Sunday, September 27, 2020
Toyota’s Never Done Terribly Wrong

Toyota’s Never Done Terribly Wrong

In nearly 65 years in North America, Toyota's never sold a bad car.

We were recently called in by the Boss for a 2019-in-review meeting. These little GTGs are generally good fun as Motor Illustrated’s done well for itself in two years’ time. The invite even said “refreshments” and when we walked into the room, we knew life was grand when we spotted the three remaining donut holes and half-full cup of coffee from the previous day’s Sales meeting.

Within minutes, we learned that we still had jobs so instead of crunching numbers and looking at ledgers, we chatted about what makes us tick. We talked about cars and after a few discussions about our favorite cars over the years, we haphazardly got on the topic of Toyota. Boring, old Toyota. Beige, efficient, appliance-making Toyota. And we quickly enough realized something: Toyota’s never really screwed up hard.

2020 Toyota Supra Exterior
2020 Toyota GR Supra | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The new 2020 Toyota GR Supra started us off – this car was one of the most trolled and written about cars of the year. That lead us to previous generations of the Supra, then the Celica, the MR2, the Land Cruiser, the AWD 2nd generation Camry, the AE86 Corolla, the Tacoma, the Matrix XRS, the 86, the 4Runner, and then, it dawned on us: Toyota’s never really screwed up a car. Heck, even the Starlet was a riot.

The list of mistakes is long. We pointed out the unintended accelerations, heavy rusting issues, the fact that about 10 years ago, the V6 RAV4 was the fastest and most sportiest Toyota, and the cancellation of a number of cars and SUVs that should have lived on like the FJ Cruiser.

2015 Scion tC – Scion

Without a doubt, their biggest snafu was Scion. But this wasn’t the case early on. There was a time when Scion was actually cool and meant something to consumers. By the time the company landed in Canada in 2010, the shine had begun to wear off. The product lines were aging faster than many competitors and it seemed clear that Toyota had also lost interest when they launched a 38th special edition of the tC. This and the fact that no one was happy with buying a Scion FR-S… Despite the failure of the brand, Scion was not a total catastrophe.

And then, there’s Lexus. Among the three Japanese luxury brands, it is arguably the only one to have managed to match the German brands, all the while maintaining a clear and defined brand image. In our opinion, the biggest bugger-up Lexus has perpetrated is to the IS. It was the aspirational poster-boy for the company when it launched but by the mid-2000s, they traded young enthusiastic up-and-comers for 77-year old brown-vest-wearing retired men – this was the ES’ job! Sure, the GX and LX are monumental flops volume-wise but they’re still excellent trucks.

Lexus IS Sportcross – Lexus

We didn’t go over all of Toyota’s nameplates from the last 65 years – we were down to the last donut hole and we’d already shared and finished the coffee. But seriously, Toyota’s never sold a horrible product in North America. Sure, the Previa van was not the easiest to work on or the most reliable but HELL, it was a supercharged AWD mid-engine-d minivan! And yeah, camshafts on the early iForce 5.7-litre V8s self-digested but these were relatively minor “issues.” Oh, and Toyota designers didn’t need to copy Saturn cars for the Echo’s dashboard…

Point-blank: Toyota’s never built a bad car. Never. We’re not fans of the iQ or the Prius c, the Lexus UX is confused and confusing, the original Mirai made baby Jesus cry, and we could do without the C-HR. And then, we bring up the Cressida, the Crown, the Tercel (yes, they LURVED oil), the LFA, the IS Sportcross, the GS-F, and so on and so forth.

Even today, all of Toyota’s vehicles are good, truly good. The Camry, Avalon, RAV4, Highlander and shoot, I’m jonesing to drive the next-generation Sienna!

Dodge Neon – Dodge

Finally, what are bad cars? Cadillac Cimarron. Dodge Neon. Early Ford Focus. Aztek. Bangle-butt 7-Series. X-Type (thank you Ford), etc. Capiche?

So, are we wrong? Are we out to lunch? Did Sales poison the coffee and/or the donuts?

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Matt St-Pierre
Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai

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