By on July 15, 2012

A quarter century ago, give or take a year, my brother Paul became the first in the family to drive a Toyota. A 1984 Toyota Celica-Supra. It was a true shifting of gears for the Lang Gang. Everyone up to that time had bought a GM. Mom and Dad drove Cadillacs (only one saw 100k). The eldest one had a Monte Carlo (a.k.a. Crapo) that didn’t see the road half the time. Second in line had a Regal (a.k.a. the dying diesel) that ended up stolen and trashed in the Grand Canyon. He actually felt sorry for the canyon.

Within three years both these Roger Smith specials were replaced with 1988 Celica GT’s. Great cars with no nicknames necessary. Three years later I had a Celica GT-S sitting on my driveway. Even better. Still no nicknames. By the end of the decade everyone in the family had a Toyota.

But then things changed…

Toyota’s quality took a sharp U-Turn and unintentionally accelerated towards the ‘decontenting’ highway starting in the late-90′s. The 1997 Camry, 1998 Corolla, and pretty much every other Toyota that wasn’t a luxury car or first generation (RAV-4 and Sienna) went straight to the crematorium of cost cutters. “Affordability is the No.1 priority,” said the 1997 Camry chief engineer Kosaku Yamada. “The Camry is not a luxury car.” and so it became the harbinger of things to come.

The fourth generation Camry (1997 – 2001) in fact became number one. Not just by beating the Accord and Taurus. But by crushing them into a fine red mist for its entire model run. This was Toyota’s first truly competitive ‘decontented’ model and the net result was about $1500 to $2000 per vehicle. Multiply that by the nearly 2 million Camrys that went out the door and Toyota had finally found a true cash cow. ‘Cost improvement’ along with ‘decontenting’ soon became a big part of the Toyota way.

Some of the decontenting was based on the reduction of parts. Front bumper clips and components were reduced from 57 to 15. The doors triple seal rubber in the prior generation gave way to a single seal. Others were a bit more pronounced.

The dashboard material felt a bit cheaper compared with the old model. Items that were once power, such as the antenna, became manual. Bulbs became cheaper. The engine bay became a little less ostentatious. The biggest issue though became the increased incidences of engine sludge inside the 2.2L four and 3.0L V6. Toyota would eventually have over 3.5 million engines subject to the settlement. This would be Toyota’s first real black eye on the media front along with 10 safety recalls during this generation’s model run. Judging on the feedback from owner enthusiast sites around the net, the ‘real’ customer satisfaction ratings also started to take a beating.

At the time of the Camry’s release in 1997, Toyota still had an ironclad reputation to fall back on. Go to carsurvey.com and look up the Toyotas that came before that time. A 1990 to 1996 ‘anything’ with the name Toyota on it was literally two clicks above anything else save the occasional Civic or Accord. You couldn’t kill these models once you turned the key. Even when my beloved Celica GT-S was hit by a meat truck driven by a drunk Greek, the underpowered engine kept right on ticking away. I’m sure someone’s using that engine somewhere.

But damn were Toyotas expensive before the ‘decontenting’ period. In 1994 I could not get a Camry with ABS to replace the Celica for less than $20,000 retail in my neck of the woods. We’re not talking MSRP…. but retail… before tax, tag and title. I should know because I eventually had to go several states away to find one close to that price. That one has lasted 280k+… but Toyota’s problem was that folks simply didn’t buy on the perception of quality alone. Price, features, and performance were the elixirs for most car buyers of the time. Toyota had flashes of greatness with features (Lexus LS and SC) and performance (Supra). But the big P was where Toyota simply didn’t have it anywhere in their line-up.

Part of the fault was with the Yen. Toyota couldn’t make the big jump from being the ‘quality champion’ to ‘sales champion’ because their cars were just too expensive out the door if they were sourced and built in Japan. Honda offered a smaller and cheaper Accord that was heavily sourced in America by the early-90s. Ford had a Taurus that was corner cut and subsidized by everything from rental car companies to an absurdly ancient powertrain. While Toyota would offer families a $20,000 Camry with ABS. You could far more easily get one from Ford that was $4,000 cheaper… the Accord was $2,000 cheaper. Both of them were well thought of in the marketplace with Honda’s Accord being the retail sales chamption.

Unfortunately for Toyota, that wasn’t even the half of it. The bigger problem was Toyota itself. It was old. As in lifetime employment, perhaps one quarter of their corporate employees hanging out and reading newspapers old. Maryann Keller had written a book pretty much highlighting the fact that Toyota’s bureaucracy was riddled with a conservative and intensely loyal faithful that made ‘The Toyota Way’ front and center. But by the time 1997 reared it’s head, they were pulling down big salaries with little to do.

To make matters worse, Toyota really couldn’t stop spending once it fell in love with an idea. The 1st generation Lexus SC400 was the perfect example of this cost no object approach. Toyota wanted to build a coupe that was completely different from the conventional styles of the time. All curves, no flat edges, no flat surfaces. It was done… but the costs for developing the body stamps and assembly line technologies went well into the mid-hundreds of millions. Throw in the the SC 400′s 4.0 L V81UZ-FE engine which reportedly cost over $400 million, and Toyota had a billion dollar financial bomb in its hand. Even though the Lexus SC would remain beloved and sought after by many, few were willing to pay for a luxury coupe whose price would rise from $40k to nearly $60k within a single generation.

The period right up to 1996 represented a very unique point in time for Toyota. They could offer customers a great car. But oftentimes the engineering prowess would simply run roughshod over the financial realities of the marketplace. The same unprofitable fate for the SC would eventually be true for other Toyota models. The eight year run of the pathetically spartan Tercel, the tin can mid-1990′s Toyota Corolla, even arguably the last generation Supra. Toyota simply wasn’t the leader in any particular segment when it came to offering value in the marketplace.

By the late-1990′s Toyota was all too ready to move in a more profitable direction. A shift that would be heavily based on replacing the ‘Q’ word with the $ sign.

Note: This article was originally written on January 20, 2010. The next day Toyota issued an initial recall of 2.3 million vehicles due to throttle issues. A week later Toyota announced the recall of 7.5 million vehicles due to pedal related issues. On January 29, 2010 another 1.88 million vehicles were recalled globally for the same issues. Toyota would receive an exoneration from NASA and the NHTSA for electronic steering malfunctions, but ongoing litigation and recall issues have continued to plague the company. 

 

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122 Comments on “Hammer Time Rewind: The Toyota Reality...”


  • avatar
    el scotto

    Thanks for the great article. Time to don your aluminum clad fire suit and expect flames in 3 2 1.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      It is a great article, and I agree with most of Lang’s statements.

      My uncle had a 1993 Toyota Camry V6, and that was far the best vehicle in terms of value I had ever rode in or drove (he let me use for an entire semester of my first year of college when I was doing work for his company).

      That car was a stealth Lexus. It reeked of quality. It was like a Swiss Watch, durability and reliability to the max, on wheels. I believe that he paid close to 24k or 25k for it back then, new, which was considered quite expensive at the time.

      That car ignited my total interest in the hows, whys and whats of Japanese domination of all others when it came to vehicle reliability, quality and value. I was interested in the subject prior, but that was based off my affairs with lesser Japanese offerings (but still good ones, and better than their European or American competitors, by miles)

      Based on my personal experiences and those of friends and family, I think that it’s possible that Japanese quality peaked somewhere around 2005, relative to their competitors and in absolute terms. This doesn’t mean that some makes and models didn’t improve, as exceptions, but that this is more the rule for most makes and models (and particularly with Toyota).

      While I still think that Japanese cars are more reliable, on average, than competing American and European ones, there’s no question that the Japanese automakers have decontented both materials and quality of labor, in their quest to expand or at least maintain market share, and that they’ve been resting on a wellspring of consumer goodwill they built up (in large reserves) back in the 80s and 90s, when Japanese cars weren’t just better, but profoundly so, than the absolute shitboxes being built by American automakers.

      It seems like American automakers, in particular, have closed some of the perceived differences with the Japanese automakers by giving their vehicles more sound insulation, more substantial ‘heft,’ improved ride quality and statistically higher improvements in vehicle reliability (this is not to say that the American automakers are building more reliable vehicles, on average, than Japanese automakers, but that they’ve managed to close the gap, because Japanese automakers haven’t improved the reliability of their vehicles at as steady a pace; it was probably far easier for the American automakers to do this given where they were coming from – as it’s easier to go from the basement to the 4th floor than it is from the 6th floor to the 10th floor).

      There’s no question that Honda/Acura and Toyota have been churning out some very serious laggards lately, not just in quality, but especially in terms of interior quality, NVH levels and even driving dynamics. Honda’s new Civic is a far worse car than prior generations, as are Toyota’s Corolla and Camry (we’ll have to wait and see how the newest Camry fares, but at least it’s better than the last version, which was probably the worst one since it was introduced).

      If Acura doesn’t turn things around soon, it may one day find that it is imperiled. Its cars have gotten that bad, expensive and ugly.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Edit:

        I wrote above that “I think that it’s possible that Japanese quality peaked somewhere around 2005, relative to their competitors and in absolute terms.”

        I meant to write that “I think that it’s possible that Japanese quality peaked somewhere around 1995…”

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    One of the take away marketing lessons is building a great entry level product so that they stay loyal as their incomes increase. That happened with our new 1984 Tercel, which was very expensive compared to most it’s competition, but still cheaper than a comparable Civic.

    That Tercel led to 9 other Toyotas and Lexuses between my parents and siblings. I doubt a 1984 Chevette, Golf, Escort or Horizon would have triggered the same loyalty.

    Btw, my dad is still driving my 1998 Camry, and it runs like a top. Decontenting works if you cut the right corners.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      “Decontenting works if you cut the right corners”

      But you’re screwing your customers when you cut corners. If you improve a design or process, as said in the article going from 57 parts to 15 for a front bumper clip, you are saving money while in effect making the product better for repair. But if you cheapen the materials, drop standard options, denigrate the engine (and later trigger a massive recall), and truly ‘decontent’ the model, you are doing a disservice to your customers who expect more for their money.

      GM is legendary for their bean counters and ‘decontenting’ their brands right into insolvency. Speaking of GM, here is something from their list of usual suspects… my favorite Camry recall was this:

      2001: Front-subframe assembly was not adequately welded on some cars. This condition could cause failure of the assembly, increasing the risk of a crash. Dealers will inspect and replace the front sub frame if necessary.

      So they screwed up the front sub frame enough for it to be reported as a recall (silent or otherwise) on the last year model… ya know the year by that time they should be able to build them in their sleep? If I didn’t know better I would say this has to be 80s GM, but no its 2001 Toyota.

      I am truly amazed people still purchase their junk if ‘decontenting’ is still the game plan.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Your subframe example is not a decontenting problem, it’s a poor engineering problem.

        Examples of the decontenting that did not backfire: VW removing the under-seat storage compartment on the Golf/Jetta in the 2000s (most people didn’t know it existed). BMW, Mercedes, Audi, VW and others switching back to traditional trunk hinges (as long as they are covered, few people have an issue with these. Many manufacturers cutting back on soft-touch surfaces (if you never touch it, you don’t know whether it’s soft-touch).

        It’s quite possible to add costs to a car without a corresponding consumer benefit (for most consumers). By corollary, you can take out some of those costs without impacting the (typical) consumer experience. But like any engineering exercise, you need to do it right.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I agree the sub frame recall was not a result of design but of a manufacturing issue, but it would be unthinkable ten years earlier.

        You raise some interesting points on the “do’s” and “dont’s” of decontenting. I think it depends on who your customer is… if you are Bentley removing soft touch surfaces, degrading the quality of leather, and in your example removing a hidden storage compartment may cost a decent percentage of sales. However in the case of Toyota, doing the same things may result in a net gain of volume profit even if some sales are lost. I think most Toyota buyers of the period didn’t expect the moon from the Camry, but they did expect a perceived value, such as a 100K+ trouble free service life from the drive train coupled reasonable comfort and reasonable safety standards. A surefire way to poke a hole in that perceived value is engine sludge, but even that aside, most buyers probably will not notice or care about the little details such as cheaper rubber door seals, hard plastic material, and perhaps rust blotches on the lower door/wheel-well from cheaper steel. Toyota knew this and its why they were still able to move 400K+ units per model year despite the decontenting. I was just happy to see them called out on it.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        To decontent effectively without impacting sales (and thus increase profitability) you really need to understand your customers.

        As you said, you wouldn’t reduce the leather grade in a Bentley, but many mid-range cars in the US are sold with Naugahyde, err, MB-tex (or similar) seats today. Once you understand that only the Internet fanbois appreciate the articulated trunk hinges you start looking for a less expensive alternative.

        But Audi, for example, still has fully galvanized bodies and stainless steel exhausts, so you rarely see a modern Audi with rust. The first buyer may not keep the car long enough for it to rust, but seeing lots of rusty Audis would bring down the image of the brand, so it’s worth spending the money on galvanized steel.

        Know your customer … know your products.

    • 0 avatar

      Heijunka – thats the word toyota uses for continuous project improvement (cost containment included). One problem with the the theory is it revolves around the idea that every aspect of production can be improved upon including cost. This creates issues when managers present their improvement ideas for the quarter and can no longer find anything hidden or meaningless to cut. From what I understand there was never a mechanism that said we have cut enough lets work on another aspect like ease of assembly instead you must constantly improve every metric.

  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    Wonderful article, I’m going to email a link to every fanboy I know.

    Perhaps an article detailing what happened to Honda and their founder’s vision would also be in order?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      That would be nice, the Honda Civics history alone could make a fine article, from its days as a rusty but trusty Z600 replacement to an ugly cheap not so sporty coupe.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Here’s how I assess the early 90’s until now: Toyota was pouring every effort into making the best cars ever (LS, SC, Supra, Camry), as Honda was breathing down its neck (NSX, Legend, Integra, Accord) and threatening to close the gap. But then Honda sat up and made a cheap Accord (94), spent engineering resources squeezing in a V6 into the Accord and making minivans, and left the flagships NSX and Legend to wither. So Toyota also relaxed, satisfied that it could stay just ahead of Honda with a more measured approach. And so Toyota has been coasting ever since, seemingly happy enough to stay number one in quality to Honda by a single step rather than by a mile.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      The 94 Accord took everything about the 90-93 and improved on it. Same brilliant suspension, same simple workhorse engines, more space, more refinement, better interior materials, stronger chassis. It was just a better car period.

      I agree with the rest. Honda was able to not do much with the Accord because the 90-93 was so far ahead of its time.

      • 0 avatar
        W.

        Except for those lovely four-speed automatics…you don’t know how much fun they are until they grenade themselves without warning.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Grenading transmissions? The H4 Hondamatic in those accords and civics, while pretty jerky in its operation, are pretty darn reliable from what I’ve seen, relative to many other 90s automatics. Low torque and relatively light weight meant they’re pretty understressed, and Hondamatics don’t have traditional clutch bands to wear out. That same jerkiness results in very impressive mpgs for automatics, I think that the wet clutches lose less power than the traditional wet clutches + planetary gear sets.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Good article but why the recycling? This is something (like that goofy ass “where am I” competition) you guys would eviscerate another site for doing. I was hoping for new insights, something… this is just a rehash.

  • avatar
    kanu

    Toyota still makes a fairly decent Camry. It’s called a Lexus ES.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Unfortunately not. The Lexus ES is now based on the Avalon and has grown significantly in both size and price.

      I see fewer 1997-2001 Toyota Camrys on the road in the North Dallas suburbs than the equivalent 1998-2002 Honda Accords. My theory is that original owners of Accords like their cars enough to pay for major repairs while Camry owners dump their cars into the used market once the reliability becomes questionable. The decontented Camrys are not bad cars, but they’re not loved either.

      • 0 avatar
        200k-min

        Interesting observation. I own that generation Accord and bought it over the Camry of the same era because I thought it was an all around better car, i.e. not decontented yet.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Great article, and despite the cries of some here to the contrary, I have always said this about Toyota. Their products into the 90’s live completely up to their reputation. By the time you get to 1998ish Toyota started to slide.

    It’s 2012, and Toyota is clearly resting on it’s laurels.

    The FR-S is a sad example of this. Such high expectations around this car. Owners are reporting destroyed crank shafts literally hours after taking delivery. Failed engine sensors are lighting up the CEL out of the box, and water in the rear tail lights. Scion dealers aren’t even trained on how to service the cars, or have the parts or service manuals available (how long was this car hyped — no parts network, no service information, no training?)

    [INSERT I HAVE AN FR-S AND I DON’T HAVE THESE PROBLEMS POST HERE]

    That isn’t the point, by the way.

    The point, that Steve catches so wonderfully in the above story, is that in 1994 this would not have happened. You bought a ’94 Camry you bought perfection.

    People are still buying into perfection – if the average spawning salmon returning to the Toyota showroom for a Corolla because, well, it’s a Corolla, cross shopped the C-segment, really looked at everything for what it’s worth, the only people buying a Corolla today would be subprime FICO 520 buyers, die hard fans, and Hertz. It isn’t that the Corolla today is a “bad” car. Its an OK, errrr, decontented beyond belief appliance. But compared to the competition, it isn’t just in last place, it’s in last place by a couple of ticks.

    I really want to see Toyota to succeed, they have the resources. My stepfather has an ’84 Celica – I had a chance to buy one out of high school in ’85 (was talked out of it was it was a restored flood damage car – it was white, it was gorgeous, and I wanted it soooooo bad).

    There is nothing in Toyota’s line up that stirs that kind of emotion in me – and as the data continues to show, the “quality gap” that was as wide and deep and the Grand Canyon in 1998 is now just a mere trench – there is hardly any car you can buy today and not expect to go 150K miles with minimal to no problems. The issue of they “build ‘em better” is only incrementally true today.

    The Toyota value proposition is continuing to crack apart. They need to turn this around. General Motors can tell you all about what happens when you rest on your laurels, have growing problems in your home market (a graying demographic where the next generation doesn’t even want to buy a car is what Toyota is facing along with a brutal Yen) and are not making the same rapid expansion in emerging markets as you did 30 years ago (only middle of the road in China where VW and GM are king imports).

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      “Owners are reporting destroyed crank shafts literally hours after taking delivery. Failed engine sensors are lighting up the CEL out of the box, and water in the rear tail lights.”

      I thought this was supposed to be a halo car too… talk about letting yourself go.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Well, first off it’s a brand new model that’s gonna have some teething issues like any other brand new model, and it’s built in a Subaru plant. Secondly I couldn’t find any reports of this supposed crankshaft destruction, I just saw that Toyota pulled a bunch of engine parts for analysis in people who had CELs come on. Can you provide a link to this crankshaft destruction? It’s not that I don’t believe you but I honestly haven’t seen any reports of this, I did see the one person who reported water in their rear taillight and there’s a bunch of people with CELs but I couldn’t find anybody who’s grenaded their motor.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Its having some quality issues that are just unacceptable. Neither Toyota nor Subaru have had any cars w/similar issues recently, and the Toyobaru is not even a revolutionary design. The engine isn’t even all new.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Nice post, I got a good kick out of ” [INSERT I HAVE AN FR-S AND I DON’T HAVE THESE PROBLEMS POST HERE]”.

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      “It’s 2012, and Toyota is clearly resting on it’s laurels.”

      Its not only Toyota. The other Japanese icon of engineering prowess and manufacturing excellence -Sony, has had an even sharper slide.

    • 0 avatar
      Duncan

      “It isn’t that the Corolla today is a “bad” car. Its an OK, errrr, decontented beyond belief appliance. But compared to the competition, it isn’t just in last place, it’s in last place by a couple of ticks.”

      Despite Jack’s review of the new Corolla as a dangerous and intolerable machine, this has not been my experience in rental cars. I travel a lot, and when I get to the airport rental lot, I’ve found that whether I get a Corolla, Focus, Sentra, Elantra or Cruze, I don’t notice much difference. Sure – the Corolla doesn’t stand out as a clearly superior car as many remember previous generations of it standing out. It certainly doesn’t strike me as “last place by a couple of ticks.” Yaris, on the other hand, strikes me as significantly worse (maybe even a couple of ticks worse) than Versa or Mazda 2.

  • avatar
    wsn

    “Some of the decontenting was based on the reduction of parts. Front bumper clips and components were reduced from 57 to 15. The doors triple seal rubber in the prior generation gave way to a single seal.”

    Those sounds like design changes to me. By themselves, they are not “decontenting”.

    The number of clips are not contents the car buyer pays for. The car buyer wants to buy a safe and reliable car. If the reduction of clips actually caused a less safe or easy to break bumper, that’s decontenting. If not, it’s simply a brilliant design.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I agree improving a bumper design deserves a pat on the back as its a net gain for customers and the manufacturer… however cheapening door seals on the other hand isn’t quite laudable in my eyes.

    • 0 avatar

      Clips may seem meaningless but after working with a few body shops over the years I can tell you poorly designed cheap clips often cause things like road noise and that cheap feel when you close a door.

  • avatar
    lopro

    Wow, people seriously underestimate Toyo. I’m not quite sure why you’re judging a prominent automaker based on a few obscure performance cars built for your aging enthusiast. Scale and proliferation of groundbreaking technologies on volume cars is what matters the most. Toyota introduced its hybrid system to the market back in 1997 and other automakers are only catching up now. In fact, Prius lineup is on its way to be the best-selling vehicle (or should that be plural?) in the world:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-29/toyota-prius-escapes-niche-to-surge-into-global-top-three.html
    Some people (presumably domestic fanboys) need to interview a handful of taxi drivers who switched to the Prii and get their opinion on Toyo’s “decontenting” and how it plays into their bottom-line.

    • 0 avatar

      We’re not talking about the Prius. Just the Camry, which the decontenting is truly noticeable.

      I’ve always liked the 92-96 Camry, when I drove a 97-02 model, I was shocked at how miserable it was to drive over the older one, and then ridden in an 06 model, it felt really really cheap and noisy.

  • avatar
    markholli

    I’ve been a Toyota loyalist for years, and a huge believer in their rock solid reliability. However, I’m definitely seeing the effects of their “decontenting” in recent years.

    A couple months back I came up on a brand new 2012 Camry on the interstate. It was fresh from the dealership; the guy was probably driving it home for the first time. At 70 mph I could see the rear bumper cover flapping around in the wind! It was as if it had only been secured with two plastic clips! Cheapy cheap cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      That is probably more of a dealer issue: the dealer gets paid well by corporate to “prep” the vehicle. Sounds like somebody is getting fat, lazy and stupid at dealership level, or maybe after being forced to spend a few million bucks to build a new Taj Mahal, er, show room, the dealer principle has the wash boy prepping deliveries.
      If becoming #1 is the reason for getting up in the morning, then you’ve probably forgotten how you got as far as you did. (Hint: by pi$$ing off fewer customers than the guy across the street.)

      • 0 avatar
        YotaCarFan

        I agree it’s likely an issue of the dealer failing to prep the car properly prior to delivery. My ’10 Lexus HS had loose trim on the lower edge of the bumper, and it turned out the dealer failed to attach any of the (“57 reduced to 15″) clips supposed to hold the parts on. I had trouble initially convincing the service advisor it was a problem, because every other car on the lot he compared mine to had the same problem, and this was not the selling dealer, either. Another time, I was driving a loaner Lexus SUV and wondered why the road noise was so great. I poked around and found the dealer had failed to install the rubber plugs into the tow holes in the trunk. These guys had better wake up, because there’s no incentive for customers to pay the rip-off dealer service prices if the “techs” can’t even prep a new car properly for delivery!

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    This article is pretty much spot on….. sadly. The Corolla is the perfect example of this. It used to be so good. True, in the 80’s and early 90’s, it was pretty spartan, but it was assembled with care and it will run forever. In California, these cars are still fairly heavy on the ground. Nothing flashy, but it gets the job done. Even so, Toyota had the AE86, AE92 GT-S and FX-16 Corollas if you wanted something fun to drive and these are highly sought after…. especially the ‘Haichi Roku’ thanks to the Initial D anime and the drifting scene. Then Toyota started cutting corners here and there…. the ’98-’02 Corollas are still excellent econo-boxes, but they have annoying faults, like cheap inner door handles that break all too easily and the ‘S’ model which has sporting pretensions, but is only outer cosmetics, black interior and no powertrain upgrades. They tried on the next model with the XRS package- again with the outer cosmetics and interior, but this time they added a 170hp 2ZZGE engine with a 6 speed manual and rear disc brakes- the only Corolla model to have that. Too bad these are very rare…. probably a pretty expensive Corolla also.

    Then you have the current one… wow have the mighty fallen. Absolutely horrible interior that screams “I’m cheap!”, a crappy waterpump on the base engine, the XRS this time had the Camry engine- though the stick shift is rare…. and for ’12 the XRS is discontinued, all you can get is the 1.8…… even worse it seems they’re all rear drums again. Too bad… stacked against the Focus, it loses, big time. The Focus just does everything better with more variety.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Don’t forget the 1st gen MR2 was (basically) a Corolla too.

    • 0 avatar
      EchoChamberJDM

      LuvmyV8 –
      I hear yah, and agree with everything you typed. I just sold my 2000MY Echo. 190k miles, interior and exterior brand new. Only things I ever had to change on it were brakes, tires, and oil. Original clutch still stong. My mother in law has a 2000MY Corolla, with only 70k miles. Has had numerous oil and anti freeze leaks, window motors fail, interior trim pieces fading or falling off, and black paint faded down to primer.
      Both Toyotas, both built the same year. However my Echo was made in Japan, the Corolla made at the now closed NUMMI plant.
      My point is…Toyota still makes some great products that will run forever…but only if you get the J as the first digit in the VIN (made in Japan). When the Yen got so expensive, Toyota made a big shift to US suppliers, US manufacturing plants, and US engineers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if I am buying a Japanese built car, I want it to be made in Japan. Why? NOt because I am a USA basher, by all means we need to make stuff in the US to keep our country great. However I want the parts of my car to be made with the same quality and care and engineering tolerances that befit the Toyota brand, not some part swapped out of the GM bin. Japanese built Echo vs US built Corolla, the comparison isn’t even close. Lets do the same comparison 10 years from now…hmmm…Yaris vs Corolla….which one do you want?

      Oh by the way…..Corolla was a more expensive car when new, but my Echo had far better resale value.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Agreed, there is no point to buying a ‘Japanese’ car if it wasn’t made there. If everything else available is just crap, then buy the American built Japanese car and help send profits overseas… but truth is this isn’t the 70s or 80s and there are far better alternatives available.

      • 0 avatar
        eggsalad

        When I bought my ’05 xB, one of the key selling points was that it was largely based on the mechanicals of the Echo. Since that design dates back to the late 90s, I’m hoping it was built with the old-school thinking.

      • 0 avatar
        luvmyv8

        Yup, that’s why I got a 4Runner, they all have the “J” vin since they’re still built in Japan, plus it’s one of the few true SUV’s left, body on frame. The interior I like… it’s a “base” SR5, but it seems built well, no ugly panel gaps, soft touch materials where my elbows rest, though most of the interior is hard touch plastic… don’t mind too much since my previous car was an ’06 Mustang GT….. interior materials and quality have never been a strong point on Mustangs. Nonetheless, great car.

        Also my decision on the 4Runner…. I’m an ametuer photographer and I lug around a bunch of old Canon cameras and lenses, it holds it all with plenty of room to spare; plus I’m not afraid to get down and dirty if it means a great photo, so I needed something strong that can take a little off-pavement abuse, nothing extreme or radical, just places that a crossover can’t go, that’s all. I doubt a Highlander of new Explorer could handle a trail that is quite literally on the San Andreas fault…. the 4Runner did it fine, no complaints.

      • 0 avatar
        moore101

        I agree with you ECHO. I have a 2000 Camry CNG (yes Toyta made a factory CNG powered car al la Civic GX for a few years). My Camry was made in Japan and has had stellar reliability since I bought it with 120k on the odo. It now has 260k and other than a radiator replacement all other non-wear parts are in like new condition.

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      … and Toyota was savvy enough to make their initial assault in no salt areas.
      I, too, have fond memories of an ’81 Tercel’s nearly ending up with 3 spares in the trunk as the rear wheel wells and mounts biodegraded after only 12 Ontario winters.
      By contrast, I purchased an ’87 K-car in 2000 that had not a spec of rust on it.
      Of course, that is presuming the auto industry made no improvements in rust prevention between ’81 and ’87.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I couldn’t care less about Toyota or how good or bad they may be. I hear enough stories about their cars breaking as much as anyone else’s.

    A new Impala may be on my horizon as early as next week. I don’t care if it’s not the best car, if it’s a W-body, outdated, back seat too low or whatever. I LOVE THEM BECAUSE IT”S AN IMPALA. There is a very strong historical connection from learning to drive in dad’s 1960 Impala to cruising in his 1966 Impala to my 1964 Impala 40 years ago in the air force in California clear through the last eight years of trouble-free ownership of my beloved 2004 Impala.

    I have no emotional connection with any Ford, Toyota, Honda, or even right now Chrysler. Chevy’s it, like it or not, right or wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      Volts On Fire

      You remind me of a battered housewife, explaining to the cops how she “fell.”

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      So what you’re saying is that you’re in love with a name more than anything else? That makes more sense than anything else.

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        What I find most humorous is that Zackman is equating a badge on the door with more history and heritage than GM bothered with for the actual car.

        What’s “special” about a 2012 Impala? Not a goddamned thing. GM couldn’t even be bothered to put “proper” tail lights on the car, and the leaper badges on the C-pillars disappeared years ago. The 3.6 engine’s kinda nice, so they say, but it’s also nothing special — and only serves to illustrate how awful other GM engines are.

        All that Impala is, is GM’s typically flabby and substandard interpretation of a 2004 Accord. I’d give Zackman more credit if he expressed this kind of appreciation for the 2014 model; it also appears to be garbage, but at least GM is giving lip service to trying to make the car special.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        VoF – why do you say the 2014 Impala is garbage? Have you seen one in the flesh or driven one? At least appear to wait for evidence before leaping to a conclusion otherwise people will think you have a certain “perspective”.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        It looks like “Volts on Fire” is on a roll lately. I saw where he called some other poster’s girlfriend less than bright for wanting a Sonic, and now castigating Zackman for wanting an Impala. Way to go. You must have soooo many friends in real life.

        Zackman’s emotional connection to the nameplate is really the only connection; even the cars he references from his youth are only tangentially connected to one another. The man knows what he likes and that’s all that matters. It may not be rational, at least to you, but witness Panther love on this blog and realize all of our tastes are different. There’s room in this world to disagree, be civil.

        I was selling Toyotas when they were in their ‘fat’ engineering phase, but I never warmed up to them. The Tercels and Corollas were penalty boxes, which only left you with the Camry (and Cressida back then) as the only decently optioned and equipped model(s) worth purchasing. I feel bad for the folks who only shop “J” serial numbered cars, as there are less of them and they too fall into the same issues of cost cutting that the North American produced cars do.

        Detroit played the hand they were dealt as well as they could, they decontented their cars to stay price competitive. Eventually other makers would realize they could implement similar strategies to make even more money. People will buy anything if it’s priced cheaply enough. They don’t care about quality, at least most don’t, not like they say they do.

        Witness the new line of VWs, many are decontented from previous versions, there have been complaints about in the media, but it hasn’t stopped them from selling cars.

        The places where I do see quality and attention to detail happening again, is at the D3, with Chrysler having the most dramatic turnaround of them all. The new interiors and attention to details on their cars is showing huge sales increases almost every month, I’m sure other manufacturers would like to have that kind of buzz and momentum going on. Ford is another one with great buzz behind them, but I often wonder how much of it is related to the fact they didn’t take a “bailout”, making them the de facto choice for domestically inclined auto purchasers of a certain political bent…

        I remember this article from the first time around. It seems to me every company has an ebb and flow. I think the Japanese companies are victims of their own success and that the other car companies are gunning for them. This should be an interesting time to come for future car purchasers.

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        Get over yourself, geo. Zackman openly admits he plans to spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle he knows is woefully inferior to the competition (and, unlike the Panther, has literally dozens of competitors) all for a three-inch piece of plastic that says “Impala” on it. That is beyond asinine, and should be acknowledged as such.

        Ditto with that other poster’s idiot girlfriend for supposedly researching the competition, and then deciding on a f*cking Daewoo. Some apparently shouldn’t be trusted to make their own decisions, I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Hey Zackman, I think you’ll be pleased that I recently test drove both a Cruze eco (6spd stick) and a 2012 impala LT with the LFX 3.6, and came away VERY impressed with both cars, they both made me WANT to buy them, as opposed to a 2012 Civic LX I had drive a while back, which got a big ‘meh’ from me.

      Now I don’t know how that new 1.4 turbo will hold up, or the redesigned LFX 3.6 with its integrated exhaust manifold and direct injection… but boy do those cars have character and are fun to drive!

      My family has bought imports exclusively since we moved to the US, 82 Civic then an 85 Civic, 78 Corolla, then a 90 Civic, a 89 Mazda MPV, a 98 MPV, an 07 Fit, and an 09 RX350.

      I was very dissappointed in how boring the Civic was, no real standout characteristics, and the MSRP for an LX with an automatic is 19k, unbelievable for how much road noise there was, I kept thinking during the test drive “what am I paying $19k for?”.

      The Cruze was leagues ahead of the Civic in terms of refinement and how solid it felt, the interior had better materials, if a somewhat closed in feeling.

      The Impala is a totally different vehicle all together, the interior is right out of the 90s, and not in a bad way in my opinion, nice and simple, I think the obviously fake dark wood trim is actually quirky and interesting to look at. The engine/transmission is the real gem, the exhaust note alone is worth the price of admission to me! I like how they made the dual exhaust and 17 inch alloys standard on LTs, and the chrome mesh grill looks good to me as well.

      After the Civic test drive I had firmly decided to keep driving my old Mazda, even with it’s constant need of repairs and lackluster mpg. After visiting the Chevy dealership… well I’m crunching numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      jimdenver

      I love the impala and kick myself for replacing my 2003 saturn ion which had a dying automatic in it with a 2010 corolla and not getting a used impala… Oh well

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      I understand the emotional connection, Zackman. I learned to drive in a Camaro.

      I got over it.

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      As I used to tell clients that would ask about Toyotas over GM (rather than getting into a debate), if the imports are so great why are their service areas so huge and never empty? Either they don’t build perfect cars, or they’re sticking it to their people on “maintenance.”

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        “why are their service areas so huge and never empty?”

        Oil changes. They do that better, too. No, I am not kidding.

        They charge the same as a chain, do a much better job of checking the car over, alert me to real problems and don’t upsell me on crap I don’t need. They’ve never brought me a dipstick with bright red transmission fluid and said, “hey, this looks kinda dark…” But they do let me know if a tire was low, how much brake life I have left, adjust and unclog washer nozzles and do other little things gratis.

        It’s almost like… like they appreciate that I bought a Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Why are you talking about Impalas on a Toyota article?
      I can understand admiring a long line of okay cars, but you’re borderline obsessed with them.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I agree that Toyotas have gotton cheaper. The first gen Sequoia has a much nicer interior than the 2nd gen.

    Also, what is the deal with the gated Automatic shifters? They just seem redundant.

  • avatar
    threeer

    It may have less than 100 HP and is now pushing 200k, but my son’s 1997 Tercel is (my opinion inserted) still a higher quality car than many “new” Toyotas. The interior has nice surface finishes (what? Padding on the dash and CLOTH on the door? Hearsay!), the mechanics are otherworldly reliable…it just won’t quit. I sit in a 2013 Corolla, and I want to cry. My mother’s 2003 Corolla isn’t “too” bad, but then, she bought the fully loaded LE with leather, sunroof, etc…So while the reputation (at one point) was fully earned, I’m not convinced that a Toyota is the superior buy anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I’ve got a buddy who owns a Japan-built 1989 Camry V6 that is still driven daily, although now it is driven by his grand daughter, to and from school. Still has the original plugs!

      The only thing he ever did to it was put in a new AC system, replace all the rubber, antifreeze, oil and filters. I should know, I helped him with everything except the AC which was done by a local AC shop.

      I don’t think they make’m like that any more.

      • 0 avatar
        YotaCarFan

        I still see many Gen 3 Camrys on the road (1992-1996 MY). I’m seeing less and less of the Gen 4 Camrys these days, though, so either they’re failing more than their predecessors or their owners have less desire to continue owning them.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        YotaCarFan, I agree. The newer Camry sedans don’t seem to be as prevalent as the older ones, even though more of the newer ones were sold over a longer period of time. Plenty of them at the local junk yard and crusher.

        A lot depends on what part of the US you’re looking at, but here in the Southwest there is very little rust so cars last a long time. And older foreign-built cars are known to be better protected against rust.

        Long before I bought my 2008 Highlander, I asked my buddy why he didn’t buy a Camry made in America, when he bought a new car. He said the Japanese take car building to a higher level. Judging from his old Camry, he may be on to something.

        Interestingly enough, he was probably the first guy to buy a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo in this area, and he had to go out of town to get one since the local dealership was still peddling 2011 models at the time he bought his 2012.

        Maybe old dogs can learn new tricks, or maybe, like so many other people, he only intends to keep his new Grand Cherokee for the duration of the warranty.

        I’ve heard more people (who can) are doing just exactly that, keeping their new car only for as long as the warranty lasts. Let whatever problems develop after the warranty ends be someone else’s headache and expense.

  • avatar
    agroal

    I bought my 1st Toyota new in 2000 on it’s reputation only and I wasn’t disappointed. A 4 cyl.5sp.Tacoma 4×4. I didn’t want or need a V-6 or V-8 tank for a light duty truck and daily driver. I don’t tow so the 4 cyl. was fine for me. After 11+ years of utterly reliable service I noticed a weeping oil leak in the oil pan weld.It would be a costly repair, removing all the front 4×4 & suspension parts but I figured after all these years I’d fix it and still be way ahead of the game financially. That’s when I found out my truck was being bought back for the frame rust recall. I got a check for $15,050 ( best possible KBB value times one and a half) for a truck that I bought new in Dec. ’99 for just over $19K. I bought a brand new ’11 Tacoma in the same configuration. 4 cyl, 4WD, 5 spd. Other than being a mid size compared to my older mini truck, the new truck is better in every way. Fit, finish, etc are fine. But Toyota cheaped out in a few ways that confound me. The 4WD is now electronically activated with a rotary knob vs. the traditional gear lever. No problem but you would at least expect that a major component of a 4WD vehicle would be back-lit so you could easily see it at night. Nope. That along with the outside power mirrors switch, glove box, and a few other important switches, that also aren’t back-lit. How about true “full gauges” that include oil and volt readings along with temp & fuel? A stripper rental Corolla I used even had a neat little instant/avg. MPG read-out in the tach window. How much did they save on skimping on these things? Toyota better hope Hyundai or Kia doesn’t jump into the compact truck market. There will be blood.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I find the going on about how great Toyota once was amusing. They sure never got that reputation in Northern New England (nor did Hondas) for the simple reason that right up until those first decontented Camrys and Corollas they had a SERIOUS rust problem. They simply did not last long enough in our climate to get the gold-plated reputation. American cars may have had crappy mechanicals, but at least they usually did not have holes in them in less than five years in the ’80s. The Europeans learned the rust lesson early – by the ’80s Saabs and Volvos were quite long-lived by comparision, as were the Germans. Even VW was leagues ahead of the Japanese in rust resistance.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    There’s little doubt Toyota/Lexus lost the plot 15 years ago. By 2004 Edmunds Forums were reporting falling quality and customer care, years before it hit the mainstream media.

    Check out these LA Times 2002- 06 Lexus ES feature articles. The wheels had come off the “Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.”

    http://goo.gl/5Ll41

    http://goo.gl/qgNCc

    • 0 avatar
      YotaCarFan

      Thanks for posting the links to those two articles. I had a 2004 Lexus ES330, and it had the problem described – delayed engagement of the transmission after hitting the gas. It nearly caused me to get T-Boned one time when coasting at about 5mph and then hitting the gas to make a left turn across traffic into a shopping center. The car continued coasting for a second or two before the transmission engaged with a thunk and the engine roared to life. I took it to the dealer numerous times, to be insulted with claims that the “highly advanced transmission needs to adapt to my driving style and my inconsistent driving style keeps this from happening”. I complained repeatedly to Toyota, yet never was notified about the firmware fix, so I must not have been a “severe” enough case per the article. After that, I got a 2007 Camry V6 XLE. Its transmission grenaded after a month of ownership (and don’t get me started on the rattles, poor fitting dash, cheap plastics, etc). Seeing anecdotes of the transmission issue being resolved on user forums, I traded it for its Lexus sibling – an 07 ES350. That was worse than my 87 Hyundai Excel. The transmission jerked and thunked, the radio failed, the HVAC blew white particles, the engine had a loud piston slap, the GPS was fraught with firmware bugs (and horribly slow), and the stereo had less midrange than a cheap boombox. Pathetic.

  • avatar
    rdsymmes

    Apologies in advance for attempting to hijack this thread…

    So, given you burst my bubble that Toyota is the way to go, what in the heck do you actually buy today if you want to help your young adult get basic, affordable, and durable mostly commuter transportation? If she spends any more than a few thousand dollars, my thought is she needs something with a warranty. This board has convinced me new is as good or better a deal than slightly used, so I lean toward the entry level +1 for the standard makes that aren’t German (my love).

    Is it Mazda 3, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Subaru Imprezza, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, or Hyundai or Chevy whatever? I follow this site every day and have never gotten a sense for what is the go-to. Are they all that good, or are they all that not so good?

    I think I can help get the deal, if I can only figure out which one. Believe it or not, I actually trust this site and its viewers very much. Right now I would probably go with the Focus, and I honestly don’t know why.

    • 0 avatar
      toxicroach

      I think realistically you can’t really go too wrong. While I still have my doubts about Chrysler, just have her shop around and find what she likes.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        +1 not sure about possible kinks in the Dart but hearing good things.

        Everyone will handicap differently:

        1) Hyundai Elantra – darn close to best all around car bang for the buck. Not thrilled about its highway antics, great suburban/urban runner

        2) Ford Focus – FIVE DOOR! Euro handling. Good engine. Automatic tranny is wonky

        3) Chevy Cruze – class leading interior, and surprisingly roomy. Don’t get the 1.8L base engine – awful. The Cruze Eco comes with the turbo engine and a 6-speed manual and is probably the most “fun” of the possibly options out there

        4) Mazda 3 – if you can get past the smile – oh ya – FIVE DOOR! SkyActiv gets good reviews (engine technology). Probably the most fun to drive in the segment, the most sporty.

        5) VW Jetta – ya, you can buy one for $15K sticker but you won’t want it. Stay away from the 2.0 slow. Purists will complain about the changes made from the previous generation – but the Jetta is selling extremely well. I believe its the roomiest (could be wrong) in the segment.

        6) Dodge Dart – I would put it higher if there was SOME track record but this is all new head to toe – but I like the looks, the interior, and the power train.

        7) Honda Civic – dated, decontented by as reliable as the sunrise. The interior looks are questionable (some loathe the split dash). Still pretty fun to drive, and comfortable.

        8) Buick Verano – given you can get one for $23K base, well equipped, and with the pretty powerful 2.4L 172 HP engine under the hood out of the gate – in the segment worth looking at if you’re in the high end of the price range – I would probably buy this over the Cruze. Get over the Buick logo. I only put this at 8 because of the price point compared to the other cars in the segment.

        9) Toyota Corolla – drum brakes, weak engine, 4-speed automatic, decontented. Yes, the engine and tranny is as reliable as the sunrise, but that’s what people use to say about the Pontiac Grand Prix in 2005. You can do so much better.

    • 0 avatar
      The Walking Eye

      Mazda, Ford, Subaru, Chevy, Kia, Hyundai, and Buick all have pretty nice base and base+1 models. Each of them offer more refinement than we’re used to at their price range.

      VW has also gone the route of decontenting and have a US only version of the Jetta that uses cheaper plastics. So you still get VW parts at Audi prices and now the interior is cheapo. I don’t believe the Golf has gone through this yet.

      I rented a Camry 2 years ago and it was a pile of junk compared to what I’d driven in the 90s. Exceedingly noisy, slow, shift happy, and cheap. It felt like the Cobalt I owned. Just crap. I test drove the Focus, Impreza, Cruze, and Regal before opting for the Regal. The other three would have been just fine, but the Regal was a little more refined and was offering a very aggressive lease.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Having just spent 8 days in an uttery base-model 4-cyl Jetta, I will say that while the plastics are not as nice as the Golf, the interior is STILL about 5 miles ahead of the Corolla and Civic. And even with the gutless wonder 2.sl0w and automatic, it was still a very pleasant car to spend time in, and rather nice to drive, if no speedster. If nicer plastics, and a better drive matter to you, a Golf with one more cylinder is about $3K more money. Realistically, the MK4 and MK5 Jettas were TOO nice for thier class, and so too expensive vs. the competition.

        Given the current sales level and trajectory of the Jetta (and Passat) VW obviously made the correct decision. Average Americans buy cars by the pound, as a general rule.

        But ultimately, there are very few bad cars out there these days, buy whatever appeals to you in your price range.

      • 0 avatar
        The Walking Eye

        krhodes:

        For me, the plastics depends on where they are. The dash? Meh. The doors and center console? Absolutely matters. Things on which I rest my various body parts are quite important, the dash that I never touch, not so much.

        Plastics and interior feel are all subjective and up to the individual as to what they like and tolerate.

        I definitely agree that you really can’t go wrong with most new cars right now.

    • 0 avatar
      steeringwithmyknees

      sounds like you need to spend some serious test-driving time. Dont allow yourself to buy one until you’ve sampled them all.

      Check out Edmunds.com for articles about how to properly test drive (checklist; take ‘er on highway; etc).

      This has always been my car realm. Most recently, we’ve picked up 2012 base Kia Soul, which (in GDI-engined 6MT base form) is a hell of a lot of car seat space per dollar.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Help your daughter research and find herself a car she likes to drive and suits her needs (in reality, not on paper). Otherwise, if she doesn’t like what you might foist on her (color, seats, whatever), she won’t care enough to maintain it and treat it nicely, and it won’t matter how good its reputation was. Bottom line: She must be involved, excited, and proud of her car!

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Trouble is they all have their ups and downs, and this article seems to illustrate this point. The era of “go-tos” is over.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “…what in the heck do you actually buy today if you want to help your young adult get basic, affordable, and durable mostly commuter transportation?”

      Speaking only for myself here, we helped buy our granddaughter a 2011 Elantra for her HS grad in May 2011. Went halfsies with my son, her dad. Runs good for the daily commute to college and is reasonably easy on gas, considering a 150-mile daily roundtrip to college and a teenage girl with a lead foot, plus three chubby teenage-girl riders.

      Bought my grandson a 2012 Wrangler in June after he joined the Air Force and sold his old hand-me-down Ranger on eBay to a local yokel. It runs good and fits his lifestyle.

      With new cars not costing much more than used cars these days, and since new cars do come with a factory warranty (just in case it’s a lemon), I’d say stay away from used. You’re just buying someone else’s problems.

      Of course one solution is to donate your current old car to your young person, and buy a new car for yourself. At least you know the history of your old car.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I generally do not disagree with HDC but this is one of those rare occasions. If you’re looking for basic transportation he is indeed correct. But if your looking for a specific type of vehicle, used may be a better option. If your looking for the true small truck, Ranger is/was your only game in town and will be replaced by… nothing. Looking for a good old American BOF V8 ride from yesteryear, or want to pretend to arrest your friend in front of his family, post 1996 its Panther or bust, and nothing currently made is its true equivalent. Maybe you’re in the market for a reliable wrong-wheel drive convertible (read not a Sebring or Eurotrash) discontinued Solara is one of your few sensible choices. Looking for a true station wagon and don’t have the bucks to spend on a fake CUV or a teutonic tot mobile? Taurus wagons were made until the 2003 MY. Looking for reliable and affordable V6 power with adequate low end torque? 3800 GM comes to mind, and while its certainly not the only car in the sedan game, it certainly has better bang for your used buck than the pricier Camcord with double the miles. GM is replacing W/H body with, something I’m not sure what its supposed to be but its coming in 4-cyl standard!

        Sure it may make better financial sense at the moment to buy new, I think it all depends on what your needs are at the time of purchase.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        28-cars-later, feel free to disagree with me. My feelings won’t be hurt. I said I was speaking only for myself here. And the reason, of course, is that no two people have the exact same experiences with cars, or in life.

        My experiences with used cars were bad. This at a time when I was a young Airman and poor, and could least afford to have my transportation let me down. Invariably, it let me down.

        I bought many used cars over the ensuing years, mostly to fix them up and sell them for a profit. Most of them were bought off the lemon-lot at the nearby airbase, all brands, all sizes, whatever was a good deal that could be resold for a profit.

        The imports I bought tended to be a whole lot better than the domestics, and had fewer breakdowns, but I don’t think that the foreign brands of that era can claim the same for their products of today. All foreign brands, with the exception of Hyundai/Kia, have gone downhill in quality and reliability after they stopped importing them from elsewhere.

        ALL the domestic brands had more things go wrong with them. It was a good thing I could wrench and tool on them myself, most of the time. That saved me a bunch of labor expense. Autozone was a great help.

        Some people may indeed have good ownership experience with buying used cars. I didn’t.

        My grandson received his hand-me-down Ranger from his dad. He used it all through High School, but after he joined the AF, the Ranger started to have problems (mostly electrical and starting related).

        Rather than throw money at replacing what was needed, he listed it on eBay and got a little money for it from a guy who had a Ranger just like his and wanted spares.

        With my granddaughter it was a bit different. We did not want her to traverse the open desert on US70 in an older or used car. The decision was made to buy her a new one and let her pick what she wanted.

        We looked at a ton of them, all brands. The Elantra won on styling and value, and it had a killer warranty (10-years or 100,000-miles). If it continues to be as reliable as it has been, when she hits that 100,000-mile mark, I’ll buy her a new one.

        If rdsymmes wants to buy a used car and take the gamble, who am I to argue? I’m not the one paying for it.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      rdsymmes…Easy answer. Mazda (3), Ford(Focus) and VW(Golf/Jetta) make the best cars in the C-class right now (the Elantra is flat-out not competitive with them except on gadget count, but is much better than a Corolla or Forte). The Civic lies exactly in the middle with the Elantra. That’s my opinion based on test drives, not just armchair quarterbacking. None of the cars in this class are unreliable (yes, even the VW’s) and there is a huge variety of character traits to pick from.

      Once again, the Elantra just isn’t as good as people claim, don’t get suckered into following the hype train to mediocre-ville.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Had an 86 Camry which I mistakenly sold for $500 when the engine wetn kaputz at 240k miles, I should have gotten a rebuilt one, painted the car and I would have had a great car for years, instead the 98 Corolla I still have, had an engine replacement at 298k miles but the interior just like the interiors of just about every sample I’ve seen from that generation, is falling apart everywhere, obvious cost cutting to the max.

  • avatar
    Joss

    The Toyota Reality?

    What is any 21stC corporation about? >10% profit margin for its shareholders.

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      So what. They have right to make whatever they want and charge whatever they want. You have the right to NOT buy if you don’t want to. I’ve never understood the mindset that a company is charging too much if there are alternatives.

      Also it is NOT 10%.

      http://ycharts.com/companies/TM/profit_margin

      Want a lower %?

      http://www.macroaxis.com/invest/ratio/TOM.DE–Profit_Margin

      want to see dividends?

      http://www.dividend.com/dividend-stocks/consumer-goods/auto-manufacturers-major/tm-toyota-motor-corp/

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Sure they have every right to build what they like, the trouble is their marketing and fanboy lemmings present the epitome of ‘quality’ and ‘value’ which is simply no longer the case.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    My grandpa is in his 90’s. I asked him why he always drove Ford trucks. He replied “I bought my 1st one and liked it and kept on buying them”. I think brand loyalty is sometimes that simple. Not blogs, not Consumer Reports, not sophisticated marketing in all its forms; but a I bought one and and I liked it and kept on buying them thought process. I don’t think the Japanese brands have much to worry about. Or whichever brand you are loyal to.

    • 0 avatar
      The Walking Eye

      This is a mindset that can be found across the general public for just about anything. The average person doesn’t do a lot of research before buying something new to replace one that lasted them a long time. They’ll go out and get the same brand. It’s the initial purchase that’s often most important for the average buyer.

      We here on TTAC are not the average buyer.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      My parents resemble that remark, but it’s funny how one or 2 bad tastes can send you somewhere else.

      My dad was a GM guy growing up. Until he got his 1980s Trans-Am, while my mother was driving a chevette. 2 horrible ownership experiences pushed them over to be ford people.

      After a Country Squire and a Mercury Sable, which both worked greaat for a while, they sampled volvo wagons for 2 generations (740 and 960). The Sable needed replacing in 96 and My dad bought an Altima.

      The then got an Xterra later, and are on their second Altima. My mom wants a white Z as her halo car. I see them on Nissans for the forseeable future, barring any horrendous ownership experience.

  • avatar
    John

    Couldn’t disagree more. Had an ’84 Celica GTS, garage kept. Both rear quarter panels, and both B pillars rusted out. Manual transmission trashed itself at 115,000 miles – and I had changed the fluid every 30,000 miles. Gutless wonder engine. Muffler rusted out around 100,000 miles.

    Now have 2003 Sienna. Parked outside all the time. No rust AT ALL.
    Exhaust is all stainless and no rust. With 3 of the seats out, engine has enough power to surprise fart can Civics from a red light.
    One, and only one thing has gone wrong – drivers side rear vent window motor has stopped functioning. My newer Toyota is way better than my older one was.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Great article Steve. I came over to the the “Toyota way” 3 years ago from Chevies and Pontiacs. I bought a 2000 Lexus GS400, that has been very good to me. When I brought it home I was going over all the details and under the hood and was amazed at the attention to detail invested in every single part, right down to the washer fluid cap. My old Malibu Maxx by comparison was built like a bad knock-off of a Fisher-Price toy.
    My next Toyota was a 1990 Cressida bought for my wife. That car needed a new head gasket due to Toyota not torquing the bolts tight enough. But, excepting that, the car is remarkable in it’s build quality. In fact, my 2000 Lexus is built nearly exactly like the Cressida in many ways.
    I would like to point out, however, that both these cars have quality issues that Toyota has never admitted to, or issued recalls for. The first is the head gasket issue on the Cressida, the second is weak ball-joints on the GS. If any other manufacturer had these issues there would have been class-action lawsuits, but Toyota was able to skate right over these kinds of oversights, until now.
    To be honest, I’d like to continue to drive Toyotas, but I will stick to the older ones.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    Regarding ‘decontenting’, I believe this is an action by Toyota to compete effectively since they are now on a level playing field.

    Earlier the Yen was artificially weak for a country that had a huge trade surplus.
    With more North American production their costs were now closer to the competition.
    At the same time other automakers were building better products that started to erode the Toyota premium pricing.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Once upon a time, Toyota was the king of reliability and quality. And like Maytag back in the day, people willingly paid a premium for them. Today Toyota still tops reliability, albeit with lesser quality materials. However, this time around many other makes offer near equal reliability and you don’t have to pay a Toyota premium. Of course, you have to be willing to look at other makes. And if you do, you find less of a compelling reason to habitually buy Toyota. However, don’t think Toyota has not noticed. If the new Camry is any indication, they are going to do their best to bring Toyota back. This time around though, they face strong competitors. GM handed Toyota customers by the tens of thousands in the 80’s. Nobody is doing that anymore….

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Some people believe that Toyota took a turn for the worse all-around when they started making them in the good old US of A, using American suppliers and American labor.

      Many cited verifiable examples and most recently Mr Toyoda himself publicly admitted that the quality and value his company products had been known for was no more. He blamed it on too rapid an expansion and growth.

      Incidents such as the CTS gas pedals, rusting frames and bad welds produced by corner-cutting American suppliers were not helpful to maintaining Toyota’s quality image. The damage is done.

      We didn’t own any Japanese cars until 2008 when we bought our very first new one, a Japan-built Highlander. It did not disappoint and exceeded our highest expectations, to this day.

      Having had such a great ownership experience, I decided to buy a made in America 2011 Tundra 5.7, and it has been the best truck I have ever owned, unlike the Silverado and F150 I owned before it which had several warranty issues. It remains to be seen if it continues to be problem-free into the future.

      Many people who bought Toyota had, and are having, quality and value issues these days. I don’t think that Toyota will ever rise to the quality levels of the past again. Too many people have had a bad experience and have sworn off Toyota purchases in the future.

      Yeah, Camry is still the best-selling sedan in America, but it is no longer the best value for the money. In that class I would put Hyundai and Nissan at the top of the class in quality, value and price.

      This is eerily similar to the quality and value issues experienced by the domestic auto manufacturers that resulted in the mass exodus away from the domestics and toward the foreigners. It’s ironic that Toyota, which initially caused the great migration, should now fall victim to it.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Highdesertcat says, “Incidents such as the CTS gas pedals, rusting frames and bad welds produced by corner-cutting American suppliers were not helpful to maintaining Toyota’s quality image.”

        “Headquartered in Elkhart since 1902 and winner in recent years of supplier quality awards from Toyota and Honda (it also makes pedals for Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Chrysler)”

        http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2010-01-29-toyotacts29_CV_N.htm?csp=34

  • avatar
    russty1

    Four years ago I bought a RAV4 V6 after months of painstaking research and comparison shopping between the various small crossovers. Bottom line, I told myself I wanted reliability above all. I NEVER wanted to get stranded by the side of the road. I also wanted to keep the car for at least 12 – 15 years. What clinched the decision for me was that I recalled a friend of mine in the 90s with a Corolla they abused but could not kill. (I also saw a Top Gear episode where they could not kill an old Toyota pickup truck after dropping it from buildings etc. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnWKz7Cthkk ) So there was a heritage, I thought. Also my dad had a series of Big 3 disappointments as I grew up so those memories became a part of me. I would not go domestic.

    Well, four years later and the RAV4 has had only 2 or 3 issues that were covered under warranty. So reliable, yes. But very little pleasure.

    Some thoughts as I reflect on the past four years of ownership:
    * the market has transformed and now all of the competition seems to be of like quality but with more features and nicer interiors for less $$. Toyota would no longer be my first choice.
    * for a new car whose cost approached $40K, the RAV4 screamed cheap: crap radio, microscopically-thin exterior paint that shows all kinds of surface scratches (even the touch of a snow-brush leaves an ugly mark), low-rent carpet looked old very quickly, a cheap plastic dash and a rubber steering wheel, cartoonish gauges and a general lack of interior illumination. There were none of the ‘thoughtful’ touches that I would have expected at this price level but that you only notice are missing after living with the car for a while. Seat adjustments are minimal. The interior of an entry-level Yaris uses the same flimsy switchgear.

    I now realize after four years that I sacrificed too much by going for ‘reliable’ above all else. Toyota has cut corners to the point that it sorely shows. Their competition seems to be doing a better job.

    While at a large auto show earlier this year, I checked out the current state of the competition and the quality advances have been substantial these past four years. Tiguan, Escape, Sonata and even CR-V interiors are much nicer places to spend time. While I had never considered it as a viable option before, when I sat in a Grand Cherokee I had an epiphany and was blown away by the interior! It made me realize that reliability alone is not enough, I should have spent more time getting a “feel” for the vehicles. I guess I need to have that ‘emotional’ connection after all, to look forward to the driving experience.

    Toyota needs to learn how to build an interior – at least that would be a start. A quick look around my local Toyota showroom whenever I wait for my car in the shop, shows some of the ugliest, cheapest and most insulting plastic interiors I have ever seen.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I highly recommend our 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit 4×4 V6. It gives relatively good gas mileage for an CUV of this size and heft, unless you get on the go pedal. I have not found any place where the 4×4 system could not take us and get us out again.

      The Summit interior is really nicely done, but the Limited and Laredo interiors are also very well done, in either cloth or leather, and better than everything I have looked at in the same price range.

      I like the Grand Cherokee better than the Sequoia.

    • 0 avatar
      ixim

      Had a 2007 RAV4 – same crummy inside, fragile paint, borderline radio. Replaced it with a 2010; made sure to get a clearcoated color; stuck with the Base I4/4-speed. The base tunes sound better; the interior’s a little nicer, though NOT in the CRV’s league. It’s a low-end car – don’t waste your $$ on the higher trim lines. Both cars were 100% reliable; OK on gas; extremely versatile. Now, if I can only get used to the flimsy door panels [they flutter and ping when closing]…..

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      russty1…I love your comment. It’s unbelieveably rare for someone to criticize their own car. Most people, for some unfathomable reason, see their vehicle purchase choice as an extension of their ego and self worth and got to “fanboi” mode the minute criticism pops up.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    You know, as much as I hate to admit it the article is right. Toyota still did a decent job of covering the cost cutting in the early 2000s. While there were teething problems and the corolla/celica/mrs 1zz-fe was a disaster, they still had some solid cars. My 2003 camry v6 has run like a top ever since my dad bought it. When stopped driving, I grabbed the pristine car and despite my, at times brutal, commutes around nyc, the car has little if any issues. I sat inside a 2011 Rav4 and was amazed at how cheap Toyota had gotten compared to my 2003. It got to the point that I, a Toyota fan that learned to drive in an ae92 corolla,actively tried to dissuade my gf from buying a new corolla in favor of an elantra. At the end of the day, the cars were selling for thousands off msrp and she bought one yesterday. The antiquated engine and tranny will likely provide faithful service for years to come much in the same way a GM 3800 or ford 302 will. The simplicity will allow Toyota to hold on to a reputation for reliability, but the car is simply a penalty box.

  • avatar
    OldWingGuy

    I will say something that will probably get me strung up, but here goes.
    I think part of Toyota’s (and Honda’s) problems began when they started building in North America.
    The whole quality thing was all about lowering costs in the first place. Toyota (and Honda) know that to lower quality is to increase costs, so I doubt that they deliberatly set out to reduce the quality of their vehicles.
    Me/my family have had a number of Hondas and Toyotas over the years. It took me awhile to figure out, but the good vehicles all had a VIN that started with “J”. The crappy ones were built elsewhere.
    I’ve been to Japan and dealt with their manufacturing capability. Simply amazing – the whole country is geared towards this. Sorry to say, but North America doesn’t come close.
    I remember years ago reading about McDonalds opening their first restaurant in Moscow. They had to build an entire supply chain, because things were so screwed up in Russia. I think a similar thing exists here in NA, albeit on a smaller and less obvious scale.

    • 0 avatar
      jimmyy

      Over the last few years, I started purchasing Toyotas without the “J” because new “J” vehicles are just not there. I have yet to take one in for any repair or problem, with the exception of an 07 Camry that needed a new set of rear brake pads at 85K miles. That 07 Camry now has 110K miles. As usual, other than oil changes and 1 transmission flush, I have totally ignored the recommended maintenance.

      I forgot. I did have a second problem. A battery in the key needed replacement on a Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Interesting observation.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    But at the end of the day, even a “decontented” Toyota from that era is still higher quality than most products from the Big 3.

    I’m fully willing to concede that they’ve started finding ways to make their product cheaper, but compare a late-ninteies Camry to a late nineties Chevy Lumina or Ford Taurus. There’s no question the Toyota is still the better bet for reliability and resale. It’s not even close.

    Could they be nicer? Of course, but you have to draw the line at some point, and if the price kept creeping up, eventually you price yourself out of the market.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    My family and extended family has pretty much bought Toyotas for the last 30 years. We’ve bought everything from Cressidas to several Hiluxes, Tacomas, and Camrys, the newest vehicles being a 2010 Tundra and Avalon. Not one has failed or given us any reason to doubt Toyota. Some cars today like the Corolla definitely need to get a better interior and powertrain that is more up to date, but Toyota has definitely woken up in the past 2 years with the sudden-accleration witch hunt and I have no doubt that they recognize the need to stay competitive. When it comes time to get our next car, it’s straight to the Toyota (or hopefully Lexus) dealer for us.

  • avatar
    DisTurbo

    I’ve always been a Toyota guy. My first 2 cars were 70s Corona Mark IIs and I’ve had 2 Corolla’s and my current car is a Camry SXV20R sedan. It’s built in Australia and has just reached 300,000km. This car is well built and ridiculously reliable. I have to confess that quality is NOT the 20-series’ strong suit. Seat belts, bulbs, door trim, hood lining and rubbers are all of the ‘bargain basement’ standard and quite appalling for a Toyota. Thank you for the article. I was wondering where Toyota started to go wrong, and you explained it well.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    Not trying to start a fight here, and I’m working with fewer data points than most of the responders out there- BUT–

    My built-in-Kentucky 2001 Avalon is one of the best cars I’ve owned. After doing a ton of research while I was doing a 32,000 mile per year commute and my 300D turbo was getting long in the tooth, I decided to look for a well-kept Gen2 Avalon. I was expecting to drive the wheels off it, I had a long commute that was typically 70-90 minutes each way, usually had 30MPH average speed for half the distance coming home. I found one at 123K in April 2011 and it’s got 162K on it now. ZERO problems. No leaks anywhere. A/C blows ice cold. It uses almost no oil between changes, has a great stereo, NO rattles, and great switchgear.Tranny shifts perfectly and the engine is turbine-smooth. For an 11 YO car it’s worlds better than that abysmal 2001 Lesabre we owned.

    And before all the haters start cracking grandpa jokes, you have to realize 90 minutes on Bay Area freeways requires some degree of insulation from road noise. Canyon carvers have their place but they would be wasted in stop and-go traffic. Our infrastructure is a shadow of what it was when I was a kid here. This car absolutely fills the bill and I intend to keep it as long as it remains economically feasable to do so.
    So it wasn’t all bad in the early 2000s for Toys..

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    News flash. The final exam grades are in. JD Powers and Consumer Reports give Toyota an A. Detroit automakers, not so good. Possible they all came in well below a C. Then there is the latest innovation from Detroit … the ability for the Jeep to drive on 2 wheels.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    When I brought an ’89 Tercel I was introduced to the world of Toyota build quality, it may be basic but with 127k its had basically maintenance work to keep going, outside of a better carburetor. The things just solid and sturdy though, and thats what I like about it.

    A few years later, their rubber bumpers vanished along with the hatch in favor of a very plain looking Tercel that catered more to American tastes at the time.

    I’ve sat in a few modern Yoyo taxis and they were okay, just not filled with subtle touches like my Tercel, plus the Prius bottomed out a bit easily.

    What gets me with modern Toyotas is both the silly styling (mercifully they avoid pointless blind spots) and their lack of sport models, instead of having 4wd, fwd, rwd, and mid engine sports cars we have 5 flavors of Prius and a Subaru with Scion badges.

    Forget hybrids, I’d rather re-cycle old rubber via rubber bumpers over flaunting around in a hybrid at 10mph below the speed limit.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    So if reducing the amount of bumper clips on a car is considered “decontenting” then what is re-copying and pasting an article for 2010 for a website considered?

    Why not write a BRAND NEW article with more features about the same subject? Is that too expensive or something?

    Talk about cutting corners.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    This is all well and good, but the current models, bad as the article presupposes them to be, run cleaner, get better mileage, are safer, have fewer problems and, in adjusted dollars, actually are cheaper than the supposed golden-era models.

    If you want a Camry that’s made to the cost of the golden-era models, Toyota will sell you a Lexus ES. If you adjust the MSRP of a golden-era Camry, you’ll also find it costs as much as a new Lexus. Finally, that golden-age Camry has more problems per mile than the new, decontened, “plastic-era” model.

    So, really, this article, and much of the commentary, is more about subjective perceptions of quality and internet housewives’ tales.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I also have a similar impression on the highest quality for Toyota/ Honda vehicles which are actually manufactured in Japan.

    However, with the exhorbitant price of the Yen, one will start to see two trends:

    -Japanese made vehicles will mostly stay in Japan; exports will be manufactured in other countries.
    -Japanese vehicles actually for export will be decontented further, and may even cut some quality corners.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Reducing the number of parts or part #’s in a car is not decontenting nor is removing anything that doesn’t add value in the eyes of your customer. That’s called good manufacturing/value engineering, which Toyota does better than anyobody. Having owned 2 Toyota’s I can tell you they really aren’t engineered that great in a lot of areas. But overall they are still good cars/trucks. Just not heads & tails above the domestics like the fan-boys would like you to believe.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I used to work for an automotive parts inspection company. The job was horrid and the company treated us like chattel. Guess what? Most of the subcontractors made parts for Asian and American car companies. Same part got the same inspection no matter which car company it went to. American owned made parts for Asian cars, Asian owned made parts for American cars. Crazy ain’t it?

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @el scotto…..So true. In a former life,I was a shipper, reciever for GM. The truckers would drop a load off for us,go back to the same supplier,and take a load up to Honda.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    My 60 series Land Cruiser made it 300k before it needed costly repairs and I sold it.

    My 80 series Land Cruiser has 250k and has some bad window switches in the back.

    My 1999 4Runner made it 90k before its 4cyl engine sludged to hell and the AC broke.

    My 2007 FJ Cruiser made it 50k before the transmission exploded, the paint peeled off of the roof, and the t-case broke.

    With the proper detailing the Cruisers could still be made to look “new” after 10 years of use. The 4Runner and FJ Cruiser looked ragged and ratty after less than 2 years of use.

  • avatar
    guy922

    Its kinda sad to read about Toyota’s sad decline. They are so drunk on profits, I dont believe the previous quality will ever be present in their vehicles again. They once had all the goods, all the mojo. My family has had several Toyota Pickups (best one, an ’83 owned by my grandfather went to 452k.) I had a 1995 Tercel which I bought with 88k, sold with 108k. Wishing I had kept it all these years later but what can you do? That car was very well built and superior to most cars I have owned, older Camry exculded. Currently in 2013, Im still driving a 1992 Camry V6 LE. 157K. In terms of build quality, it is still superior to anything currently on a Toyota showroom floor. A little clean-up and detail and my baby shines like new, 21 years after manufacture. My grandmother purchased new in January, 1992. Knowing the extreme quality and reliability of the 80’s and 90’s Toyota’s my family has had, its painful to see such a once great company become a caricature of its former self.

    And isn’t it ironic as well? Toyota wanted the #1 spot from Ford for the 1992-95 Taurus, and the Taurus wanted to beat the Camry of 1992-96, even though it was already ahead in the marketplace mainly due to the Camry’s price. So what happens? Toyota releases the ’97 Camry thats more on par with the ’92-’96 Taurus and Ford released that ’96 Taurus, which was more on par with Toyota’s previous Camry in terms of build quality. All very bizarre. And maybe yes, most drivers wont care about deleted triple seals on doors and other small things that Toyota, as well as other manufacturer’s will hope you dont notice. But im not most drivers. and there are others out there who feel the same way I do.

    Maybe cutting corners isnt so bad at first. Names and imagery carry a lot of clout too, and are also very powerful tools that are all part of the illusions that car companies create and try to maintain. Circa 1997, the name “Camry” had a LOT of clout, and loyalists couldn’t wait to get their hands on the new model. They sold tons of course.

    By 2002, another model comes around and there have been more corners cut, although at that point, granted, a lot of competition wasn’t up to snuff…..GM, Ford, & Chrysler all had mediocre quality compared to the big T, And at first glance it was believable. By the time the 2007 model arrived though, the damage had been done anyway. The Camry had suffered through a decade of waning reliability and quality wasn’t a top priority. The 2007 model was a decent car but was not the best Toyota could do. I have rented two, and a good friend owns a 2008 model. hands down my least favorite generation of Camry. Cheap where it counts, so that it can provide stupid infotainment features and generally just a car that is a shell of its former self, its former glory.

    While I don’t find the 2012/2013 models wholly offensive, they have placed the car into a generic grave. Milquetoast, bland, and more homogenized than ever. Toyota can turn it around or remain doomed to become the imported Buicks of the future.

    I had a few Tauruses. A 1992 GL Sedan 3.8L Essex and a 1993 Wagon LX 3.0L Vulcan. Both were fairly reliable but nowhere near a ’92 or ’93 Camry in terms of refinement or build quality and assembly prowess. I had a 1997 Taurus GL later on. A much more improved car in terms of quality that lost out due to its fish face looks. 2000-’07 Tauruses are nothing special either, with that excruciatingly ancient powertrain. Camry took a step back to the territory filled by the 1992-95 Taurus. An extremely popular mass market sedan that eats up sales charts in spite of its fairly average reliability. Where the Taurus had bigtime transmission issues, the Camry offered an engine sludge nightmare. The 1997-01 Camry is an ok car. Its looks never bugged me, and some of its attributes I do like, and ive seen plenty of them go the long distances of the 1983-96 Camry Models. But something about it just screams “Hello, im Toyota and Im selling out”.


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