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Toyota Redux

I have to admit it, the Japs from Toyota can really overcome any barrier. Maybe the word "man" is written deep in their genes. Maybe their brains have a few connections which are missing from European or American car manufacturers. They acknowledged their recent recall scandal and managed to get over it, while also offering a monstrous warranty for every vehicle they make. As a defiance or an over-warranty of the quality which they consider should define their products.

Five-year warranty and/or 160,000 kilometers (100,000 miles) is a slap in the face of the German automotive industry. It's a challenge to which Mercedes, Porsche or Volkswagen didn't have the courage to respond. We were recently comparing the buying and running costs for a couple of Toyotas/Lexus versus their German counterparts and the results weren't that good for the krauts.

The fact that the Japanese have options packages, huge warranties and cheaper and better service can seriously make you think if you still want a German car or if it would be better to get past your fear of owning a Toyota/Lexus.

I recently saw some JD Power studies where Toyota and Lexus were crushing every other brand. More than that, the Lexus RX became the supreme car to own in the United Kingdom. First place in owner satisfaction, first place in customer service and first place in the SUV category. This might be interpreted as a war declaration towards the Germans, because frankly, the French and the Italian don't really matter when talking about this kind of stuff.

When a navigation system costs as much a 3d plasma TV when bought from the Germans, on the Japanese side everything is friendlier, the options packages are better thought out and in the end you get a happier customer. There are voices who bad-mouth the impossibility of having a "unique" car, obviously. On the other hand, those voices are slowly fading away during this financial crisis.

I don't know why, but Toyota is still looking like a more innovative, friendly and more open manufacturer. Last, but not least, whenever you see one the future seems closer, especially compared to the more conservative and polluting German cars made in the United States.

For example, the Lexus RX can make you feel like in a spaceship from the future. OK, the car is not perfect, nor the best example for a good SUV, but when you draw the line... you can't help but notice the obvious Japanese tendency to excel, to offer something different, more modern and futuristic than any timid attempt by the Germans in the hybrid segment...

While the krauts were slowly evolving their noisy and horrible diesel engines, Toyota was working on a hybrid technology for the future. And here it is, the future is knocking at the door. The Lexus RX is offering an amazing fuel consumption for a two-tonne SUV, a level of comfort that sometimes surpasses a legendary Mercedes and an overall package that's about half-priced than its German "de luxe" competition.

While Mercedes-Benz didn't even want to put the tri-star badge on the smart, considering it's mostly a niche project without any future, Toyota has showed them what intelligence put to work means. They created the iQ, a fantastic car for the city, extremely well optioned, a lot roomier yet very small, a lot more maneuverable and more enjoyable than any smart has ever dreamed to be and, as a bonus, it received five stars at EuroNCAP testing. Another unequivocal victory of Japanese technology against German engineering.

It looks like an unfair fight. The Germans are innovative - they come up with something completely new every couple of years - but the Japanese borrow the idea, they take it to perfection and then they offer it at a much better price. How can you beat that?

Although we're in a recession and car sales have dropped everywhere, if you want a different approach to a car, I suggest you take a look at a Toyota/Lexus dealer. They might seem odd at first sight, but in the end their cars are very well made, reliable and last, but not least, you will get more respect as a driver.

Good game, Toyota!

 
 
 
 
 

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