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Some things never change

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Some things never change

There's a Toyota ad running currently that brags about the fact that they have eight manufacturing plants in the U.S. building more than a million vehicles a year. The ad then finishes with some patriotic music and the statement "Toyota - a company that has created over 200,000 U.S. jobs - a company proud to do its small part to add to the landscape of America."

Pass the barf bag please.

Take just four or five minutes to read this article. Read some actual facts about the U.S. auto industry, not the spin put out by those wiley Japanese.

In terms of quality, of Toyota's eight plants, their best quality ranking is 16th. Of the top 10 plants for quality, GM has eight of the top 10 and four of the top five.

And then there's the myth of the happy, teamwork-oriented worker who labors in a unionless paradise surrounded by caring Japanese employers who only have his or her best interest at heart.

Fact: Toyota workers work for less money and are five times more likely than a GM worker to sustain an on-the-job injury and 10 times more likely to be injured seriously enough to lose work days.

Toyota likes to propagate the myth of their commitment to the environment as evidenced by the standard set by the Prius. What you don't hear about are the scores of Prius owners who are extremely unhappy with the performance and mileage of their Prius. Ads claim 60 mpg - the reality is that many Prius owners get about half that mileage - about 36 mpg. GM has five models that get similar mileage to the Prius and carry no price premium like the Prius - but you never read about that.

If GM had a vehicle that advertised 60 mpg but actually delivered 36 mpg, you can bet that it would be front page news, plus a nice segment on 60 Minutes.

But I digress. My point is that there is an incredibly unfair double standard in the media these days. Inexplicably, U.S. bashing has become the fashionable thing to do. There's no better example than the constant warm fuzzy stories churned out regularly about Toyota's legendary teamwork, safety and quality. And yet, the facts simply don't bear this out. The fact is that Toyota gets a free ride from our lazy and complicit media.

But it's time to separate fact from fiction. Toyota is, and has been, waging a very successful PR war with way too much assistance from our media. This results in a skewed viewpoint that dramatically affects how buyers perceive a new car purchase.

For instance, how many of you know that Chevrolet was the best selling passenger car brand in the U.S. last year?

How many of you know that for three years in a row, Cadillac has sold more luxury cars than anyone else - including Lexus and BMW?

How many of you are aware that, according to J.D. Power, GM was the number one multi-line manufacturer in Sales Satisfaction last year? Where was Toyota (including Lexus)? Seventh place.

GM was ranked second in the critical Customer Service Satisfaction index in multi-line manufacturers last year. Where was Toyota? Fifth place.

GM's lowest quality-rated vehicle is the Pontiac Vibe, assembled in California by - you guessed it - Toyota.

While Toyota is wrapping itself in the American flag with paid advertisements and help from our incompetent media, GM, Ford and Chrysler manufactured over 75 percent of all vehicles built in the U.S. last year. And their average domestic content is 82 percent. Toyota's is 40 percent (Lexus is 3 percent).

Every 100 GM, Ford or Chrysler vehicles produced in the U.S. supports the livelihood of 23 full-time workers. Conversely, every point share gained by Toyota represents 18,000 lost American jobs and countless profit dollars that are shipped overseas to Japan.

I am not suggesting that GM, Ford or Chrysler needs your charity, but I am suggesting that you should know the facts before you buy.

In the book "Ghost Soldiers," the author recounts the story of the Bataan Death March. When the Americans arrived at their destination with over half of them dead due to unspeakable cruelties from their captors, the camp commander stood on a box and shouted, "You Americans are the enemy, you will always be the enemy, one hundred years from now we will still be enemies."

What has changed since then?

Think about that the next time you go to buy a Toyota.


Statistics excerpted from GM President John Smith's remarks to GM dealers, March 2005. Opinions offered in If I Were King are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Tri-County Times or its staff. E-mail the King at king@tctimes.com.

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