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Toyota is the New Old GM - DrivingScene

Categorized | Editorial

Toyota is the New Old GM

Posted on 19 September 2011 by Adam Kaslikowski

There was a time when buying a Japanese car was seen a risky call. They were unproven in the 70’s and 80’s, but cheap enough to lure bargain shoppers. Sounds like Hyundai 5 years ago doesn’t it? It is remarkable how the auto industry players circle themselves and repeat each others’ mistakes. Continue reading to see how current manufacturers compare to the past…

Toyota = Old GM

Toyota’s recent line of products have been dull, received poorly by the press, and selling in droves. This was exactly the position GM was in in the 80’s and 90’s. Their cars continued to sell well because of they had a  reputation for being reliable and good buys. They continued to ignore the press and popular position right up to the point when their cars stopped selling. By then, it was too late for a quick turnaround and GM eventually slid into bankruptcy. Will Toyota repeat the same mistakes? Despite recent disappointments like the Camry, Toyota has a new CEO (Akio Toyoda) who seems genuinely interested in injecting some soul back into the company. Lexus LFA anyone?

Honda = Old Chrysler

No one has been beat up in the press recently as badly as Honda has. The CR-Z has been a bomb, the new Civic was downgraded by Consumer Reports, and the less said about the Crosstour the better. Like Honda, Chrysler has never been a leader. Chrysler has always had it roughest amongst the Big 3 US automakers, and like Honda they saw (and are still seeing) more than their share of failures. Outlook? Mixed – Honda needs to turn things around and be more daring with their core products like the Civic and Accord.

GM = Old Hyundai

People are wary of buying into a Chevrolet or Buick because the public is unsure if they are going to have quality problems. Generally, GM products are competitively priced and many times come in cheapest when you factor in sales and discounts. Hyundai used to have an image problem with quality, but they were always cheapest on the market. You used to have to tell everyone why you bought a Hyundai (“It was sooo cheap!”). You don’t anymore, but now you have to explain why you bought GM. Obviously this is not a good place for a company to be in, but The General has been killing it for the last year with their advanced and stylish products that have been rolling out like clockwork. I expect the stigma of bad quality and bankruptcy to disappear in the next 5 -10 years.

Hyundai = Old Toyota

Speaking of Hyundai, they have been on a roll! Their new styling came out of nowhere compared with their old econo-box cars and they are now a legitimate mainstream choice for all but the stodgiest of car buyers. Not only have their impressive warranties assuaged any quality concerns, but the word of mouth is starting to spread that the quality was there from just about the get-go. They are an up and comer just like Toyota was in the 80’s. Anyone willing to let get of old prejudices will jump in one and be totally happy with their choice.

Kia = Old Honda

There must be something to being a hungery underdog that keeps you pumping out quality. Kia is currently playing second fiddle to Hyundai, just as Honda always has to Toyota.  Kia still has a bit to go to combat the perceived quality deficiency that comes with being a Korean automaker, but their lineup is visually attractive enough to be luring young buyers (the most valuable for brands) by the droves. Kia’s outlook is looking good, and once they occupy the quality space Hyundai has now, they will be a real threat to domestic companies.

Ford = Ford

Ford did, and continues to crank out middle ground designs with perceived middle ground quality. They survive on their blockbuster hits of the F-150 and Mustang, and rake in the cash as the 2nd largest domestic OEM. They don’t surprise anyone with any moves that they make, but they haven’t sunk in the public consciousness anywhere near what GM and Chrylser have gone through. They’ll stay where they are because they are making too much money being just competent. Sometimes it’s safer to stay as Applebee’s rather than try and transform yourself into Ruth’s Chris

Germans = Germans

Ah, Ze Germans. Their products are still a little more expensive, a little nicer, and break down a little more. VW is still the individualists choice, BMW and Audi vie for the Yuppy, and Mercedes is occupied making sure their cars look good in a golf course parking lot. Shine on you crazy diamonds!


A final word: These opinions (and they are opinions)  are based upon popular view of the brands. Despite actual records of reliability or cost, all brands enjoy or combat their own particular image amongst Americans. It is my conjecture that many times this popular opinion is more important than the facts.

-Adam Kaslikowski

What do you think? Agree? Think we are stupid? Leave a comment and let us know.