By on January 21, 2008

08_camry_se_14.jpgAs Motown's chief cheerleader, The Detroit News is all about the spin. But every now and then, the paper kicks it up a notch to kick Toyota in the teeth. Columnist Daniel Howes recounts ToMoCo's '07 "challenges." For those of you who aren't regular readers of the DTN or TTAC (or any other automotive publication), Toyota stands accused of hypocrisy for perpetuating their green rep whilst selling gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs and lobbying against an increase in federal fuel economy standards (unlike…?). "Yes, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger had it right up on Mackinac Island last May: Toyota is not a division of Greenpeace — and it never was." Howes then rounds on Toyota for its Consumer Reports downgrade and product recalls, and shares an unsubstantiated anecdote. "On a separate press event to unveil the car, two Camrys were knocked out with transmission problems. In contacting Japan, they were told Toyota engineers there knew of a problem with a coupler in the transmission but failed to notify their colleagues in the States." In sum, "One of the lessons of this year's auto show is that for the first time in what seems like forever, a fair amount of Detroit's metal is reaching (if not exceeding) parity with its chief rival Toyota. That means a whole new kind of competition is about to begin and Detroit is back in the game." Fair enough?

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31 Comments on “Daniel Howes: Toyota Sucks, Detroit Rocks!...”


  • avatar

    Howes for some reason brings up the financials while comparing the two companies:

    This is a company whose market value of $179.2 billion comes close to matching its annual revenue of $202.8 billion, which delivered $13.9 billion in net income. (General Motors Corp., by contrast, has a market value of just $13.3 billion, annual revenue of $207.3 billion and net losses last year of $1.9 billion.) In other words, Toyota could have worse problems than a year that sullied its pristine image.

    That alone should indicate that Detroit has a way to go before they can be considered “back in the game.” Yes, they offer a few competitive models now, but the bottom line is the bottom line. It’s amazing how easily he just blew that off.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    Daniel Howes:

    One of the lessons of this year’s auto show is that for the first time in what seems like forever, a fair amount of Detroit’s metal is reaching (if not exceeding) parity with its chief rival Toyota.

    That means a whole new kind of competition is about to begin and Detroit is back in the game.

    Uh huh.

  • avatar

    NOTE: that comparison between ToMoCo and GM’s financials also doesn’t mention the assets that GM has sold off to bolster its bottom line.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Watch out, here comes the steamroller of blandness! Toyota’s projected earnings for 2007 are going to be what, 20 billion? Again, more than the rest of the entire industry, combined.

    Rick, what’s your company’s number? Oh, that’s right, you don’t like to project any numbers. Except those “30%” market share pins which I’m having a hard time finding on eBay. Got any to spare?

  • avatar

    Yeah, Toyota are a bunch of hypocrites. Not like GM who is 57% trucks (as opposed to Toyota’s 43%) or anything, but advertises the fuel economy of the Silverado and the Corvette!

    On the flip side, at least you can buy a Prius. Meanwhile, we have to put up with Lutz doing another 3 years of car shows with the inoperable Volt, taking his own potshots.

    Both manufacturers are trying to play it both ways.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    I think there’s some confusion by GM cheerleaders like this. It’s not that GM rocks and Toyota sucks, it’s that everyone sucks the same (at best). Even if we assume arguendo that GM makes superior products to Toyota (and in some categories, they do), Toyota still makes profits. Lots and lots of profits. Without putting the furniture into the fireplace.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    Howes is a complete clown. I can’t even read his nonsensical drivel.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    I’m with Frank—-the bottom line is the bottom line. You simply cannot get past this one until GM and Ford’s bottom line gets better.

    That said—-after being in Detoit for the weekend and hitting the showfloor myself—I think Detroit has closed the gap on the product side and has product in every segment (sans Prius ans small cars) that are the equal or better than the competition. Any objective person should be able to see this.

    Also, I am more confident on the Ford product side after seeing the Verve (get this to market now !), the new F150, and the Flex. I will be intersted to see what updates are coming to the Fusion for next year.

  • avatar

    Whats that old phrase about whistling through the graveyard. Thats all the cheerleaders are doing now because they’re scared.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I don’t know… from a product standpoint Toyota is starting to lose some very serious ground. The demographic switch that is gradually taking place is also not favoring Toyota, and it looks like they’re more or less abandoning their former strategy with the Scion brand.

    I love Toyota just as much as anyone here. But at this point in the business, the overwhelming majority of cars I would endorse to a prospective buyer would not be Toyotas. The value quotient is no longer there. Even on a long term ownership basis. Toyota also no longer has any durability advantage with the exception of their Lexus vehicles.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I love Toyota just as much as anyone here. But at this point in the business, the overwhelming majority of cars I would endorse to a prospective buyer would not be Toyotas. The value quotient is no longer there. Even on a long term ownership basis. Toyota also no longer has any durability advantage with the exception of their Lexus vehicles.

    You are very correct. However, it will take 10 years or so for this to cascade down to the unwashed masses (i.e. middle-aged [mostly] women who just want reliable appliances for transportation). I work with approximately 200 women. There are 53 Camrys in the parking lot, 46 Corollas, and over 60 Hondas total. Even one of my closest relatives wouldn’t look at a Pontiac Vibe because it was a Pontiac. The Matrix was perfectly acceptable, however.

    Detroit has a (well-earned) image problem, and that is unfortunate since the Fusion, Malibu, Verve, Flex, CTS and several others are very competitive products.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Steven Lang,

    You mentioned something like this [fading Toyota quality] in a different thread and included a phrase like “based on cars coming through the auctions…”

    What have you observed and why do you think it’s significant?

    Dave M.,

    Some people are aware that the Vibe and the Matrix are, basically, the same car. But they’re not equivalent cars to buy; for the Vibe you go to a Pontiac dealer. If, for some people, the GM dealer was part of the problem, that’s a disincentive to buy a Vibe.

    Not to say all Toyota dealers are perfect but if you’ve had a relatively trouble-free Toyota after a relativley troublesome GM, you’d have had more opportunity to experience bad service at GM. In fact, the Toyota dealer service could be much worse but you might not know it.

  • avatar

    The Vibe and Matrix might be similar but they are not the same,at least in Canada, the Vibe being more expensive but then they have zero percent deals from GM Canada, there again the Matrix is built at a fairly new Plant here in Ontario whereas the Vibe is built at a older plant in the USA, the editor of the Lemon Aid books says that the Canadian built Matix is a better vehicle than is the Vibe, also maintenance on the Vibe is suspect as most GM Canada dealers dont like working on them, I always remember when I was at my local GM Dealer trying to purchase a newer Car and I had a Honda Civic at the time for a Trade, I went to the GM dealer because I had purchased my GMC Van from them, they kept low balling my Civic and in the end said they would never accept a Import! so be it.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “Toyota stands accused of hypocrisy for perpetuating their green rep whilst selling gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs and lobbying against an increase in federal fuel economy standards (unlike…?).”

    Unlike, Honda

  • avatar
    PJungnitsch

    ‘The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated’.

    If you look at CR’s reliability ratings Toyota still is at the top and GM still hovers at the bottom. And new GM vehicle introductions have been very trouble prone (Cobalt, Solstice, CTS all anchor their segments).

    Family car
    top: Toyota Prius
    bottom: Chev Impala V6

    Upscale
    Top: Lexus IS
    Bottom: Cadillac CTS V6

    Luxury Car:
    Top: Lexus GS450h
    Bottom: Cadillac STS (off the scale)

    Small Car:
    Top: Toyota Yaris
    Bottom: Chev Aveo, Cobalt

    It goes on and on:
    Tacoma/Canyon, Tundra/Escalade, Sienna/Uplander, Landcruiser/Yukon, Highlander/SRX, RAV4/Equinox

    You can go through almost every category of vehicle they have and at the top will be a Toyota and at the bottom will be a GM.

    Ford on other hand actually is making progress, the Fusion is doing very well.

    • 0 avatar
      TimG

      You could not have been more wrong with your BS assessments. GM is at the top in almost every segment and since when is a Tundra even in the same galaxy as an Escalade. It’s only people like you who give North American products a bad name. I’ve seen good and bad from almost every brand. It’s been almost 10 years since you made your biased comment and GM not Ford has made the most headway, continuely winning more quality awards then any other brand. I knew GM had a great engineering department 10 years ago, I am also a mechanic, and as most engineers and mechanics know, there is nothing special or great about foreign brands over domestics, if anything people are finally starting to see that.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The value quotient is no longer there. Even on a long term ownership basis. Toyota also no longer has any durability advantage with the exception of their Lexus vehicles. – Steven Lang

    Good one! Notwithstanding excellent experiences with Toyota and Honda products recent negative reports motivated us to look elsewhere. Why pay an unearned premium? Domestic cars received minimal consideration.

    We’re very happy with our new Infiniti. Features and performance exceed our expectations. It was delivered in flawless condition. Dealer service is equal or better than Lexus, and vastly superior to Acura. Nissan, in our view, simply tries harder!

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    Toyota = Wal-Mart. Both Evil.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    PJungnitsch-The categories aren’t quite as polarised as you show but your point is valid.

    If Mr. Howes feels that CRs data is valid enough to bash Toyota then he needs to answer a few questions about GMs scores.

    Why were over half of the GM vehicles below average?

    Why were 90% of the Toyotas average or above?

    Over half of the Toyotas were in the highest range of CRs reliability scale (45%+), the ONLY GM in that category was the Toy built Vibe. Why?

    Why did GM have half of the vehicles in the industry that were off the bottom of the scale?
    Including 5 of the worst 6 (Land Rover prevents a sweep!).

    Ford deserves kudos for their improvement (but they need to deliver EVERY year). Hope they do it.

    Toyota has some problems but any Detroit company that equaled their scores would get lauded not lampooned.

  • avatar
    Rday

    Everyone seems eager to discount Toyota. What a joke! Look at CR’s reliability and you will see that GM is still the slacker when it comes to reliability. Probably has to do with all of the cheap parts coming in from China.
    Ford is making some really good cars, but Gm still has alot to learn. I don’t think Toyota is worried at all about GM. Now Hyundai is a different problem. Until GM can consistently make good profits, they are not a real threat to anyone. Their bankers are not doubt getting fed up with all of the excuses for not making a profit; their recent marketing announcements seem to bear this out. And while Toyota continues to make record profits, they are still the giant gorilla on the block.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    Toyota = Wal-Mart. Both Evil–P71_Crownvic.

    I’d actually argue that Toyota has a Target/Meijer image more than Wal-Mart. These chains sell what is essentially the same product as Wal-Mart at a higher price.

    People expect that they are buying a quality car simply because it is a Toyota. Compare used car values to see what I mean. I purchased a CVPI in good shape for the equivlent price of a 1990 Camry.

    GM would be perceived by many as closer in image to K-Mart. Nothing wrong with that. However, if K-Mart tried to market itself as offering upscale merchandise it would take awhile for consumers to get the idea.

  • avatar
    MPLS

    CR reliability reports are highly subjective. I put little stock in them and it appears unwise to use these as a basis of an aruguement aboout the improving and declining of any vehicle.

    The real story of reliability over the past 5 years has been the incredible improvement Ford has mahe in its products. This has not traslated into sales, but the reliablity and quality of the product has improved by leaps and bounds.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    If you look at CR’s reliability ratings Toyota still is at the top and GM still hovers at the bottom. And new GM vehicle introductions have been very trouble prone (Cobalt, Solstice, CTS all anchor their segments).

    Unfortunately, I can’t look at CR’s reliability ratings without buying a subscription. A shame that their ratings are not freely available on the internet.

    However, MSN Carpoint’s reliability ratings are readily available on the internet, so I took your listed vehicles and compared them (please note that carpoint’s rated vehicles are as recent as the 2004 model year):

    Chevrolet Impala: 5 of 5, with occasional problems reported with the instrument cluster and ignition lock.
    Toyota Prius: No information available

    Lexus IS: 5 of 5, with no major problems
    Cadillac CTS: 5 of 5, with no major problems

    Lexus GS450h: No information available
    Cadillac STS: No information available

    Toyota Yaris: No information available
    Chevrolet Aveo: 5 of 5, with no major problems
    Chevrolet Cobalt: No information available

    I’m sure CR’s methodology in obtaining reliability data has been discussed on more than one occasion. I find it disappointing that we would fall back on using a source that many people find to be subjective and as unreliable as those perceived GM vehicles.

    MSN Autos
    How MSN Autos determines vehicle reliability ratings

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    ToMoCo is a good brand, I can’t help but observe that the Motown Presses’ point seems to be “They can’t build a decent car anymore either!” That’s not much to rejoice about.

  • avatar
    PJungnitsch

    I find it disappointing that we would fall back on using a source that many people find to be subjective and as unreliable

    Most people who find it subjective and unreliable seem to be GM/Chrysler people who are not hearing what they want to hear (Mercedes owners don’t seem to care). When they do hear what they want to hear they are usually quick to pronounce it a good source again.

    The only other similar survey is True Delta, who also made a fuss about how much he disagreed with CR. He is getting enough samples now to start to get ratings and guess what?

    Top 10/73: 5 Toyotas, a Subaru, and a Honda
    Bottom 10/73: 2 GMs, 4 Volkswagens, a Chrysler, a Nissan, a Mazda and a Hyundai

    Basically the same as CR.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    quasimondo-
    Unless MSN auto has changed it’s methodology those ratings are completely useless.
    They have no baseline for comparison.
    (Sorry, no time to elucidate now.)

    If you look at True delta, CR and JDP VDS you will find that GMs average falls a bit below average in all of them and that their low scores are at, or among the lowest.

    They are very different methods, and have different emphasis, but the overall picture is the same.
    Coincidense?

    Just some thoughts.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Interesting that when there is evidence used to support the claim that GM/Ford/Chrysler is not as unreliable as people think, this evidence is casually dismissed as the pipe dream of a fanboy. I suppose this is why J.D. Powers is routinely dismissed as well, correct?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    quasimondo,

    Does JDP go back more than 3 years? The last I knew, no. I’m buying cars that are 5,6 and 7 years old and holding them for a long time.

    Sometimes, a vehicle falls off a cliff, reliability-wise, after a few years. JDP wouldn’t pick that up.

    Now, I looked at the link for MSN reliability and it’s not at all clear how they figure out what’s reliable and what’s not. Most of the page involved discusses the MSN partner’s primary service, which is expert technical advice on car repair.

    CR, on the other hand, is more transparent. It sends out surveys to owners and asks them questions. Consequently, the survey questions aren’t even secret. Their method for analyzing the responses might be proprietary but they do start off with the advantage of a large number of responses.

    R.L.Polk might be able to provide meaningful information, as they track registrations. I’d think it interesting to know the percentage of each make/model still on the road after N years.

    FYI – the oldest cars in my neighborhood that are still in daily use are Toyotas and Hondas.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    QUASIMONDO-
    I have some time now.
    MSN gets its info from auto technical hotline servise AIS.

    AIS can tell them how many calls they got on a problem. They can tell them what kind of problems they see.

    They can’t tell anything about the problems that were solved without their help.
    They can’t tell anything about what happens at shops that do not access their service.

    They cannot know whether their sample is a high percentage or low percentage because they do not have a statistical baseline to compare their data.

    Therefore they cannot give valid reliability data.

    I am sure that AIS does a great job helping shops solve problems. This is not their problem. MSN simply does not have a clue on how to handle this data in a way that tells anything about the likely frequency of a problem in a given model of car vs. another.
    Their data base can tell you what kind of problems to look out for. It has no relevance on frequency and, therefore, reliability.

    All of the surveys have a baseline CR’s minimum is 100 samples from owners, TD is 25 and JDP VDS is 50 (I think).
    Each collects by a consistent method from brand to brand.
    With the MSN/AIS data if one brand (say Tata) authorizes their dealers to use it and another (Skoda, lets have fun with it OK?) says “No, use only the factory reasources”, the Skoda cars will show no problems and the Tata’s a lot and it will meean ABSOLUTLY NOTHING about the reliabilty of the cars.
    BTW, I am not dissing JDP. Note that most of GM’s brands rated below average in the most recent VDS. As I have noted, this correlates with what we see in CR and TD.

    Give it some thought?

    Take care,

    Bunter

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    http://www.allpar.com/cr.html

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