thing to show – the 240Z Datsun and its family tree. But as everyone else has said, Toyota build a reputation rather than legacy. Think of America – there’s not much history to show off, but in whatever little (comparatively) time it existed, the country managed to show its full character. When one says “great military power”, younger people think US – not England, France, or Russia, even though historically all three have far more right to claim such a position. History is great, but when you sum it all up it’s today that everyone is concerned about.

    By the way, Glenn, I wouldn’t call 2000GT a “semi-exotic”. A little over 300 ever made, good luck finding one :)

  • avatar

    This article left me feeling empty. So Toyota fails next to Detroit and Germany when it comes to Legacy – big deal. Sony is ‘legacy’ in CE products, and they’re still bowing at the altar of Apple on Digital Audio Players. Where is Apple’s legacy? (for reference purposes, I loathe the iPod itself, but admire the job Apple has done with it. I personally, like more flexibility and less restriction in my DAP, which is why I’m still rocking an old iRiver that doesn’t restrict my choice in formats…nor hold me to using proprietary software to load it)

    Here’s the fact – the market, in the past 10 years, has become less concerned with legacy, tradition, and even quality on most products – price drives all, no matter what, in the US. Status follows closely behind, and that isn’t necessarily related to heritage. Unless you successfully market heritage, a la Harley Davidson, it simply isn’t enough to get by on anymore. The exceptions to this are the Mustang and…well, the Mustang. But look at the Impala, and tell me heritage has anything to do with success as a matter of formula? It doesn’t hold sway anymore.

    The better focus for this article on heritage would have been what makes those cars memorable – why, the sharp sheet-metal of the 60’s is still firmly ingrained in people’s memories – why that heritage still sparks hour long conversations. There’s been TTAC articles about character, and few Toyota vehicles have had that – regardless of the number of years their history goes back. Only this year has Toyota injected some character into their vehicles, good and bad, with the redesign of the Camry, the toy truck shaped (and character champ) FJ, and the marketing of the Yaris. Legacy or no, those vehicles will, perhaps, 10 years down the road create legacy (well, the FJ…the other two? meh…). When Toyota designs something that just leaves people’s jaws slacked, like the concept for the new Supra, THEN they will have legacy. Not when they reach a magical anniversary in how long they’ve been in a marketplace.

    There’s plenty of companies that have been out there for any number of years that don’t have legacy. It’s like the lifers at some of the corporations I’ve worked for – they get promoted only because they’ve been there so damn long and there’s nothing else to do with them. They achieve legacy based on longevity, not memorability. GM, DCM, and Ford didn’t attain their legacy based on longevity, and neither should Toyota.

  • avatar

    Fantastic article.

    Full of insight and well thought out ideas.

    More editorials like today’s to balance off of the Death Watch series would be a great idea.


  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    So, Spartacus, your comment about the Toyota 2000GT in the photo ‘surely’ being derivative of the Jag XKE – so, why then, did GM Opel copy the GT2000 for their Opel GT?

    Look at the roof line. The Opel GT came out in 1968, a full three years after the Toyota GT2000, and of course, the names sound “nothing” alike unless you ignore two letters, G and T.

    Then, too, let us not forget the Datsun 240Z which came out in 1970, and looks “nothing at all” like the Toyota 2000GT.

    I’m not so much defending Toyota as I am just saying – many cars with a similar purpose have resemblences if they are from a similar era. They are not necessarily copies.

    Now, the Chinese cars – well that’s quite another thing. Yikes, I’ve seen some posts from Beijing Auto Show now going on and you’d be amazed how just ‘coincidentally’ many of these cars are virtual clones of Japanese or Korean brands.

  • avatar

    NN: I agree with you totally. The FJ series and Land Cruisers are Toyota’s most visible legacy. Just look at the new FJ Cruiser, which is based on this legacy and selling quickly. A lot of the owners of the FJ Cruiser are previous Land Cruiser models (FJ or what have you) owners. So to say that Toyota has no legacy is really both unfair and wrong. I realize you’ve got pistonheads to keep happy with Camry-bashing, but thats no reason to ignore actual legacies.

  • avatar

    If Toyota is looking at building a legacy for pistonheads, then they should bring back the MR2, Supra, Celica -but it seems that ToMoCo surrendered in light of sporty competition from Mazda, Honda and Nissan.

    Maybe we’re blind to it in North America, but I think that they’re looking towards their trucks to build a legacy -why else would they bring back the FJ? The old FJs, 4-Runners and LandCruisers rival Jeeps and LandRovers in terms of durability, versatility and luxury. Some have a softspot for their pickups (the Hilux is popular worldwide). Arguably, Toyota is building better trucks than their Japanese counterparts. A previous editorial by TTAC forecasted that they’re grooming their pickups to to supplant the domestics too.

  • avatar

    NN: you beat me to it! Agreed.

  • avatar

    Toyota is doing more than anyone else at trying to gain lifetime customers (Scion-Toyota-Lexus) and I applaud them for that. There are far fewer lifetime-brand-loyal people out there, because thinking folks realize that just because a name is carried to a new model doesn’t mean it has anything to do with the old one. At the dealership level, so many manufacturers are horrible at viewing their customers as a lifetime investment. Customers seem to be increasingly taking the same basic, fickle viewpoint of seeing each auto purchase as an independent decision. However, for many, Toyota will always be the no-brainer decision: Your car dies and you urgently need something reasonably priced and reliable, Toyota will have what you need. Nothing exciting in the lineup, but they’ve got a lot of segments and price points covered, and most are done very well. And as far as I can tell, they do by far the best job at seeking and delivering to those lifetime customers.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    Alex, I suppose you are right the Toyota 2000GT is a true exotic. I qualified the description as a semi-exotic because of it’s badge – Toyota. I see your point, though.

    For example, the Ford GT (whether from the 1960’s or new) are exotic cars, despite the ‘plebian’ Ford badge.

    So, point taken. You are right. The Toyota GT2000 was an exotic, pure and simple. And (while I was only 8 at the time) when it came out I have read that it really set the automotive world on it’s ear.

    Kind of the equivalent of Kia coming out with a 500hp ultra-high tech 2 seat sports fuel cell vehicle today with all wheel drive, and all the style of a Lamborghini. It’d be a shocker!

  • avatar

    Toyota does not make a car currently I would think about even washing or waxing… ever. Any chance of that died with the Supra.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    By the way, Toyota still do produce sports cars and sporty cars. It is Toyota USA which chooses not to sell them here.

    And for those of us who missed out on buying a new MG Midget, Toyota’s partner, Daihatsu, offer the Copen pretty much worldwide (including in the UK)

  • avatar

    Note that Yamaha did much of the work on the car noted – it was hardly an all-Toyota project.

  • avatar


    As I write, they are working hard to build that sense of brand integrity which historical lines and a cohesive brand direction provide.

    The Tundra is a case in point. (And as someone points out, also a problem – since it doesn’t mesh well with the environmentally friendly image Toyota seeks to foster elsewhere).

    Toyota is a formidable opponent, because it has the war chest required to make intelligent “mistakes”. (The Hybrid Synergy Drive, for instance).
    But it is not a maker of dream machines – yet.

  • avatar

    I think this is an excellent article, and I like the way Steve summarised it:

    Toyota’s legacy is Toyota as the company not individual models. When someone says Ford the first thing I think of is the F150 and the Mustang. When someone says Toyota the first thing I think of is dependable and reliable. Both companies have legacies they are just different.

    Howevever, painting a lack of legacy as a weakness isn’t exactly accurate. Having a strong model-based legacy allows Ford and GM to create tribute models that can draw on the legacy to achieve very strong sales over a short period. This is great in terms of boosting a single model.

    What Toyota has done is distinctly different, and that is to build their legacy as a brand, so every Toyota is a Toyota. That means you expect certain things, and by and large, they deliver. However, they really can not release any tribute vehicles, so it’s difficult for them to achieve short term sales successes in the manner of the current Mustang or the 300.

    So far, even including the alternative drivetrains and F1 efforts, I don’t believe Toyota is altering this strategy. I believe they are simply pursuing additional avenues to burnish their reputation, beyond simply producing good vehicles.

    If it is at all possible for Ford to take advantage of this, they need to deliver a bevy of tribute vehicles, each good in it’s own right. It is not enough to simply have the occassional hit retro-styled vehicle. They need to have an entire product line-up that showcases the best of Ford yesterday, combined with the best of Ford today.
    I think the Fusion is a good start, but even though it is inspired by the 427 concept, it’s execution looks far more modern, and I believe will do little to attract retro buyers. What is necessary is to replace the 500 with something very close to the 427 concept, and replace the Focus with a similarily styled hatch-back. These are the bread-and-butter vehicles, and while they actually aren’t that bad as they are right now, the lack of similarity between them means that a buyer who likes the Fusion but can’t afford it, or wants something a little upscale, is less likely to buy a Focus or 500.

    If you look at what Nissan has done with the product launches this year, they have really made the product line-up a cohesive group. The Maxima is still a bit of an odd duck, given just how good the Altima is, but there is still quite a bit of family resemblance as you move down the line. The Sentra and Versa aren’t necessarily the belles of the ball, but that’s ok, because the Altima is nice enough looking to get people in the door. Once they are in, they might be looking for something cheaper, and the Sentra is sitting right there.

    I actually think Ford knows this, and I expect very good things from them if they can survive for the next 3 years.

  • avatar

    I wonder does Japanese TV run TUNDRA commecials with the slogan THIS OUR COUNTRY THIS IS OUR TRUCK.
    even though its made in TEXAS, yeah some legacy eh

  • avatar


    That’s interesting. Didn’t know that.
    Yamaha is a member of the Fuyo Keiretsu in Japan, while Toyota is a member of the Mitsui Keiretsu.
    So we’re looking at a truly early example of rebadging here. :-)

  • avatar

    Camry just got MT’s COTY. Nobody saw this coming, right?

  • avatar


    Sounds like you are experiencing the downside of Toyota’s growth.
    The quality problems they have had, and the growing complaints about the after-sales experiences are not in keeping with what people expect from Toyota.

    But they are typical when sudden growth is experienced, and your system fails to provide consistency during the expansion phase.

  • avatar


    Absolutely – let me remind you of the opening of my article:

    “Arguably in every parameter that you can look at, the Toyota Production System is the finest product system in the world for designing and manufacturing products. They make products that people want and they do it with less resources and less time than anybody in the world. They’re a magical machine.”

  • avatar

    Im inclined to agree with the author here off the cuff. It seems that there are simply more and more people who demand so little “soul” in return for a purchase. If you are buying a Fridgidaire, I suppose this is fine, but a car is entirely on a different level…for some. Perhaps, as it has been mentioned earlier, those of us who actually demand soul are being outnumbered by those that dont.

    I never imagined that buying a mazda instead of a toyota would place me in such a minority…and I cannot help but believe that this is a very sad commentary on the current autobuying market

    One thing I must say, however, the author is dead-solid-perfect regarding improving the relationship between the mfr and suppliers. As a buyer by profession, the concept of “the best deal is a fair deal” is a VERY tough sell to upper mgmt.

  • avatar

    Bravo! Toyota does not walk on water. I said about 3 weeks ago on another thread that Mullaly has a great shot of turning this thing around, and almost got laughed off this board, everyone say that Ford is not Boeing and Airbus is not Toyota and that Ford Junior was never going to let Alan do anything.

    Now it seems we have a coherent editorial that says otherwise.

    You are exactly right. American cars have the heritage and the brands to fight the imports and go to a place they cannot go. Toyota cannot compete with a car like the Mustang, or the Challenger. Viper. Corvette, etc. That is where American car design needs to continue to go: reminding the consumer why America was the dominant auto-producing nation for almost a century.

  • avatar

    Most people aren’t looking for a legacy, a brand identity, a reminder of past manufactured glory. They want a car that will work without emptying the wallet. Sure, Toyota may never fill as many classic car shows as Ford or GM, but then again, most Natural History museums are full of “legacy” too.

    The Mustang in the front might get someone in to consider a car farther back, but if that car is too expensive and guzzles gas, how useful is the Mustang?

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    This essay makes a useful point, although it can be pushed too far. Legacy can be a selling point, but it hardly guarantees survival. Nor is a strong legacy necessary to success.

    As VW found out with the New Beetle, paying more attention to legacy can revitalize a brand, but it won’t maintain owner loyalty if you don’t get the fundamentals right, e.g., reliability, dealer service, etc.

    The irony of the Big 2.5’s legacy advantages is that they have often pissed them away. Look at how Toyota and Honda usually hold onto their nameplates while Detroit often throws them away like disposable diapers. (Lutz may be the biggest legacy nameplate killer.) A similar pattern holds for styling approaches.

    Detroit has only recently started to wise up. Mustang is one of the few nameplates that Ford has preserved. Yet only in recent years has Ford stopped running away from the early Mustang’s classic styling cues. I think the Fox platform had the best size-weight dynamics of all of the Mustangs, but the design was entirely too anonymous.

    Cultivating legacy doesn’t have to mean a slavish devotion to retro. Here is where I think the current Mustang and forthcoming Challenger go wrong, and where the Camaro shows more promise. People want continuity, but not necessarily a single-minded exercise in nostalgia. At least until recently, Mercedes seemed to understand best how to maintain this sometimes subtle balance.

  • avatar

    Toyota changed the way Americans look at cars. We expect more from our cars now. Now there’s a legacy.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t say Toyota, or any other Japaness marque, has a significant weakness in a lack of a legacy. Nor would I say that they are without one.

    When I think of Toyota a few legacy products come to mind. The early RWD Corollas that were darn near bulletproof. The nigh indestructible pickups and Landcruisers. With Honda there’s the early Civics which were as bulletproof as the Corollas. With Nissan, the 280Z. With Mazada, the RX-7. It’s a small legacy compared to the Big 2.5, but it’s substantial enough for them.

    The makers that need legacy are the 2.5. If it wasn’t for legacy Ford and GM would be getting carved up at the slaughterhouse right now instead of attempting to restructure.

    Speaking of Ford and GM, if I was a betting man I think I would be putting money on GM hitting the Chapter 11 skids first. At least Ford has admitted to the problem and is trying. GM still thinks it’s the 1990’$ (Hey, look at our new trucks and SUV’s!).

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    Thought provoking piece. In my business, we focus on quality, authenticity and pleasure. Toyota has clearly succeeded on the first and this article points out its detriments on the second, which I agree with. On the matter of pleasure, I find Toyota quite weak; it is almost as though they disdain personality. Why did the last generation Supra have such a short lifespan? I think because it made all the other Toyotas look boring and that made the head guys nervous. I suspect us pistonheads would rather drive a completely unreliable but exhilarating Alfa than a totally reliable but boring Toyota.

  • avatar

    Toyota has a legacy, its just not with the over 30 group, their legacy is growing. They are building it by selling fine pieces of machinery. Start asking younger people what their first car was, many might say a corolla or camry, which they probably loved because of its reliability. Then ask the kid that got stuck with the cavalier, century, Taurus, acclaim, skylark, and you’ll probably get a vulgar statement in return.

  • avatar

    Camry just got MT’s COTY. Nobody saw this coming, right?

    Consolation prize for not even making the TWAT twenty, I suppose.

    Back to legacy – I didn’t know for the longest time that Mercury of making chopped rods, I was born a couple of decades after that all happened. What does that legacy mean to Mercury’s current lineup? Uh, nothing.

    What about the glory days of Buick and Oldsmobile, and how they relate to where they are (or aren’t) today? What the heck does the Enclave have in common with the original Riviera. Same answer, nothing.

    I’m going to stick my neck out here and state that legacy, the non-Subaru variety, is just a form of automotive affirmative action. A product must stand on its own in its current iteration, glories of decades gone by be damned.

  • avatar

    Toyota is so reliable they they are #1 in recalls.

    Slam the doors on a Scion and the air bags deploy… nice!

  • avatar

    insightOwner – “but then again, most Natural History museums are full of “legacy” too.”

    Bravo! That’s EXACTLY the point I was trying to hit…way to put it succinctly.

    The legacy of the big 2.5 is not on the road every day anymore…they’re all old show pieces.

  • avatar

    Consolation prize for not even making the TWAT twenty, I suppose.

    It would have made #1. But TTAC felt that we needed to be shielded from reality

    Why bother having a vote anyway if they just throw out whoever they want?

  • avatar

    Actually I think legacy is a weak thing to rely on. Frankly nobody cared who Maybach was when they came out, and the Mercedes Benz name had a lot more brand recognition and definitely needed the boost.

    It could be argued that reliance on legacy is what has caused brands like Jaguar, Mercedes, and the American car makers to decline. Instead of competing model-by-model, they have relied and abused their reputations.

  • avatar

    Uh…1984, are you claiming it was rigged to be anti-domestic? That’s flat out silly…

  • avatar

    I’m not buying the “no legacy, therefore no brand” argument. Great brands are about achieving a unique position within the consumer’s mind that is relevant and important to them. It’s about owning that characteristic which generates the deepest emotional connection and delivering on that promise time and time again. For example: Target owns design while Wal-Mart owns cost and Norstrom owns customer service. You shop where your needs are satisfied.

    In the auto industry, we all know there there are dozens of parameters around which people choose the cars they buy. As auto enthusiasts, we have a “heightened” sense of criteria. However, the mass public looking to safely get to and from work and transport their children at a reasonable price are heavily focused on reliability and economics. Those are the characteristics that resonate with them. Should it look good? Sure. Should it have great power? That would be nice. Must it have legacy?… Say again? Those play second fiddle to the ultimate priority. What brand best promises to deliver on that right now – Toyota. That’s the power of brand.

    HOWEVER… Toyota’s greatest strength will become their greatest weakness. How? Eventually, the Toyota brand won’t be able to own the characteristics of reliability and economics. The ultra-competitive market won’t allow it. The market demands parity on this, and it will be acheived. If you don’t… you’re out! What unique promise will Toyota have after parity is met – design? no. performance? no. What?

    BMW owns performance luxury. Saturn owns the buying experience. Volvo owns safety. Lexus owns service (credit given). Mercedes owns prestige. Where is Toyota to go?

    At this point, the last great differentiator is design. But for Toyota, with only one mass market brand, flexibility for generating unique design and keeping mass appeal is weak.

    This is why it makes sense for GM to have 8 brands. They will eventually meet the reliability and economics standards, and when they do… they will give consumers what Toyota cannot… great design choice in a variety of personalities. You’re starting to see that GM can deliver on such an idea – look no further than Solstice/SKY, Corvette, Tahoe/Yukon/Escalade, G6, new Camaro, H3, Enclave/Acadia/Outlook, Aura, etc., etc.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    Lest anyone forget that Motor Trend has put Toyotas as COTY 2 years out of the past 3.

  • avatar

    This is why it makes sense for GM to have 8 brands.

    Huh? If you’re talking cheap commodities with minimal R&D and after-sales support, sure. Like 8 brands of bars of soap, perhaps. but there are only two in my house, moisturizer and non-moisturizer.

    With autos, the fixed costs are horrifically expensive, differentiating products between 8 brands is just too costly, even for the World’s Biggest Auto Maker (TM). Hence, Saabaru, SaabBlazer, SaabCadillac, DaewooChevyPontiacSaturnOpel.

  • avatar

    As an aside, take a look at market shares in California.

    2006 Jan-Sept California market shares of 7 large companies:

    Toyota+Scion+Lexus: 26.8%
    Honda+Acura: 14.1%
    +Cadillac+Pontiac+Hummer: 14.8%
    Ford+Lincoln: 10.2%
    Nissan+Infiniti: 7.9%
    Dodge+Chrysler+Jeep: 6.9%
    Hyundai+Kia: 2.4%

    Note: Buick and Mercury have negligible sales in CA.

  • avatar

    Yes, and Honda Civic got last year’s COTY.


    I read you as supporting my argument: where’s Toyota to go when their production model and customer service has been emulated (or surpassed) by the other majors? You state a number of positions owned by other brands, on the basis of their histories — and that Toyota has none.
    And then you indicate that GM’s brand palette will come into its own, once they meet reliability and financial expectations.

    By the way. At no point in my post did I write “no legacy, no brand.” I have said that Toyota does not have an easily evoked legacy, and that’s a weakness that can be exploited.

    A brand is made up of the expectations past product experiences have created as to future performance.

    This is the definition I work by when giving advice to my premium brand clients.
    A brand is created in peoples’ heads. Not in boardrooms, and not in marketing departments.
    Past experiences > future expectations.

    Which is why Lexus is suffering in Japan and underperforming as to sales in Europe. Toyota thought there was an “I would like to have a Mercedes look alike” segment in these markets. Japanese know too much about Toyota to fall for it, and Europeans remain underwhelmed about what Lexus is all about.

    A strong awareness of (and custodianship of) your legacy helps you manage expectations.
    This is what the majors forgot to be disciplined about. Consistently underdelivering to our expectations has put them in a position where they are up against the wall.

  • avatar

    The economics of 8 brands will change over time – platform consolidation, manufacturing flexibility, globalization, etc.

    Sure, there have been MANY examples of poor executions of platform sharing (aka badge engineering). Thanks for the examples you’ve given.

    BUT… I’m focuse where we go from here, and there have been many successes as well… And progress is being made. I would not consider the Yukon/Tahoe/Escalade/H2 a failure… or Acadia/Outlook/Enclave… or Solstice/SKY… or OPEL/Saturn… or Sierra/Silverado… or G6/9-3… or Cobalt/HHR… or Fusion/Mazda6…

    The proof that it can be successful is there…

  • avatar

    I think Toyota’s vulnerability is not necessarily that they don’t have legacy although that’s a part of their problem. Toyota’s biggest vulnerability is that they are pretty much a one trick pony. Toyota “owns” reliability, but not much else. Their cars have limited driving dynamics, “personality,” heritage or whatever else can be thought of. This means that if they have problems with reliability and are overtaken by others, they have nothing to fall back upon. Why buy a Toyota if it breaks down all the time? Recent problems resulting in record recalls from Toyota must be freaking them out for that reason. What has been discussed above, including The FJ Cruiser, Scion, Formula 1 etc are attempts at creating more reasons to buy Toyota if they loose “ownership” of reliability. They are vulnerable all right but they have no reason to panic just yet. Empires tend to fall though, and some fall pretty hard.

  • avatar
    Jon Furst


    I think you’re on to something. I think Toyota’s weakness is going to be that in the near future, all cars are going to be genuinely reliable. These days, the first 100k miles of any car – even the Koreans – are almost entirely trouble-free. In 10 years, when the drivers who weren’t traumatized by low-quality domestic cars of the 70s and 80s stop buying cars, will Toyota be able to hold enough of an advantage, either by legacy, or design, or performance, to keep people coming back?

    Eventually, people will come to realize that Toyotas are not significantly better quality cars than their competition. Will that cause people to focus on other factors in purchase decisions? I think that’s likely.

    In my opinion, on the whole Toyota has the ugliest line-up of the mainstream auto manufacturers. Who knows what 10 or 20 years from now will hold on that front, though. 10 years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed that I’d be ranking BMW 2nd to Toyota on that measure. But, looks alone would keep me from buying any of their current cars, especially when there are better-looking alternatives that are still very good cars.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    Overall, this was a terrific topic and a very well-written piece, Stein. Kudos.

    Just as a quick aside, somewhat relevant (let me make my point here dear readers, please!) let me quote from Motor Trend:

    “Earlier we said the economics of hybrids don’t add up at the moment. But recently, Kuwait admitted that oil production from its Burgan Greater field, the world’s second largest, is now in decline. And speculation is rife that Saudi Arabia’s giant Ghawar field, the planet’s granddaddy oil well, could be next (experts have noticed the Saudis are pumping extraordinary amounts of water into it to force out the remaining crude).

    In fact, the limitations of existing production, coupled with the world’s escalating thirst for the black elixir, has led to the prediction that, by 2030, human enterprise will require additional sources equaling 10 brand-new Saudi Arabias–and that’s according to Sadad Al-Husseini, former vice director of largest oil company in the world, Saudi Aramco.”

    Now, I’m a real gear-head and have loved cars since I can remember thinking.

    I’d also like to enjoy cars when I’m 92, to paraphrase the Beatles.

    So I have to say this – what two companies are WAY ahead of virtually everyone else in regards to really pushing the hybrid (short-term? medium-term?) solution?

    Answer: Toyota and to some lesser extent, Honda.

    What two makes of cars have had all 3 Motor Trend cars of the year over the past 3 years? Same answer.

    Who’s to say one can’t have fun driving a hybrid? I can’t say it – quite the opposite – I enjoy my hybrid.

    I’ll enjoy hybrids a lot more when I retire, instead of following a big Belgian’s ass in a little horse-drawn cart, as well.

    Let’s all get real here and realize THINGS ARE CHANGING FAST. Companies which look ahead and plan ahead and stay the course (i.e. Toyota and Honda) are going to cremate the competition which do not.

    So in one sense, a company’s past legacy will be invalid, especially if they are not around as a company to build cars (or horse-drawn buggies if we don’t smarten up).

  • avatar

    @Stein X Leikanger

    I understand your premise… and I suppose the small discrepancy in what I am saying is that while “legacy” is helpful to evoke past emotions and experiences related to the brand, it is not necessarily essential for a great brand to thrive. Toyota has no legacy to use as that input… I agree with you. But I am arguing that great design is the last great way to differentiate once market parity in quality and economics is achieved. If you believe that, then inherently Toyota is fundamentally restricted because it is only 1 mass market brand. You can only take so much risk and offer so much variety. You need the additional brands with unique personalities to appeal to more people in highly fragmented market.

  • avatar

    I think the article is pretty dead on. While most think that legacy means healthcare pensions and highers costs (and to a great extent it does) it also means loyalty and history.

  • avatar

    @ Glenn A

    Thanks, Glenn.
    Based upon some of the comments above, I feel a need to clear something up. Having an awareness of one’s legacy, and how to drive expectations with it, does not mean you have to mire yourself in your past, or constantly revisit it.

    It’s perfectly legit to be forward looking, that’s how you drive a brand.

    The majors committed a miscalculation of enormous proportions some years ago. They went for the big margins in the larger cars/SUVs – and stopped thinking about what to do with their small and mid-range vehicles.

    Honda and Toyota asked themselves: what will people need/want in the future, and began building it.
    GM ridiculed the hybrid engine, lobbied against traffic advantages for hybrid cars, advertised hydrogen to slow down hybrid sales and continued to build monster cars in search of the big margins.

    The majors also dropped their EV programs once CA dropped the requirement.

    And I have met my share of auto exec’s.
    They just don’t find building small, efficient (relevant) cars sexy. Just look at how DCX has mismanaged SMART.
    How VW – Peoples’ Wagons! – turned its back on their bread and butter, allowing their VW cars to fall cycles behind to go hunting for Phantom Gold. How GM rubber stamps the same range on every one of its brands, instead of mining brand excellence within each.

    In future columns I will explore avenues that can be pursued by the majors. But they have to pick a territory, and stick to it.
    Honda and Toyota have delivered excellent brand promises to its customers:

    Honda – the most fuel efficient vehicles in each category, while being environmentally friendly.

    Toyota – an ownership experience that exceeds your expectations relative to what you pay.

    And they have been forward looking. How’s that compared to Lutz who keeps claiming that gas prices will fall and people will go back to buying monsters?

    There are lots of opportunities for the majors, but they have to select a path, and stick to it. Right now they are all over the place.

  • avatar

    My 1988 MR2 was one bitchin’ machine. A true driver’s car.

    Bought it used. Fell apart after a year. Can someone say, roll-back-odometer-and-sell-to-stupid-kid? I digress. It was a bitchin fun machine.

  • avatar

    2JZ-GTE ?



    Toyota’s legacy is in pointy hair’d ricerdom not in an amerigasam like ford.

  • avatar

    Herein lies chapter 37 of the novel “American Commentators Underestimating the Japanese So They Don’t Feel Sad.”

    Been writing this novel since about 1986.

    Here’s a bit of advice – Ford killed their brand dead in the 1980s. Dead as in “start over right about where Kia is”.

    Toyota has the best cake in the world. They can do whatever they want with the frosting. It’s a freebie.

    Oh, and Land Cruiser anyone?

  • avatar

    I see a lot of revisionist history on this board. A lot has been made of the poor quality of domestics during the 70’s and 80’s. And they certainly earned every bit of that bad rep! I find it amusing, however, that no one seems to remember the equally poor quality of the imports from the same time frame. While the import engines and trannies held up fairly well, these vehicles would rust so thoroughly that there was often little left for them to push around after several years – particularly here in the salty upper Midwest.

  • avatar

    I agree with your article. Ford and GM both ought to provide at least one offering that harks back to the styling in the glory days-ford did a good job of this with their latest Mustang. Not just something that is retro styled, but something truly retro on the outside with all the safety features and comforts of a modern car. Personally, I think a retro look truck in the style of those from the 40’s through the 50’s would be great. Trucks aren’t the greatest handling vehicles and aren’t exactly aerodynamic anyway. There is certainly a demand for full restos and restomodded trucks from this time period. Instead of making a vehicle with styling cues from the glory years (HHR, SSR) why not try makig one that bears a close resemblance to the beautiful trucks built back then, like that Green AD (Advanced Design) truck at the beginning of the latest Chevy truck commercials. I think this sort of vehicle could also awaken positive feelings toward the manufacturer in general and get people to consider a GM or Ford product again, even though they may not be interested in that particular type of vehicle, e.g. truck.

    I also agree that Toyota has no heritage that awakens a yearning for the products of the past. They have no real sporty vehicle at all anymore. At least Honda, Mazda, and Nissan have produced some cars that really do put a smile on your face while you drive from Point A to Point B, and will cause people to stop and look. Versus Toyota, which will get you from Point A to Point B, allbeit reliably, but really nothing more than that. in all defference to the Supra and MR2, they really don’t comparein the wow factor to a Honda S2000, Nissan NSX (or Skyline), or a Mazda RX7 (something from the Mazda heritage) or Miata.

  • avatar

    In spring 2004, my wife and I decided it was time to get a minivan for us and the two kids, and in anticpation of #3 as well as hauling the in-laws around. We decided to replace an aging car which would flunk emisisons and cost almost as much to fix than it was worth.

    Toyota had the class leading product, so we got it – interior seating capacity + flexibility still unmatched to this day, safety features, fuel economy, for not too much money. Honda was a few months behind in releasing the new Odyssey, and turned out to have an interior less suitable to our needs. No one else made a product worthy of consideration. Yes, we’re very happy with it, does its job very well as a family hauler.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Motor Trend just named the Camry it’s Car of the Year.

    Toyota sold 350,000 Camrys last year, without fleet sales.

    Second place in terms of cars? The Corolla with 330,000 sold.

  • avatar

    My perspective is that no American brand as a whole is considered desireable. A single car like the Mustang or the Corvette might have name recognition, but that doesn’t extend desireability to the likes of the Crown Victoria or Impala. Here in Silicon Valley the Big 2.5 iron isn’t too popular (except for SUVs, which have now become less popular); the multitude of sub-brands each manufacturer has further dillutes the impact of the name.

    Another problem with “image cars” like the Corvette or Ford GT is that they might draw people into the showroom, but if they can’t afford the vehicle or need a little more room in their vehicle, there is absolutely no other offering in the showroom that comes remotly close to the image car. As a counter example, AMG and M products draw people in, but the shoppers can then buy the lower-cost car on which the special model is based.

  • avatar

    INteresting reading the posts. I remember when i was a kid, lookin at all the cars, which i always did, I began to notice that there was chevy if ya didnt have alot of money ( like us). Then u got a buick or an olds or pontiac if u had a little more money, and then cadillac if u had “made it”. I thought even then that this was all kind of cool but silly, cause anyone could see that they were sort of all the same car. BUt it worked like a charm. Everyone seemed to play along.

    I am still enamoured with the name “Lincoln”, even tho I have been less enamoured with alot of their recent products.

    Is this what we are talking about? Is this the legacy? I suppose they will have to bring back tail fins if thats the case. I think tailfins are cool anyway. Always have

  • avatar

    To some people (and to me), dependability is what matters the most in cars, but this feeling extends beyond simply automobiles.

    I would rather have a “plain” spouse who is easy-going, kind, and trustworthy, over, say, an Italian supermodel who is extremely fussy and a pain-in-the-ass when I’m not looking at her tetas.

    In the same way, I would prefer to own the outgoing Lexus LS430 (even though the design screams generic Japanese, and the V-8 is older than me) over say, an S-class Benz, simply because that Benz (even though it’s so sizzlin’ hot it scorches my retinas) is going to be a total bitch to maintain in the long run, and I suspect even more so because of all the electronic gadgets crammed into every nook and cranny of that luxo-barge. Maybe that’s why people lease Benzes. It’s because no one wants to hang on to something that in a few years while be total, utter crap.

    Buying a car is a fairly big investment for anyone, and happens /maybe/ once every 4-5 years, and so when people actually DO buy cars, people tend to look a little in the long-term, for a vehicle that’s willing to work as long and hard as they do.

    I think Toyota delivers that vehicle, and I know roughly 2 million people who agree (give or take 1,999,999 people). XD

  • avatar

    Nice article guys – industry perspective is a welcome break from vehicle reviews.

    There is no doubt that Toyota lacks a prominent racing heritage (although they have been involved in racing for a long time) but this may not hurt them as their heritage is the perception of reliability and value (justified or not).

    Ford should (and does) exploit its heritage but their main challenge is to improve their brand perception which increasingly is as a domestic alternative to Hyundai rather than Toyota which has moved upmarket.

    Ford has taken some good steps in the right direction but they will need more than just good memories of past products to have a prosperous future.

  • avatar

    O, here’s something to chew on..

    My dad has a 1998 Toyota Sienna (frumpy to the max). The engine is super silky and smooth, even after 165,000 miles. One can’t even hear it when it’s at a stop. And when it’s accelerating? A vigorous purr.

    In the school parking lot, kids eager to impress pull up in Jags and their parent’s MBs. To me, I can’t but giggle because their engines creak, sputter, and whine in a manner so uncivilized, it’s as if the engine was kind of pasted together in some socialist-type Baltic country during the Cold War.

    Toyota offers so much refinement, for such modest amounts of money! Why buy anything else? I’m not joking. Why buy anything but Toyotas? Need sport or mega-lux? Once Lexus starts pumping out the IS500s and LS-Fs or whatever-you-call-its, I’m sure the industry will be blown away! Pffbt. So MB’s got a sweet 7-speed auto in its cars now? Toyota’s got beautiful fake wood trim in a 14k compact.

    I think your article is amazing and extremely insightful, but… Toyota having a weakness? That’s unpossible!

  • avatar

    The photo of the 2000GT is extremely appropriate, and a picture of Toyota’s problem.

    Yes, that was a gorgeous car…but tall drivers needn’t apply, and the car was killed pretty quickly.

    Kinda like the last MR, the last Celica, the last Supra…Toyota seems to kill any vesitge of personality wearing its logo. Setting up Scion to shoulder that load isn’t enough-the TC looks like a complete wallflower next to the last Celica. Plus, the rumored Supra coming next year will be a Toyota, not a Scion…but how long ’til it gets the axe?

    Recent history speaks not well of Toyota performance cars.

    The article was about Ford, and how it needs to borrow from Toyota’s procedures while exploiting their century of carbuilding history. Ford’s new co-boss has been trying to get the company aimed as a whole, as opposed to the kind of regional thinking that has the C1 Focus seemingly available everywhere but here. Initial rumblings are promising, and the guy’s a proven winner.

    Toyota isn’t perfect, and I wonder when companies that compete with Toyota in terms of quality regularly-Mercury and Buick are two, like it or not-will get the same happy ink in the press.

  • avatar
    Joe Chiaramonte

    Excellent article. You further point out:

    A brand is made up of the expectations past product experiences have created as to future performance.

    So, I differ.

    The problem Ford faces, IMHO, is that their legacy is not just tied to F150 and Mustang. It’s also tied to Pinto, Fairmont, Tempo, etc. It’s a legacy based in past product, which has been hit and miss. It’s also a legacy of “burning” customers – literally, with shoddy speed control modules, with Explorer rollovers, etc. It has to overcome “Fix Or Repair Daily,” and “Found On Road Dead.”

    Toyota’s legacy is built on an inarguable intangible: reliability. You can’t say that’s ever going to be seen as a negative, even if you can argue its validity. [Except here, of course, where we might see “reliable” as “boring,” but we’re weird. We were wired by Lucas.]

  • avatar

    This article is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG about Toyota and it’s legacy. Maybe for 50 year olds Ford and Chevy have more legacy, but for younger people Toyota stands greatly above them. What do Ford and Chevy have that counts for so much? The Mustang and the Camaro? Maybe add in a few extras like the Taurus SHO… As for Toyota’s legacy, here’s some cars worth collecting:
    Corolla GT-S (AE86 – yeah, it’s not that great but yet they have a following)

    NO other make can claim something as great as the MR2 – a mid engine sports car that was actually within reach and was consistently improved over the years. The Celica has a history in the US dating back to 1971 and in the ’80’s and 90’s produced the All-Trac/GT4. The Supra speaks for itself. For people under 40, Toyota’s older cars are as loved as anything Detroit built ever.

    Toyota’s problem recently is that it’s starting to act old, killing off the great names and models of the past instead of improving them (just as GM killed the Camaro). If the expected new Supra comes along that may mark a change for the better.

    Any talk of Toyota lacking legacy is just nostalgia of an old person who won’t recognize any car made after 1971.

  • avatar

    Does anyone know why the Celica has been dropped from the Toyota line-up? I had an ’01 and loved it. Even with the base engine (“only” 140hp) it was great fun, very eager to rev, and I had no trouble passing any manner of vehicle on twisting highways with limited opportunities. And it got pretty damn good mileage, too. This was with the 5spd of course… perhaps the auto was sufficiently uninspiring to kill the car?

    The car is quite popular in my neck of the woods, has a solid tuner rep, and, in my opinion, is a great looking vehicle.

  • avatar


    At least you’re not holding back! :-)

    I think I’m young enough to have a perspective on Toyota’s offering. (and should add that I didn’t pick the photo illustrating the editorial, if that is what has you dating my take on the brand).

    I have been to Nagoya, have worked with the Lexus brand and know Toyota quite well. In fact, like Mulally, I’m a great admirer of Toyota and feel they have done an incredible job defining a very attractive offer to car buyers.

    Toyota isn’t consciously killing off the great names and models of the past – it’s incapable of seeing that they are great. And that’s partly my point here.
    The company builds for the moment and aims for the mass.
    This could very well be the future of the automotive industry, if so it doesn’t bode well for the majors.

    In my series of columns I will be looking at where Toyota, and other profitable manufacturers, are weak and at what possible options the unprofitable majors are left with.

    It’s quite gratifying that the editorial has gotten such a strong response!

  • avatar

    “NO other make can claim something as great as the MR2 – a mid engine sports car that was actually within reach and was consistently improved over the years.”

    That car started out as a fun to drive 2 seater that eventually balloned in price and weight to the point where it was no longer desirable.

    “The Celica has a history in the US dating back to 1971 and in the ’80’s and 90’s produced the All-Trac/GT4. ”

    The All Trac GT4? Who cares?

    Talk about WRONG…

  • avatar

    As has already been said, this article is dead wrong on many points. It all depends on how you define legacy and heritage. If you define these things by say- 50’s chevs, fords cruising through town or gathering weekly in a supermarket parking lot as they are wont to do in my neck of the woods – then yes Toyota lacks this aura. I say Thank God, I hope Toyota never becomes overwhelmed or obsessed by the so-called Glory days of automotive history. As I did not grow up in North America, I look upon all this hankering back as strange! It’s the same with motorcycles, I’m told that if I have to ask what all this Harley stuff is, I would’nt understand. Well I guess I don’t get it. All this retro-styling and the names given the vehicles that are adorned by it ‘Heritage High Roof’ (Chevrolet HHR) and Hertitage softtail (or whatever), the comeback of the ‘legendary’ muscle cars of the 70’s – charger, challenger, comaro- it all strikes me that the NA auto industry is fresh out of new ideas and a bit obsessed with the past and think by dredging up all this stuff it will somehow ‘return to greatness’ as ‘Buickman’ would say. I say forget about all that, leave those 57 Chevs in the junkyard or melt ’em down! Give me a Japanese super-bike over that HD junk anyday!. Give me an ’06 Corvette over a vintage one! Ford, GM and DCX need to look to the future not the past. Their so-called legacy is dragging them down. If Toyota does not have this stuff then so much the better! Don’t mind me, after all I am the type of person that when I see a superbly restored and presented 57 Chev or Belair or hear the ear-splitting racket of a Harley, I feel like gagging! All this ‘heritage’ is lost on me I’m afraid. When I think of the crap-boxes I drove in the 70’s and 80’s well, that was then, this is now.

    Don’t flame me for assaulting American auto heritage, after all I just don’t get it!

  • avatar

    Without a history and heritage, you are just transparent.

  • avatar

    Stein X Leikanger:

    Well, if you said that Toyota doesn’t recognize it’s own (sadly past) great products or has lost it’s soul, that I could believe. Saying they don’t have a legacy is more or less claiming that they have always been soulless which is a different thing entirely.

    It seems to me that both Honda and Toyota are falling into this trap – Honda killed the Prelude, NSX, and now the Integra/RSX (though they did bring out the S2000). I understand the business causes to some extent (insurance is one of them) but all the same I feel sad seeing cars with character die and leave behind only Civics and Corollas.

  • avatar


    Hmmm – you list everything you hate about US cars, and then use it to attack this editorial as wrong?

    I am of the opinion that US manufacturers have failed their customers. Not just in automotive, but in electronics, building quality and numerous other areas. Profit has gone before quality, tricking customers became de rigeur and slipshod offerings were touted as great.

    That’s why they are in trouble now, and why something needs to be done. Let’s assume we want the brands that Ford, GM and DCX manage to continue (most of them). Do you want them to chuck everything they have in their past out the window? Sounds like it. And that’s no solution.

    At any rate. Legacies can be many things, and offer quite strong inspiration. For instance, Ford’s original assembly line is just as much part of its legacy as is a specific model you dislike from the 60s. :-)

    Toyota is good at building the things we already know we want (but a tip of the hat to their gamble on hybrids). The innovative spirit of Ford and GM (and there’s some left) is still around to be mined.

  • avatar
    Eric Miller

    “NO other make can claim something as great as the MR2 – a mid engine sports car that was actually within reach and was consistently improved over the years.”

    Hmm… how about the Pontiac Fiero. Mid-engine (check) sports car (two seats, sporty: check) actually within reach (check) and consistently improved over the years (check).

    Not saying I’m a Fiero fan, just pointing out one you may have missed.

    And the Fiat (later Bertone) X-19 probably qualifies too.
    The Porsche 914 wasn’t too far off either.

  • avatar


    True, the Fiero was around, as well as the Fiat X1/9. If you really think about it the list really starts with the Porsche 914. Of these the MR2 had the longest run and really was an excellent car (the Fiero was the red headed step child of GM and was killed when it matured). I guess it can’t be called a totally new idea, but it did have soul. It was something special.

  • avatar

    Toyota has built a brilliant strong brand, it just isn’t a brand self-described car nuts care about. Toyota’s brand stands for quality, reliability, resale value and the don’t worry factor. Millions of people around the world are loyal customers who keep coming back for their next car over and over again.

    The editorial completely misses the essence of brand building, which is the creation of customer affinity and loyalty. Sure Toyota’s fanatically committed customers aren’t car nuts, but so what? Car nuts are a lunatic fringe and have little in common with the rest of the world when it comes to transportation. I should know, as I’m a car nut.

    Toyota’s Lexus brand is never going to kick butt with BMW loyalists, but it has put Cadillac and Lincoln into walking retirement and has done a number on Mercedees as well.


  • avatar

    The question everyone touches on is really what makes an automotive legacy? Is it the overall brand? A model or two? A racing heritage? Pervasive over-engineering? A perception of quality? A well-crafted and marketed image? A mix of the above? You fill in the blank or blanks.

    I think a legacy–which often seems built around performance or racing history — is important to gearheads and afficionados of certain marques but means little to the average car buyer who is primarily interested transportation, getting to work on time, and perhaps a little ego-gratification.

    Even though it is highly unlikely that one will ever live in my garage, Toyota makes good cars that satisfy a whole lot of people. And it has amassed an enviable following. Just because it has no truly iconic models in its past does not mean it has no legacy. Its reliability, whether perceived or real, seems to be all the legacy required to satisfy today’s mercurial car buyers.

  • avatar

    OK, I think we have at least three different perspectives that are vying for the mic.

    We have those here who have fond memories of the detroit vehicles of yesteryear as well as the era of ‘bland’ Japanese machines. The T-Bird, Grand torino, Bel Air, Corvette, Continental, Mark Series, LeMans, Camaro, Mustang, Barracuda, Hemi, Shelby, Cobra, SS…. these vehicles offered something that was distinct and far superior to the Japanese in most respects.

    We also have those who are more into engineering and have seen Toyota kill off some good names due to sales. The MR2, Celica, and Supra have excellent cache but these vehicles were all in market segments that have strong competition and weak sales numbers. The 2 door sports car segment is getting to the point of insanity at this point, the sports coupes have been on a southeward trajectory for 15+ years now, and the sports/luxury coupes have struggled as well.

    Then finally we have those that believe Toyota does have a legacy… and legacy vehicles. The sports/GT cars mentioned are part of that legacy. But so are the first generation Camrys that are 20+ years old and still driven daily, the Lexus vehicles which offer world-class comfort and luxury, and the Scions which have successfully appealed to a younger demographic.

    In sum, Ford will always have the Mustang, GM will always have the Crovette, Chrysler will always have their minivans, and Toyota has the middle of the road.

    Personally I don’t think ‘heritage’ and ‘legacy’ issues are particularly strong influencers with the American consumer. In fact, the buzz of a fresh product can easily win folks over if it’s truly a bold new direction.

    The Mini, 300C, Caravan/Voyager, Miata, and LS400 were not primarily successful because they harken back to the consumer’s ‘good old days’. They were world class products that appealed to consumer’s tastes and wants.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    The real issue is this — have any of you ever seen the interior of the GT2000?

    About as perfect as a car can get.

    Rosewood mahogany.


    Also — the GT2000 was a Bond car.

    Hard to get any cooler than that.

    Later-day FoMoCo T-Bird excepted.

  • avatar

    It’s funny to here the Fiero mentioned a car that was killed after they finally got it right. Kinda’ like how Toyota has killed anything approaching sportiness.


    I find it interesting that you say, don’t flame me, right after you get done flaming 90% of the gearheads out there. I guess that I just don’t have the strength to ignore your puerile, throw away mentality. I enjoy new cars as well as classics, but maybe that’s because I can appreciate seeing what came before. I appreciate examples of past automobiles both as art work-versus todays cookie cutter stryleless cars-and as examples of the evolution of auto design. And, just because you can’t appreciate any car produced before 2000 doesn’t mean that you need to attack those who do.

    It seems to me that the point of this article, and most of the discussion, is how can Ford, specifically, and US manufacturers in general recapture their lost market share from Toyota. The given is that they will be able to learn from Toyota and produce cars that are at least just as reliable. The edge that they may still have and need to maintain is an emotional appeal. That is done through styling, power, and speed. For the most part, top end speed, hp, and torque matter not at all in daily driving. You can get from here to there in a small “peppy” car that has a 120 hp engine, but there is something in most of us that awakens upon hearing a car has a 300 hp engine and can go from 0-60 in 5 seconds with a top speed of 160 mph. It’s that heritage that the US auto makers have on Toyota: the Barracuda, the GTO, the Charger, the Mustang, the Corvette, and on and on. If they lose this sex appeal in the pursuit of emulating Toyota, they can never hope to reclaim any lost market share. At best they will stop dropping market share. It is through their history that they will be able to distinguish themselves from the plain jane people movers that Toyota puts out and that is the only way to draw customers away from Toyota.

  • avatar
    mike frederick

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhh heritage……..

    give me the 08 Camaro SS.after a few months,the aftermarket goodies hit the shelves.I’m busy in the garage & life is good.

    1 nice flow-master cat back system,the little chip for extra H.P. after-market brakes maybe new shocks depending on G.M.’s assy. standards and of course brand-new Goodyear rubber.

    A couple cold bud lights in the afternoon as I apply the finishing touches to a detail or modifacation and wait until a nice morning to find either straight or winding road to feel & hear HERITAGE.

    I do respect Toyotas quality but God please give me some Chevy horsepower and that growling sound.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    yes, fine, but Bud Lite?

    That’s like drinking a Corolla.

  • avatar

    It’s fine to talk about legacy and history to car-obsessives but the reality is that there are now two generations for whom Toyota and Lexus represent ever present quality, reliability, engineering and value, soul-less though their cars may be.

    The Gen X and Y crowd would largely be unable to tell a Ford GT40 from a contemporary Ferrari. Ford has, for them, been entirely synonymous with pickup trucks, SUVs that roll over and bland Hertz-mobiles (or maybe rep-mobiles in the UK).

    I agree with the Mulally bits of the article, but sadly, trading on your past history is a bit of a losers game.

    PS. The 2000GT will, forever in my eyes, be nothing more than a warped E-Type clone, rare though they may be.

  • avatar
    mike frederick

    Probally wrong to bring this up on this particular article,but I just got to see the new Malibu in person (2007 model) man that interior is awesome.Much better than I expected.

  • avatar

    Someone should tell the marketing folks at Ford and GM how important car line legacy is so they can stop killing off names.

    Ford has been the worst about this. Other than the Mustang and F150, FoMoCo has systematically killed off all the model names which were built up over the years. Now all Fords start with “F” and all Mercurys start with “M” while all Lincolns are an MK_. It seems that Ford has a legacy of cars it is now embarassed to even admit it made, as do Buick and Pontiac. What is with that?

  • avatar
    Voice of Sweden

    Toyota has been critized here in the EU lately. Apparently, they initially failed getting the 5 stars (out of 5) NCAP-rating for their RAV4, because some airbags fired too late.

    So Toyota changed the car, retested, and now has the 5 stars. Problem is that they have sold a number of non 5 star RAV4:s, which they refuse to modify for free, or compensate the customers in any way.

    Okay, manufacturers improve their cars, that’s natural and good. But Toyota doesn’t handle their PR very good. Janne Josefsson enters – famous for having changed at lease 1.5 Swedish elections using his tv-show. First Toyota wont let theire Swedish people to be interviewed, so they send this man from the EU-HQ. A rather lame type. And then some Swedish Toyota Boss enters the discussion anyway(?). And he isn’t lame, he’s bossy and smug.

    At 23:40 you can find the english interview starts. It’s also funny looking at the Brittish chap when they speak swedish, he looks just a little too vorried! @ 27:37.

    But wait, Toyota has an even smuger boss, the Toyota Sweden CEO. Here we see The Janne in action:
    Janne makes fun at Toyotas slogan/mission statement “We deliver what our customers want” – really, do you? @ 08:31

    I guess “no comment” would have been better.

  • avatar

    It’s funny you mention Buick. A lot of shoppers in the used car market that want reliability, but don’t want to pay a Toyota/Honda premium, end up getting a Buick.

    The Buick Century was the most dependable vehicle in J.D. Power’s 5 year study back in 2005. That put this vehicle on the radar and would have helped support the current Lacrosse had GM decided to keep the ‘Century’ name and publicize the accolade.

    The Century, LeSabre, Regal and Park Avenue were all good options so long as you opted for the higher trim models. Irony is apparently contagious thdse days because the very marque that could take on the Camry and Avalon appears to be the one most starved for marketing dollars at the moment.

  • avatar

    I loved the old Chevelle/Malibu, but dont think for one moment my nastalgic side would force me into one of those horrible new Malibu’s. I’d think about a Mustang, but those type of cars dont sell in the volume needed to save GM or Ford.

    Besides, Todays youth will look to replace their “classic” Honda Civics and Mitsubishi Eclipse’s with new Hondas and Mitsubishi’s.

    Come on…
    Nastalga doesnt save car companies. Just ask anyone at MG.

  • avatar

    Lieberman, drinking a Bud Lite is akin to drinking a Kia Rio. Take something horribly bland and strip it of its only redeeming feature. Regular Bud, now that’s a Corolla.

  • avatar

    I don’t go to the showroom to buy legacy. I go to buy the best product of today.

    The PT Cruiser is an extremely successful retro mobile but what makes it successful isn’t just the looks, it’s the value. The Prowler was the best looking retro mobile I can think of but it’s all show and no go and a flop. The Crossfire was a complete flop.

    Legacy only carries you so far.

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    I think it is a mistake to assume that a car steeped in “legacy” is, by definition, retro. For example, GM really missed the boat with Saab because it failed to recognize that this brand’s greatest asset was its forward-looking design heritage.

    What makes a Saab a Saab isn’t retro-trivia such as the long-time location of its ignition switch. The essence of Saab is the courage to test out radically different engineering approaches where form always follows function. No poll-tested glitziness here.

    What would a new-generation Saab look like if its designers were let loose to come up with the Next Big (But Offbeat) Idea? Nostalgic design proposals need not apply. Nor thinly disguised conventional wisdom.

    Of course, GM won’t let Saab be Saab, because:
    1) it’s more expensive than reskinning an Opel and slapping on a turbo, and
    2) a real Saab would require a level of engineering imagination that GM’s top execs simply couldn’t understand.

    GM has been such a poor steward of Saab because it has little interest in truly advanced engineering. The corporation’s core capacities have always resided primarily in styling and mass-marketing wizardry. (GM thus would have had much better luck with Jaguar, whose legacy is also heavily rooted in styling and marketing.)

    I hope that Saab survives so that someday, somehow, it manages to reconnect with its legacy . . . and produce another round of ground-breaking, futuristic designs. The auto industry has become so homogenized that now, more than ever, we desperately need the quirky originality of Saab.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman


    No way — Bud Lite is a Corolla and Bud is a Camry.

    Insanely well made, beest-selling, reliable and bland, bland, bland.

    The Kia is a Red Stripe.

  • avatar

    I must agree with those who say Legacy doesn’t count for much in the U.S. market. Even the current level of success of the German high-end marques isn’t due to their past achievements–it’s because of what the current products offer.

    On the other hand, look at Lincoln and Jag. The have tremendous legacies (though for Lincoln you must go pre-war) but their sales are in the toilet.

    I initially figured this article was going to argue that Toyotas are bland. Which we’ve heard a zillion times before. But have you noticed that critics of the Camry have stopped calling its styling bland and started calling it ugly? Sure, ugly isn’t good, but it’s not bland. In other words, Toyota has recognized the problem, and they’re working to deal with it. Won’t be overnight, though.

    Honda took the same step with the 2003 Accord, so one might argue they’re four years ahead of Toyota in making the transition towards products with more character.

    Finally, Toyota is building a huge legacy with the Prius. It will be a long time before people forget the pioneering effort it represents.

  • avatar


    You are being silly, I did not attack anyone. I explained why auto-nostalgia is lost on me. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. You seem to be taking it personal, why, I don’t know. Have a wonderful day!

  • avatar

    The problem is that Toyota gave up on it’s cars that had inspiration. Celica, Supra, MR2… anything that didn’t sell millions. The stupidest business decision I’ve seen them make was killing off their enthusiast models. The fact is that those would do a lot to improve their brand image… and the ironic thing is they are the only automaker right now that can actually AFFORD to LOSE MONEY by selling a niche enthusiast oriented vehicle at a loss just to stir up some passion for themselves. Ford can’t afford to lose money on the Mustang (that’s why they canceled the GT after all). Chevy can’t afford to lose money on the Corvette. Toyota is more than capable of building a Corvette killer and selling it for less at a loss, and it would generate tons of interest and recognition. But if a given model doesn’t make Camry and Corolla profits they promptly cancel it. I just don’t get it.

  • avatar

    One thing we can say for sure after all these posts is that Subaru is building a Legacy.

  • avatar

    The Fusion, Cobalt, LaCrosse, Enclave, Outlook, Aura, and Edge sure have a legacy, right. But these are what are supposed to save these guys.

    Legacies are nice, but they dont sell that many cars. Quality, reputation, and meeting needs are what move the most metal, and as boring as Toyotas are, they build good quality cars that meet many needs with a strong reputation as a company. And the American cars above are pretty much going after the same, not a legacy, to save their companies’ butts.

  • avatar

    But have you noticed that critics of the Camry have stopped calling its styling bland and started calling it ugly? Sure, ugly isn’t good, but it’s not bland. In other words, Toyota has recognized the problem, and they’re working to deal with it. Won’t be overnight, though.

    Um, why not overnight? Toyota Australia showed off a Camry sans overgrown snout. Much, much easier on the eyes. It wouldn’t sap Toyota’s profitability to certify a restyled Camry to the NHTSA’s satisfaction. Then again, I just lost my breakfast today after seeing a Yaris… yikes, it smokes even the Camry for the Ugly Car of the Year award.

    It would still be a Camry, however, with all that implies.

  • avatar

    The only legacy the domestics have exists in the head of the AARP set.

    For those of us under 40 that legacy is Pinto, Vega, Chevette, Maverick, Citation, Tempo, K-cars and a few neat cars we see in old movies and museums.

  • avatar

    @Steven T

    And I nod in agreement. A legacy, when well taken care of, points to where a car maker is HEADED, just as well as to where it is coming from. And this is where GM, Ford and DCX have had an ugly tendency to drop the ball.

    Imagine if GM had accepted that Saab was a quirky individualist car with a challenging design expression and ingenious drivetrain and handling solutions – much inspired by its aircraft heritage. Because that is Saab’s legacy.

    It’s been mis-managed horribly by GM, which is why the brand is standing still.
    If GM had taken a long, hard look at Saab’s legacy and acted according to it, chances are they would be selling Saab Hybrids today – not Toyota. And they would be powered to fly, while lean on the fuel.

    Of course, GM won’t let Saab be Saab, because:
    1) it’s more expensive than reskinning an Opel and slapping on a turbo, and
    2) a real Saab would require a level of engineering imagination that GM’s top execs simply couldn’t understand.

    I can confirm that, since I was around for the marketing efforts on the 900 Cab, the 9-3, 9-5, and Wagon — and I have sat on the board of the design company of the man who designed those. GM didn’t want to get it because they were totally invested in cross-platform synergies.

    Legacies define brands. You do not say “Let’s redo that car.” Instead you ask – “Why did we do that car? That engine?” and that’s what you revisit and recreate.
    BMW’s HUD goes all the way back to the first engines the company made. And it points straight to why the logo looks the way it does – tying it all together. That is forward looking – no pun intended.

    I’ll keep stating that Ford and GM have more of that going for them than Toyota, and in coming columns I’ll be discussing how this can be used.

  • avatar

    legacy toyotas:

    1) land cruiser even more highly respected than range rover in REALLY tough terrain. dates to 1950s.

    2) 2000gt , celica, supra

    3) Hi-Lux trucks. grandpappy of world beating Tacoma. early 4×4 models (no-name pre-tacoma) piggybacked on land cruiser experience and reputation. have since established legacy of its own.

  • avatar

    One variable affecting consumer’s choice of car is something like “involvement.” That’s basically a combination of knowledge and interest. I’ve carried out research that shows difference in preference based on that and seen similar results from research carried out by one of my customers. People who are involved/informed seem to have a tendency buy different brands than those who are not. Among the results was that people with high involvement (not talking about gearheads there) are more likely to buy a VW but those with low involvement are more likely to buy a Toyota. Several other differences were found if I remember correctly. This is similar to the rational/emotional dimension often used to describe the relationship between customers and brands.

    Toyota buyers seem to know that Toyotas are reliable (or used to be) but they don’t know an interesting car from a dull one or they simply don’t care. So let’s educate the masses and put Toyota out of business! ;-)

  • avatar


    I like to drink wine. I’m really into it and can talk for a while on the subject. Once I was at the wine store, I turned my nose up at a white zindandel that a fellow shopper was buying.

    My input was not welcome. I no longer do that.

    If people dont want to get a PhD in auto culture, its OK. And judging from toyotas sales figures, not many people do.

  • avatar
    Captain Neek

    How about this for a weakness????

    Toyota models rank at bottom of crash-safety study
    Tribune Wire Services
    By Greg Bensinger
    Bloomberg News
    Article Last Updated:11/21/2006 08:04:29 AM MST

    Posted: 7:56 AM- Toyota Motor Corp., whose vehicles earn top marks for buyer satisfaction, has more models than any other automaker ranked at the bottom of a crash-protection study.
    Toyota and its Lexus division accounted for nine of 16 vehicles with “acceptable,” “marginal” or “poor” rear- impact protection, lowering their overall rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said today. Models included the Toyota Camry and the Lexus GS 350.
    Honda Motor Co., including its Acura division, and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru each placed three vehicles among the 13 the study labeled as a “top safety pick.” The Saab 9-3 sedan, made by General Motors Corp., was the only model manufactured by a U.S. automaker on the “top safety” list.
    Toyota’s performance in the crash-safety study contrasts with its industry-leading ranking on the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index. The Toyota City, Japan-based company finished atop other automakers for the second year in a row in 2006.
    Vehicles earn the insurance institute’s top safety ranking based on tests of front-, rear- and side-collision protection. Vehicles had to have electronic stability control as an optional or standard feature to be considered for the top spot this year.
    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has called for automakers to make electronic stability control standard by 2012. The equipment monitors vehicle movement and steering and may help prevent rollover accidents.
    Tighter Criteria
    “The idea of tightening the criteria for the award is to encourage more vehicle safety improvements,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Arlington, Virginia-based institute.
    A “poor” grade predicts serious or possibly fatal injuries in front-end and side collision tests performed at 40 miles an hour, while a “good” rating predicts a lower risk of serious injury, said Russ Rader, an institute spokesman.
    Passengers in vehicles with “poor” rear-collision ratings are “much more likely” to sustain neck injuries compared with people riding in “good” vehicles, Rader said.
    Ming-Jou Chen, a spokeswoman for Toyota’s Torrance, California-based sales unit, said she hadn’t seen the study as of yesterday and couldn’t comment on its results.

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    Cool article. I wish my middle initial was ‘X’.

    Toyota’s weakness (if one exists) is that sales superiority may lead to a tendency to rest on their laurels. Yes they euthanise all their sports cars, and yes their everyday models are fairly non-inspirational, but they have a legacy of reliability and that seems to be more important for the company’s health.

    Anyone remember the old 70’s Celica GT? I wouldn’t mind having a hot-rodded up one of those.

  • avatar

    Ok, Jonny. You win. You’ve obviously thought through the car-beer metaphor more thoroughly than I. ;)

    I just know that I wouldn’t drink Bud Lite if it was free.

    lzafutto: You’re not really surprised that Toyota, a business, is interested in selling vehicles that actually make them money? But I do see your point. They did lose money on every Prius sold for the first few years (maybe they still do?) but they persisted with that in the understanding that building a green reputation would serve their entire brand proposition well. (And it has, given that the average person doesn’t realize they have one of the largest lineups of trucks and SUV’s on the market.)

    I suppose the lack of a Corvette killer, or even a 250-300HP Supra to compete with the 350Z/RX8, shows that Toyota doesn’t think of performance vehicles as their brand halo. Which certainly strikes enthusiasts as a major weakness.

    Toyota should develop a plug-in hybrid Supra. Combine a small I-6 good for about 250HP (maybe a “stretched” version of the 180HP motor from the Celica GT-S) with a hybrid-electric motor for bottom-end torque. You could have a Mustang GT beater that could get 40+ mpg in an urban commute.

  • avatar

    Toyota does have legacy, but only for those of us that are of a certain age. My office colleaugue and I are huge car nuts, specifically small cars from 1950s forward. I am a huge fan of European cars of the 1960s as well as those from Japan.

    My favourites are early Japanese designs like the Corolla fastback (c. 1968), early Celicas, Crowns, Coronas as well as early Civics, and Datsuns.

    The problem is becuase of Japan’s policy of ‘Shaken’ for many decades cars beyond a certain age could not pass strict safety/emissions standards and they would be sold off to other countries. As a result, there is no real ‘old’ car culture in Japan with no support for parts/new body panels etc.

    By contrast the old car enthusiast network in the UK is HUGE even for long defunct models and brands (virtuall all of them now).

    We can all talk about not wanting to remember boring cars but many of the cool old American cars were pretty ordinary mechanically (Mustang was a tarted up Falcon), GTO was a tarted up Tempest etc.

    So its not about the heritage of boring cars, it’s about cars getting old enough to be interetsing and remind of us of our youth. For me a Gen 1 Toyota Cressida and/or Supra please. I will also happily take a Gen 1 Accord sedan or Mazda Rx2 (the one that looked like a Corolla). Oh but to have a 2000GT!

  • avatar

    If the only true weakness that can be said of Toyota is that they lack a “legacy” of some sort, a point which in itself is debatable and subjective, then competitors in the coming years are in for a tough time.

    A lot of misinformation and heresay as usual from some of the posters here, and a lot of solid and accurate information as well. I guess it’s almost impossible to expect objective factual information being used in debates and discussions these days.

    Let’s see,

    Toyota #1 in recalls this year? Says who? Anyone have any facts to back up such a claim?

    With regards to Yamaha, doesn’t matter a whole lot whose Keiretsu they belong to, Toyota has had a stake in Yamaha for a long time, and they’ve (Yamaha) worked very closed with Toyota for decades. For all intents and purposes, Yamaha is practically part of the Toyota family. So sorry to dissapoint, but the 2000GT certainly was not a “rebadge”.

    Stein, Toyota “building for the moment” … I would have to disagree with that statement. While it is true that Toyota builds for current demand, and is very adaptive and receptive to market trends, Toyota at the same time has a consistent long term plan that broadly outlines future endeavours. Toyota does not live on a day by day basis like some automakers had done so in the past, and some even now continue to do so. Toyota many years ago saw the potential of hybrids, and many years ago saw the potential that motorsports can bring to production cars. And calling Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive a “mistake” is almost laughable.

    Toyota historically is also a very quick learner of their mistakes. Case in point, Toyota’s current quality quirks and recalls have prompted an exec shuffle at the top level within Toyota. A member of the Toyoda family is now in charge of a team specifically working to thoroughly look at Toyota’s quality at every level, and to find any improvements they can. They are in charge of Toyota quality worldwide right now. What’s interesting is that Toyota before never had such a team specifically tasked to only look after quality.

    Some of you believe Toyota will fall for a myriad of reasons, but this entails an ignorant belief that Toyota will stand still while others catch up.

    Reliability for instance. Yes, generally cars are getting more reliable, and catching up to Toyota, but Toyota has publicly stated they are working on moving their quality even higher.

    Toyota for now has stopped dealer growth for the Toyota brand in the US. They are focusing on raising the dealer experience and dealer training.

    Stein, or anyone else that feels they know enough about Toyota to objectively comment on their weaknesses: I will give benefit of the doubt and assume you know Toyota’s social and corporate culture. They are a culture of continuous improvement, and also somewhat a culture of paranoia and being critical. Seems strange and almost counter-intuitive, but this means no matter how successful, Toyota strives to always look for problems and fix them. In essence, they stay raw and sharp, and are only minimally influenced by complacency and arrogance. People who work with Toyota or for Toyota are saying the new Tundra is extremely competitive, and yet, Toyota big bosses are paranoid about it. I can’t think of any other automaker who does that.

    Unless other automakers *radically* change, they will continue playing catch up with Toyota.

  • avatar

    Replying to
    Toyota “owns” reliability, but not much else. Their cars have limited driving dynamics, “personality,” heritage or whatever else can be thought of. This means that if they have problems with reliability and are overtaken by others, they have nothing to fall back upon.

    That can be said of any car company. For example:

    BMW “owns” driving dynamics, but not much else. Their cars have low quality and relaibility (compared to Lexus and Acura) and cost more. This means that if BMW have problems with driving dynamics and are overtaken by others, they have nothing to fall back upon.

    See, I just modified your comment by a few words. Competition is tough in the auto industry. Both Toyota and BMW are doing fine so far. Although bad things can happen, but don’t rule out the bright side. Imagine the next IS350 beating BMWs on handling, or the next 330 beating Lexus’s. Things do change, slowly.

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    If I had been shopping around for a new CEO with original ideas, I doubt that I would have fallen for the kind of person who starts sentences with words like “arguably”. More clichés Ford doesn’t need. Alan seems to be just the person to fine tune Ford’s production system so that they can efficiently manufacture even more cars that people are not interested in buying.

    The legacy angle is a good one, but it really doesn’t matter now if Alan understands it because Bill has already thrown the concept out the window. Taurus had a legacy. The name within the company went back more than 30 years. At one time it was the best selling car in America. Though well designed and generally well liked, it was neglected while Bill and Jacques went Jaguar hunting. When they got back, scarred and nearly broke, Bill, perhaps recalling the Sesame Street of his youth, decided that today’s Fords will be brought to you by the letter F. Goodbye Taurus hello Fusion.

    Fusion? What the hell is that? Well it’s a Mazda 6 with more chrome, don’t you like it?
    And then there is the Fivehundred or is it Five Hundred? It can’t be 500 because that doesn’t start with the letter F, boys and girls. What you have here is basically a Volvo with a weak engine styled like yesterday’s VW Passat. I suppose one could say that somebody gave a nod to the legacy of the Galaxie 500 of fifty years ago, but the F rule meant that the real name couldn’t be used so they had to settle for the suffix.

    Probably no car on the American road has a more famous legacy than the Thunderbird. So what is Bill planning to do with that great brand? Why, take it out behind the barn and shoot it – with no replacement in sight. Remember the Lincoln Mark series and the Continental? Well they are now gone, replaced by badges no one has ever heard of like MZK or MKZ or what the hell, who cares? At the end of the day, if Ford doesn’t care about its legacy why should Toyota worry about it?

  • avatar


    Toyota won’t go away. Toyota will grow into a hugely powerful company (as if it isn’t, already).

    A few points from my editorial:

    First, to those of you who are tired of hearing what a great company Toyota is, Toyota is the world’s foremost manufacturer. Bar none. Other manufacturers must study, learn, apply and improve. That’s the only way they’ll build the war chest they need to fight back from a position of strength. Until they do, they’ll be playing a hopeless game of catch-up…

    … Reaching parity with Toyota– and adding a few bells and whistles of their own– is the best Ford can hope for. It’s a long shot, as ToMoCo isn’t standing still.

    You may have noticed that Lexus has removed the word “relentless” from its tag: Relentless pursuit of perfection. It was thought too single mindedly obsessive by marketers – but the company, ToMoCo, remains just as relentless in its pursuit of efficiency in all facets of its operation.

    And that point is made clear in the editorial. At no point does it state that Toyota is going to fail. The editorial does, however, point out one potential cinch in the armor (and there are others). I am also pointing out that at the moment, it appears as if Ford has the best take on the basics that need to be gotten in place: get the production line sorted.

    At the same time Ford needs to begin looking at how to best resuscitate their brand/product lines — and whether they need to create new ones, to meet emerging needs and wants among consumers.

    The majors have been ruining the substance of their brands in search of short term profits — while Toyota has been patiently adding stone to stone in its efforts.
    The majors have been eroding their brand legacies while pretending to be premium. As long as they are selling at a loss, they aren’t premium.

    Meanwhile Toyota has been focusing on products that are sufficiently above average to secure the profit margin that is helping the company grow.

    Spreadsheet carmakers have been the bane of the majors. You can not calculate your way to a car people will want – at least they proved that.

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    Yeah you understood what I was saying, even though it was late and apparently I didn’t say it right. Of course Toyota would like to make a profit on every car it sells. But an individual model doesn’t have to be a sales success to be a success for the company, as long as the company is making profits from the sales of it’s other models. Traditionally, unless the manufacturer makes nothing but sportscars (Ferrari, Lambo, etc), they sell them not for profits but to win races, headlines and therefore mindshare. And mindshare is very important. The lack of a sportscar is a glaring omission from Toyota’s portfolio. They obviously don’t need one to be a successful company, but how many people still admire and lust after Corvettes even if they aren’t the type of person who would own one? It makes Toyota come across to a significant portion of the population as the manufacturer of transportation appliances with no soul. As you said, they are doing it with the Prius, why not have one for the enthusiasts as well? They don’t have anything to lose.

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    well… Toyota has really only been making cars in the US for basically 30 years so how much ‘Legacy’ can you expect in that short amount of time>? Look at it this way. How much ‘Legacy’ did Ford have in the 30’s after making cars for about 30 years too? None.. Allow Toyota to build their ‘legacy’ ….. Gave em 100 years like Ford and GM ..


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    Stein, some of my comments were not directed towards you, but to some of the other posters who made silly comments. I won’t name any names, but you and I both know who they are: “regulars” who litter TTAC with the same old preachings and anti-Toyota rhetoric.

    Currently, I see Ford as being behind GM in any sort of “restructuring”. To Ford’s credit though, Mulally is a better CEO than Wagoner ever will be. Mulally knows exactly what needs to be done without all the fuss or useless rherotic that ‘ Wagoner & Putz’ bring to the table. Mulally knows that Ford needs great product that can be sold at a profit. Everything else is second fiddle to this. I seriously do hope Mulally can work some magic into Ford. He sure seems to have a better chance than “Team Wagoner” over at the GM camp. All that GM’s grand “turnaround” amounts to is a bunch of band-aid solutions that do not address the root of GM’s problems. This “turnaround” is only delaying the inevitable, if Wagoner & Putz don’t change their thinking. And no, China isn’t going to save GM. Despite having less overall sales, both Ford and Toyota are growing currently at a substantially faster pace than GM. Toyota aims to sell 1 Million cars in China by 2010, which would be more than triple it’s current volume.

    lzaffuto, some good points. Regarding motorsports, mindshare indeed is important. Toyota is in it not just to improve their engineering prowess, but also for mindshare and marketing. Toyota does have at least one true sports car coming (the Lexus supercar) with rumours of a Supra successor making rounds every day from Japan. With Toyota, despite their current lack of sports cars, their success in a variety of motorsports shows their capabilities. It’s akin to saying “yeah, we don’t have sports cars, but we can make a damn good sports car if we want to, and our race wins prove it”. Their race wins reach far and wide, from numerous Dakar and WRC wins, off-road racing wins, as well as CART and Grand Am/Rolex Series wins. Don’t forget 2nd place finishes in F1 and 24 hours of Le Mans.

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    Replying to
    It makes Toyota come across to a significant portion of the population as the manufacturer of transportation appliances with no soul.

    Every car has a soul. It just may not resonate with yours.

  • avatar

    I’m pretty sure the Supra Turbo from the early to mid 90’s has as much or more soul than any Mustang built since the original Shelby’s. Particularly with their target audience who would view any Mustang as total crap. Toyota has always kept their most interesting products for their home market and to some degree Europe. If you can think of any reason why this was a mistake, based on Toyota’s success, I’d like to hear it.

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    “If you can think of any reason why this was a mistake, based on Toyota’s success, I’d like to hear it.”

    It’s a mistake because if they sold a sportscar I might be a Toyota owner instead of a Nissan owner right now, and I’m 100% sure I’m not alone. Enthusiasts may be a smaller chunk of the market, but we do exist. You know, my dad likes my Z a lot. He isn’t the type to own a car like the Z. But, based on my experiences with it, he went to test drive an Altima 3.5SE and drove it home the same day. Now he’s interested in getting a G35. Families usually look to the car guy for car advice, and car guys are enthusiasts. It’s all about missed opportunities. And a missed opportunity is a mistake, no matter how successful the company is otherwise.

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    “I’m pretty sure the Supra Turbo from the early to mid 90’s has as much or more soul than any Mustang built since the original Shelby’s.”

    Are you kidding? The antiseptic, bloated, rounded, decal ridden Supra?

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    I read the whole article, and I’ve only read about a third of the comments (just way too much there to read on a Saturday evening!).

    Good analytical thinking there, but I disagree with the premise that Toyota has no “legacy.”

    Every auto manufacturer, except maybe Tesla Motors, has a legacy! One manufacturer’s legacy may be that of reliability. Another’s may be that of high-performance, high-speed sports cars.

    Legacys can change, too. If you have 10 years of history as a manufacturer of high quality, high dependability (yeah, I’m mixing apples and oranges here), you can certainly “eff” it all up with 3, 5, or 10 years of history of making crap.

    Over time, the “legacy” changes.

    What really happens is that people remember their most recent experiences. I remember my experiences with my Corvette, and with my Chevrolet dealers’ (three of them) incompetence. It is THAT most recent GM experience that caused me to reach my breaking point and to swear off cars from The General forever. And yes, I do mean FOREVER.

    No, it wasn’t the Corvette experience alone that caused this for me…I had had terrible experiences with Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, other Chevrolets, and various and sundry other GM cars before the “forever deal breaker.”

    It all just added up over time, and finally, I said “enough.” And I mean it, too. Not even the sexy-looking Solstice cannot entice me. The “legacy” has has already done too much of the “slow death” thing on my driving soul already!

  • avatar

    Replying to:

    I’ve carried out research that shows difference in preference based on that and seen similar results from research carried out by one of my customers. People who are involved/informed seem to have a tendency buy different brands than those who are not. Among the results was that people with high involvement (not talking about gearheads there) are more likely to buy a VW but those with low involvement are more likely to buy a Toyota.

    I have to say that your “research” is not well defined from the start. What exactly is “involved”? Spending more time on an auto forum? Some kind of metric (and statistical evidence) is needed if you want to call it “research.”

    And again, VWs are substantially more expensive than Toyotas of similar sizes, not to mention that VW’s market share is 1/8 of that of Toyota. You are comparing apples to oranges.

    I can argue that the difference in involvement (i.e. time spent on auto forum) is caused by the income difference, since richer people have better internet access. Not that my statement is convincing. Just to point out your argument is seriously flawed. You have to explain these things in a research.

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    Probably no car on the American road has a more famous legacy than the Thunderbird. So what is Bill planning to do with that great brand? Why, take it out behind the barn and shoot it – with no replacement in sight. Remember the Lincoln Mark series and the Continental? Well they are now gone, replaced by badges no one has ever heard of like MZK or MKZ or what the hell, who cares?

    my sentiments EXACTLY!

    names are FAR more memorable than alphabet soup pickings. if an alpha-numeric named car is MEMORABLE, one mite bother to learn the name.

    tacking a blah, non-descript car with mumbo-jumbo only makes it EVEN MORE FORGETTABLE! WHY further clutter our brains, for crappy cars not worth the wasted use of memory cells!?

  • avatar

    so yeah. it seems ford doesn't really give a damn about 'legacy.'

  • avatar


    Would you believe that Nissan tried to get a court injunction stopping Audi from using the letter Q? They claimed they had ownership to that letter on cars … :-)

    I don’t know whether memorizing unpronounceable letter combinations is easier for the people who come up with them, but personally I have the hardest time looking at these alphabet soup pickings and seeing a car.
    Mention Thunderbird, and I know exactly what it looks like.

  • avatar

    The worst part is going to ‘town hall’ meetings or watching webcasts and seeing the high-paid help screwing up the names — “and we think the em kay zzz . . . er . . . em kay ex will really . . .”

    You’d think the fact that they can’t keep it straight themselves would be a clue.

  • avatar

    I’ve read maybe 1/4 of all the comments, so I don’t know if anybody has said the same thing already.

    The premise of the article, as I read it, is that American brands should use their legacies to their advantage. This idea is not new, and certainly, at least in the US, American brands certainly have a larger history from which to build a legacy. What I think fails to be mentioned, though, is that this is precisely what American manufacturers have been depending on for the last 20 years or so to sell cars. Even when small Japanese cars hit American shores, GM, Ford, and Chrysler claimed that Americans would remain loyal to the domestic models. The legacy “account” if you will, has already been tapped, and is starting to run out. People are beginning to realize that there are better alternatives out there. Hell, some of my friends in the Detroit area, whose parents work for the Big 3, have slowly started moving towards Japanese brands. And, as these younger customers replace the older legacy generation in spending power, GM and Ford’s legacy will just be a memory. Saving GM and Ford is more fundamental than marketing a legacy: it’s about building a product that people will buy and selling it at a profit.

  • avatar

    Good points kestrel. It totally slipped out of my mind the marketing campaigns the domestic Big 3 used in the 70s. I remember one GM ad where it said something along the lines of “would you rather trust an import, or a tried tested and true american car”. Not the exact wording, but the same message that the ad was trying to get across.

    Indeed, if the legacy marketing never really helped them in the 70s, I don’t see how it will help them now, especially considering today’s market is much different than 30 years ago.

  • avatar

    i am glad to see ford gmc & chrysler going out of business.
    after 30 40 years the high priced engineers made the automobile harder & harder for consumers to repair or work on.just like the computer a person has to take a car to a shop so a machine can tell you whats wrong with it.
    you are going to say the computer keeps the emmisions low if your pile of professional political parasites in washington are so worried about pollution why don’t they get the jets out of the skys? the pollution my car or truck or wood stove emmits is disapated wind & rain. the emmissions put out by jets in the stratosphere stays there.i suppose congress with thier deep pork barrel pockets thier big money bribes & large corporate kick backs will bail them out to do the same not making any consummer care cars. its a shame a taxpayer has no say in the matter. thank you snowman6.

  • avatar

    Toyota hybrid exec David Hermance dies in plane crash

    Mark Rechtin

    LOS ANGELES — David Hermance, Toyota’s executive engineer for advanced technology vehicles, died Saturday, Nov. 25, when the airplane he was piloting crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

    Hermance, 59, was Toyota’s top American executive for alternative-fuel vehicles and emissions technologies in North America.

  • avatar

    This article demonstrates all the backwards thinking that is destroying Detroit. Legacy, History, Tradition, these are things that are fading into the past they cling to. Consumers are concerning themselves less and less with what brands their grandfathers and fathers were loyal to. Brand loyalty doesn’t have near the effect it used to. Buyers today are informed with statistics and price comparisons. Purchases simply come down to this: What is the best car with the most style I can buy for the least price. That is why Camrys and Accords sell like crazy. Noone is asking “What would gramps have bought?”

  • avatar


    And it would be totally wrong if Ford and the other domestics sought to fight back by asking “What would gramps have bought?”
    But they can ask themselves why gramps bought a car in the first place, extrapolate that to today’s needs and reengineer their product accordingly. Something I’ll explore in coming columns.


  • avatar


    I disagree totally. How many people here make comments like “I don’t care how good a car Ford/GM makes, I’ll never buy one!”? Plenty. They can look at statistics and price all day and still refuse a domestic just because it’s domestic. Why? Because of their ‘near-term’ legacy of poor quality. This article just points out the need to reach further back and resurrect some of the goodwill in an effort to counterbalance the more recent ‘legacy’.

  • avatar
    Voice of Sweden

    Legacy is important. When I drive my Audi I feel and enjoy beeing a part of history from say the silver arrows up to the recent Le Mans victory. Call me silly – but for me it’s a great part of the car experience.

    Both Saab and Volvo has largely given up their racing activities – that’s sad and I think that reflects on their sales. Some years ago Saab even was so über that they said that raicing wasn’t compatible with being a premium brand – well Audi, Bentley et al proves them wrong.

  • avatar

    The problem is that GM and Ford have already asked people to buy cars based on what gramps got. They’ve been asking for the last 20 years That only works for so long, especially as the glories of the past become more and more distant.

  • avatar
    Jim H

    Customer loyalty is hugely based on personal experience, not consumer reports articles or statistics…those come second.

    I’m not even exactly sure why this article was written…and why the toyota blog article about it NOT being American was cited. I don’t want Ford, GM, or any American car company being like Toyota…I want them to be better.

    Better how? In every single facet that a car company can. I want them to treat their employees better, I want them to treat their customers better, and I want them to have the best product available to man.

    Most of the cars are made by robotics…I don’t know if Stan, Lisa, or Kimiko were the inspectors or did the finishing touches…nor do any of us really care.

    If Ford and GM are so pathetically shallow to think that the only reason I didn’t buy American is because of customer/country loyalty, they need to think again. I don’t mind giving huge profits to a company that has incredible business ethics AND a great product. They have neither.

  • avatar

    “What would gramps have bought?”

    The problem with asking that is, at least in my case, gramps bought a Toyota Camry *and* a Honda Accord, loves both dearly, and won’t buy another American car until Ford and GM prove to him they can compete. And unlike a lot of the racist people that shout the rallying cries of “Jap Crap” and “Buy American”, he actually fought the Japanese in WW2.

  • avatar

    I drive many cars in Europe, America and Asia on a regular basis and without a shadow of the doubt the American built cars are the most awful by a long way practically every respect. Its no wonder that Toyota sells so many characterless automotive appliances when you look at the alternatives. In my mind, American built cars are almost indelibly linked to cheaply built, poor handling rot boxes that fall to pieces in 12 months.
    I had a 150,000 mile Audi A4 that was in better condition and drove better than a 3 month old rental Ford with 6,000 miles I picked in San Fran.
    The 12 month old Toyota Camry with 35,000km I rented in Australia recently looked like it had just rolled off the show room floor.

  • avatar

    Cause a Ford bottom shelf rental is quite comparable to an A4 that’s a personal vehicle?

  • avatar

    I would say that Spawnt Whip is a little delusional in his assessment. I too drive many different vehicles and can tell you that there is NO drastic difference in ride or handling betweeen a Camry, Impala, 500, etc. As far as interiors go, they all use plastics. It’s just a matter of how attractively it is packaged and portrayed. As far as the rental comparison goes, I have also driven/purchased many rentals. They are definitely driven harder and always have cosmetic/smoker issues.

  • avatar

    Legacy Schmegacy.

    Oldsmobile invented the automatic transmission, turbocharged a V8, gave us the first American front driver of the post war.

    They actually sold more cars per year in the early and mid 1980s than they had ever sold in their long (oldest carmaker at GM) history.

    Oldsmobile…helloooooooo? Where are ye Olde-smobile?

  • avatar

    Last year, the Chevrolet Impala beat the Toyota Camry in initial quality according to J.D. Power & Associates, and Consumer Reports just announced that both the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan scored higher than both the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord this year.
    After the announcement, Ford’s Director of Global Quality Debbe Yeager commented “It’s a perception gap,” referring to the struggle American companies have had overcoming the perceived and seemingly untarnishable reputation of their foreign rivals.
    Even as GM and Ford have accumulated award after award on vehicle quality, you’d almost never know about such quality gains made by American companies – or quality declines of foreign companies – by listening to the media. Did you hear about it when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that Toyota recalled more vehicles than it sold in the U.S. last year? Probably not. Did you hear about Toyota making an “elaborate apology” for their “worrisome series of recalls” that has “tarnished its reputation for quality?” Probably not. Did you hear about the Toyota senior manager quote that stated “We used to do quiet recalls called ‘service campaigns’ to deal with defects but we’re not going to hide anything anymore?” Such a statement suggests Toyota’s past recall numbers were probably much higher than we were led to believe, and they profited handsomely by having a perception of higher quality than they deserved. In Japan, prosecutors are looking into possible negligence on the part of Toyota for shirking recalls for the last eight years. How ironic. You probably didn’t hear about that one either because the American media doesn’t like to bash foreign auto companies – only American ones.

  • avatar

    Propoganda and narrow minded viewpoints are all the rage these days it seems ….

  • avatar

    JD Power and Consumer Reports = propaganda?
    Narrow minded- Yes. There are definitely many people that follow the pied piper.

  • avatar

    In closing, I’ll leave some encouraging numbers for those of us who actually like to root for and support the home team. The J.D. Power 2006 Vehicle Dependability Survey reports that Mercury, Buick and Cadillac (in that order) grabbed the number 2, 3 and 4 spots to beat Toyota, Honda, Nissan, BMW and everyone else (except Lexus) in having the least number of problems per 100 vehicles.
    Perhaps someday the American media will give GM and Ford the credit they deserve. And once they do, perception among the majority of the American public will rightfully change. GM and Ford aren’t only doing what they should to make gains in the American market to deserve American consumer loyalty; they’re also doing what they should to make gains in the markets of China, Europe and across most of the rest of the globe.

  • avatar

    Then there’s the mythical perception that foreign automakers produce the most fuel efficient cars and that Detroit only makes gas-guzzlers when the truth is that all automakers – including Toyota, Honda and Hyundai-Kia alike – have allowed fuel economy to slide in the past 20 years since they all now sell bigger trucks and more SUVs. One of Toyota’s senior executives was even quoted in the Wall St. Journal September 28 saying that both the Toyota Sequoia and Tundra “are big gas-guzzling vehicles” and expressed “concern about the longer-term prospects.” These longer-term prospects about their admitted gas-guzzlers are questioned because they know that Ford’s F-150 and Chevy’s Silverado have led the pack in sales year after year.
    Yes, gasoline has been getting more expensive – at least until recently – but the fact that Americans continue to buy it in greater quantities qualifies us as hypocrites for suggesting GM and Ford stop building so many big trucks and SUVs. After all, GM and Ford are only responding to demand as any company would and should if they want to remain profitable in a cut-throat competitive market. According to a Business Week survey, we Americans bought 10% more gasoline in the first six months of 2006 compared to the first six months of 2000 even though gas prices rose 75% in that period. Maybe here I could also mention that the Chevy Tahoe beat the gas-guzzling Toyota Sequoia in quality surveys and gets better gas mileage to boot.
    But what has happened since gas prices have been on the decline in recent months? The Wall Street Journal reported a “slight” increase in truck sales by American companies, as Ford Expedition sales were up 41% and Lincoln Navigator sales were up 44%. The American media even tries to restrain its applause for home-based auto companies by referring to gains of over 40% as “slight!”
    Perhaps the biggest perception problem is that American automobile companies GM and Ford (Chrysler is now German-owned) squander all their money on plants overseas and foreign automakers build their factories in the U.S. Foreign car lovers will surely point to Kia’s plans to build its first-ever U.S. plant in Georgia, but they probably won’t mention that they received $400 million in tax giveaways to do it, which translates into $160,000 per job. Among the many benefits for the foreign-owned company, your tax dollars are going to be used for road improvements surrounding the complex, complete with flower beds and other beautification features. Hey, as long as we’re going to allow states to bid for private jobs with our public tax dollars, we might as well make it look good, right?
    And the foreign car lovers will probably also not tell you (or maybe they just don’t know or don’t want you to know) that GM and Ford pour more money into existing American facilities than foreign automakers spend on new plants, usually with little or no tax breaks. GM has already spent over $500 million upgrading two transmission plants this year, and has spent nearly a billion dollars over the last decade, for example, for facility upgrades in Texas. And what do GM and Ford get for making their existing plants more efficient? It isn’t tax breaks. Instead, they get accusations of not being “competitive” enough! Maybe here I should also mention that the average domestic parts content for Kia is 3%, while the average domestic parts content of Ford and GM is 78% and 74% respectively. This means that buying a U.S.-assembled (or even foreign-assembled, for that matter) GM or Ford supports more American jobs than a U.S.-assembled car or truck with a foreign nameplate.
    Fortunately for our benefit, the U.S. remains the overall global leader in research and development, and a big reason for that is that American automakers – according to the Level Field Institute – invest $16 billion in R&D (Research & Development) annually, which outpaces any other industry one could name. Admittedly, the Level Field Institute counts German-owned DaimlerChrysler as an American automaker, so Ford and GM’s combined R&D contribution to America is closer to around $12 billion. But who’s counting, right? Certainly not the American auto-bashing media.
    Japanese companies do employ 3,600 American workers in R&D, but that still leaves the foreign competition behind in the dust staring at American rear bumpers. 3,600 sounds like a big number until you realize that 65,000 Americans work in R&D facilities in the state of Michigan alone. In fact, two of the top four R&D spending companies in America as reported by the Wall Street Journal are – you guessed it – Ford and General Motors. The other two are also American companies: Pfizer and Microsoft.

  • avatar

    Propaganda that Toyota’s quality is dramatically falling, and that “all of a sudden” they are doing bad in quality surveys worldwide, when that could be further from the truth.

    It also remains a fact that Toyota and Honda continue to offer more fuel efficient vehicles than the domestics. Cars like the Insight, Civic, Corolla, and Prius continue to be class leading in fuel economy.

    It’s understandable that some of you wish for Toyota to fall, because they are extremely successful right now, and wishing for them to fail is all the rage. Envy runs deep it seems. But using propaganda won’t make it so.

  • avatar
    Voice of Sweden

    December 1st, 2006 at 1:02 pm
    In closing, I’ll leave some encouraging numbers for those of us who actually like to root for and support the home team

    Finger, given that those quality surveys are correct, why doesn’t the 2.5 act on them? Let us see some honest ads like

    “at first we didn’t take quality serious enough”
    as everybody knows they didn’t

    “but we’ve fought back and acording to this and that survey our cars are now as good or better than the foreign cars”

    and finally some punch (ok, some work needed here (too):-)
    “so at last, there’s a real reason to buy American”

    I would also like to comfort you that tax money buys jobs here in the EU too. Tax money paid for the move of an entire tire factory from Gislaved Sweden to Portugal. I guess they were happy in Portugal, the Swedish workers were less so.

  • avatar

    When it rains, it pours… Tuesday was not a good day for Toyota. On top of the recall investigation we reported earlier, The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safey Administration announced that it is investigating problems with the glass moonroof in the Toyota Scion tC model. The NHTSA has received nine reports of the moonroof shattering, with one person slightly injured by falling glass.

    The Scion tC moonroof has already been the subject of a “special service campaign” for its wind deflector, which can shatter if hit by debris at highway speeds.

    [Source: Reuters]

  • avatar

    Owners of the usually reliable Toyota Avalon are experiencing problems on the 2005, 2006, and 2007 models:

    “Toyota Motor Corp., long known for its problem-free cars and trucks, is experiencing quality control problems in a number of its products. Among the troubled models are Avalon, Prius and the FJ Cruiser, but it is the Avalon that has attracted the most industry attention. Toyota introduced the redesigned Avalon in 2005, and ever since it has been beset with problems. For the Avalon, the Japanese automaker has provided service bulletins, which alerts dealers to problems, on bad U-joint welds, faulty catalytic converters and a leak in the oil supply line for variable valve timing. There also have been recalls to correct problems with air bags and the steering column on some Avalons. Transmission hesitation problems, which have plagued the automaker in the past, also have resurfaced with the five-speed automatic transmission installed in the Avalon. While the earlier transmission problems were experienced by consumers in a variety of situations, this round of trouble surfaces particularly when the driver presses the acceleration pedal for greater speed. All the difficulties have resulted in the Avalon being downgrading in its quality rating to “average” by Consumer Reports.”

  • avatar

    Toyota builds great cars! My 1969 Toyota Corona is still running after years of abuse as well 77 corolla has been driven to east coast from San Jose,ca however, I love my 1968 Datsun 510 even more maybe because Nissan made cars with souls back then.My other 510 is a 1971 ITC race car complete with the stock l-16,tranny,rearend.30 years age toyota were a little better looking but a datsun was real driver car! Only that could kill a 510 is rust.I nissan (datsun) were still making the 510 a simple fun car that scream race hard.Toyota may of sold more cars in the 70’s but most of them went to the crasher as for datsun well keep them even as they rusting away.At on time I had over 10 510! 510 are more addicting than herion(i never did it)

  • avatar

    Leanne of Sanford FL (09/26/06)
    I bought a brand new Toyota Corolla last year. its a 2005 with 40,000 miles now. IT NEEDFS A NEW ENGINE! They are refusing to cover it under the factory warrenty or the extended warrenty that i purchased because they are saying i didn’t do enough oil changes. I showed them reciepts for 6 OIL CHANGES! TOYOTA was no help and was rude to me on the phone. I am a 26 year old mother, and both me and my husband rely on the car to get to work. we cannot afford the new engine for $3,800 and still owe $15,000 on the car! I dont know what to do. Please help!

  • avatar

    It is interesting to watch Toyota climb its way to the top. It is ironic that aside from the recent recalls, Toyota has not bothered to resolve its engine oil sludge problem. Instead of calling for an actual recall on these engines, it continues to blame the owners for poor maintenance. Toyota says the incidence of engine sludge is “rare”, but owner reports do not indicate the same. Toyota has minimized the problem from day one.

    I have been in a rather unique position regarding this engine sludge malady. Over the course of six years, I have read thousands of Toyota owner accounts and compared notes. Toyota does not want to face the truth; it is hoping that the “sludge monster” fades away from public scrutiny. Indeed, there are some who are actively trying to cover up any on-going discussions of Toyota sludge. Some web sites that had thousands of posts on the issue have been hacked. Still, there are lots of Toyota owners looking for help when sludge has disabled their low mileage vehicles. Toyota itself stopped notifying the 3.3 million affected vehicle owners; many owners have revealed that they know nothing about the Customer Support Program for Engine Oil Gelation. Many of the Toyota dealerships aren’t forthcoming with the information.

    My question is this…with so few places to go to find other similarly-affected vehicle owners, how does the public get a true sense for what is going on after the sale of the so-called “quality” vehicles? A company like Toyota has the economic means to shape public opinion about its products. Is this reality, though? Is Toyota perpetuating the myth about the high quality of its vehicles and actively working to subdue public criticism of its products? Many Toyota owners believe this is exactly what is happening.

    Many Toyota engine oil sludge victims have tried in vain to get Toyota’s Customer Service corporate staff to honor the CSP. Toyota is making the vehicle owners jump through hoops to qualify for the repair coverage/reimbursement. This isn’t what Toyota wants the public to know, though. Many Toyota owners have said that Toyota cares only about the bottom line. These same owners have endured frustration, inconvenience, and financial setback as a result of the sludge condition in their vehicles. These owners are disillusioned with the illusion of Toyota quality. Through word of mouth, they are letting other know.

    Corolla owners are also experiencing sludge, but Toyota has conspicously left this model off the list of affected vehicles. The vehicle owners have been reporting oil consumption problems and low mileage blown engines for years. So why isn’t Corolla listed? Is it because this vehicle is Toyota’s bread and butter? Is Toyota selectively including vehicles to limit the negative PR?

    Isn’t there something wrong with Toyota’s actions here? Shouldn’t Toyota put its money where its mouth is and properly resolve the sludge matter for all concerned? Will the buying public find a way to openly discuss vehicle problems without censorship and spin control? Will Toyota and the other automakers allow this dialogue without interference?

    The new buzz words are “consumer-generated media” and such. Will the automakers devise a means of manipulating this CGM? If so, will the buying public see through it and ask tough questions?

    As time goes on, auto consumers will need to join together to see that their voices are heard clearly. I think that consumers will demand more than corporate hype and brand-name myths as they decide what to purchase. True quality will come from real-world experience, not corporate mantras. Do you suppose Toyota will get this? Or, will it simply be satisfied with controlling what the public does and does not know about its products?

    Charlene Blake

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