Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Toyota Fundmentalism

Just because my husband and I last bought a SmartCar doesn't mean we aren't Toyota fundamentalists. We're just bad at fundamentalism. And yes, our Smartcar is cute and fun to drive but it eats tires and has had way too many problems for a new car. Every time the ChaliceMom drives it, CC thinks "If she totals it, we'll get a Yaris."

That Toyota is voluntarily stopping sales until they figure out the sticking-gas-pedal-problem, only increases theCSO's and my fondness. We essentially agree with the lady I heard on the news this morning, who said of the deadly problem "The only real surprise is that it's a Toyota."


Ps. Added later: Criminal Justice *Headdesk* of the day.


epilonious said...

I'm going to recommend that you also look at the Hyundai Accent and Kia Forte/Soul

I can understand your Toyota fundamentalist sentiment, but my opinion of Toyota is that it's becoming the new GM:

They are clamoring to be The Largest Automaker In The US/World and seem to be subscribing to the same "too big to fail" and "we must focus on making a billion [popular family car/Camry]'s, then we'll be able to make them super-profitably"

The only problems is that if 0.01% of your cars have serious 'burst into flames on the highway' type defects, you now have 100,000 cars that burst into flames instead of 1000... and that is two orders of magnitude more potential customers who "knew a person that had a camry that burst into flames on the highway" and similar PR disasters. The floor-mat/accelerator sticking is actually terrifying considering that most of the models now have "push button" starts that have to be held down for three seconds thus the whole "oh crap it's running wild turn the damn thing off" instinct doesn't work anymore... leaving people smacking the button repeatedly with no effect and not thinking of throwing the car into neutral before they are three feet from a guardrail going 90 with overheated brakes.

Also manufacturing systems designed for those levels of volume can not be changed without monumental expense ("Hey, GM/Ford... gas prices are going up, are you going to stop making all these SUV's and instead make some passenger cars that don't suck?" "No, we're gonna put an air dam on our Tahoe so it gets 16 MPG on the highway instead of 14!"), thus responses to market pressures are difficult and smaller competitors will always steal part of your share and make you look dowdy and lacking innovation.

I remember my 1988 camry with it's gray vinyl dash and professorial tweed interior and big, sexy door locks and think of it fondly because it always seemed well-put-together. I think of my mothers 2008 Camry Hybrid and can only think of it's over-complex "plasmavision" entertainment cluster and it's bland plastic with fit and finish that leaves me wanting (especially considering how pricey one of those hybrids is). They spent too much time on building a fancy entertainment center that could be gotten for cheap and less time making sure the pieces of the dash didn't look like hastily glued together Lego bricks.

Frankly, I think that Hyundai/Kia is the new Toyota. Their cars are cheap and safe with a ridiculously good warranty... and several of the spiffy new cars they are making (Genesis, Genesis Coupe) were researched with spare cash left over from their warranty coffers because they built their cars so solidly that warranty claims fell really short of their anticipations.

But whatever you get, I am sure it will be cute and I'll have fun driving it. And the Yaris is supercute. I just want to hug them.

Joel Monka said...

I agree with epilonious' assessment of Hyundai- at least we've been well served by and very happy with Ginj's.

Chalicechick said...

TheCSO and I will take Epilonious' advice (and get new advice from him) when it comes time to replace the SmartCar. CC is not looking forward to that time as she feels she will be be expected to show off what she learned in negotiations class. (Actually, we will probably do the "Attention (Toyota/Hyundai) dealer within 200 miles of Washington DC: We would like a car with the following specifications. Please fax your bid to ____-___-____)

who would like to think that she would have the sense to throw the car into neutral rather than pulling the key so that she could keep her power steering. But mostly, she just never wants that sticky gas pedal thing to happen to her.

TogetherBeth said...

I just bought a Honda Fit that I love. The Yaris has it's speedometer in the middle of the dashboard instead of in front of the driver which I found weird.

My hubby got the Camry. Hopefully, he has the sense to throw it into neutral.

hsofia said...

My Japanese auto mechanic (meaning he repairs japanese and other asian import cars, not that he's Japanese) suggests Hondas ... or was it Toyotas? Shoot. I can't remember. We have a Daewoo - which I'm pretty sure this three year old laptop I'm typing on is worth more than. But the car is paid for and it's got 140K and has never broken down in 9 years (knock on WOOD). But they don't make those anymore. My parents and grandmother have gone through six Hyundais over the last 14 years. They swear by them. They have minor problems, but all in all, good cars if you do the basic maintenance. My mechanic didn't recommend Kias. He said they are too cheaply made. I think the term he used was "disposable."

Joel Monka said...

Some tips on car buying, from someone who used to sell cars:

1. Go near the end of the month. No matter when they say they have a sale running, special sales make little difference to the price in the end. But they have to pay insurance and finance charges on cars still on the lot at the first of the month, so they might be willing to take a little less today rather than paying those charges tomorrow. Also, the sales manager's stats (and income) are usually figured monthly, and your sale might make his bonus.

2. For the same reason, the longer a car has been on the lot, the more anxious they are to sell it. Look for the one that's been there a few months; they've been spending a fortune in insurance on it and they want out from under.

3. Many dealerships will show the factory invoice nowadays- bid under it. Yes, the invoice shows the price the dealership pays for the car, BUT... there are often incentive discounts for the dealer from the factory. The dealership may get a 10% discount if they move a certain number of vehicles per month, so the sales manager might be willing to sell under invoice to you if it means he gets
a kickback on every car he sold that month. But on the other hand, if it's a popular model he's sold a lot of, he won't do it... but it doesn't hurt to try.

4. If you're looking for a small or economy car, go to a more rural dealership where there's a lot of demand for pickup trucks and SUVs. The reason for this is that the factory won't let a dealer sell trucks only; they must move a fair number of every model... but if there's no demand for the model you want in his area, he might be desparate to unload some, to avoid factory penalties.

hsofia said...

Nice tips, Joel. I don't know when we'll be in the market for a new car (hopefully not for a few more years at least), but I wouldn't have known the things if you hadn't shared them.

Joel Monka said...

Check out these two stories from the Times: Japan Transport Minister hints at cover-up at Toyota and 'Smoking gun' reveals Toyota struck US deal over recall