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Toyota Regains Face--Hope It Doesn’t Crack

2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

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The world is full of contradictions, surprises and head-scratchers. Not the least of which is why I pay so much in taxes and get so little in return. That would qualify as a contradiction but certainly not as a surprise or mystery.  However, this universal truth of “if it’s screwy and illogical, it’s probably true” seems to have reared its head in an unlikely place: the world of automobiles.

It turns out that the whipping boy of the global press is worth some major money once again. Toyota has displaced BMW as the most valuable brand by Millward Brown's 2011 BrandZ study. It’s an amazing piece of news for a company that suffered through such massive recalls and bad press that it would make philandering politicians and sinning religious figures say “Poor fellow. And I thought getting caught with my finger in the pickle-slicer was bad!” (That's an old Borscht Belt joke.) 

And this comes just as Lexus gives up its sales title to BMW, and a less than sympathetic article in Automotive News about how Lexus is sliding backward compared to the ever-innovative BMW, the high-priced Mercedes-Benz cars, and the super-cool Audi that that is climbing the sales charts. Lexus’ product palette is weak compared to the German big boys and the only car from Toyota to set the world on fire isn’t even out yet (the stunning FR-S).

And I thought about all of this after seeing a recent Toyota ad that really made think their advertising chops are sharp. But upon further reflection, the ad is really ominous and indicative, in an “unintended acceleration” kind of way. You can check it out below, but the short version is you see a glass blower create an entire human body, innards included, out of glass to demonstrate how fragile humans are, and how safe Toyota vehicles are given all their great standard safety kit. It’s a cool ad to watch and is interesting to watch especially when you see what they create out of glass.

The only flaw in the ad is the car Toyota chose to promote - the Highlander. Not a bad vehicle at all, and quite competent in most respects. But the message to me is that you will only have safety if you’re wrapped in a lot of gas-guzzling, unaerodynamic heavy steel. Why couldn’t they have used any other car? Even the eco-warrior Prius would have been better. Actually, the metaphor couldn't be better given Toyota’s current plight. An apparently solid outside in the Highlander (high brand valuation) and a very fragile interior (one more recall, and the customers may stay away in droves again) needing protection.

I hope Toyota has a tougher set of guts than this glass fellow.

[The Car Connection]

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