Toyota has dominated the American auto market for decades. The Toyota name became synonymous with high resale value, inexpensive repairs, and rare breakdowns. Subsequently, the Camry and Corolla became two of the best selling cars in America. However, Toyota has hit some snags in the past few years: PR-damaging recalls, design flops, and trouble keeping pace with competitors who accommodate the increased demand for high-tech cars. Brand loyalty dropped in 2010 and Toyota has been trying to retake the margin they lost ever since. But they can’t seem to do it fast enough.
Information and photos on the 2014 Corolla were recently released with features and a design that made splashes two years ago. It seems neither the public nor the critics are impressed. I know I’m not. (Should we throw Toyota some cookies for finally reading the memos at least?)
If Toyota wants to reclaim the crown of top dog it needs to start offering vehicles loaded to match (or exceed) competing models at an amazing price. Loyal Toyota buyers are starting to wake up and chase the coolest cars instead of shopping at the brand they’ve bought from in the past. T0yota cannot rely on brand loyalty to sell cars. They need to engage and outflank the competition, not just play catch up.
Winter 2012, I went shopping for a new car.
2012 Ford Focus
2012 Toyota Corolla
2012 Nissan Sentra
2012 Ford Focus
I honestly went into this game with the intention of buying a Toyota. That being said, I can admit without any pre-existing prejudice that the Corolla was the biggest let-down in my car shopping lineup. This took me completely by surprise because I had been indoctrinated to think Toyota made perfect machines, any of which I would love to drive. Wrong! This experience allowed me to see how much Toyota was slipping — and it was very sad.
The Corolla I drove was priced around $19,500 and was as bland as a piece of burned toast. The salesman was trying to sell me its CD player and A/C as major innovations. I also think it had a tape deck. I honestly thought the man was joking. It didn’t come standard with cruise control (strike one), it was priced very high for the (lack of) features inside (strike two), the quality of the materials was very low (strike three), and it had zero spunk on the road (strike four). I left very depressed — it didn’t even have the “standard features” from other cars.
When I drove the 2012 Focus (the Euro design), I thought I was in one of those hidden-camera Ford commercials. Legitimately, I looked around for a camera, saying out loud, “this cannot be a Ford!” The car had two computer screens—one for the radio/phone/CD and the other to serve as my trip computer and alert system. My steering wheel had buttons to control almost everything in the car — helpful in rush-hour traffic in Washington, D.C.
It had a USB plug in, the SYNC system for my smart phone, real leather, some definite pep in its driving, and, although controversial, the dual-clutch trans — which I do like. I got the 2012 Ford Focus SEL, fully loaded, for under $19k. Bam. Sorry, Toyota, you lost me. My next car? It will probably be a Ford.