What Makes a Toyota So Reliable?

February 9th, 2017 by

Odds are if you’re on this website, you’re thinking about purchasing a new Toyota in the Baltimore, Maryland area. I’d go even further and wager one of the main reasons you’re interested in a Toyota is because of our brand’s sterling reputation for reliability. That wouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as Toyota not only earned its own reputation for reliable vehicles, but for the Japanese automotive industry as a whole! How? Through a ground-breaking, albeit simplistic production model and conservative innovation.

Following the Second World War, Japan’s economy was in shambles from almost a decade of conflict. Automakers in the U.S. and Europe were still following the Henry Ford production line model, utilizing mechanical presses for each individual component, and assembling them as the car moved down the line. This method allowed for maximum volume at the expense of possible flaws in the occasional vehicle. This was due to the fact that each factory worker was only invested in their individual duty in the grand scheme of production. Japanese manufacturers were unable to emulate this model for a variety of reasons, most notably the cost and space such an operation would require. It was apparent that Toyota would not be able to match the quantity of their European and American competition, so they focused on building higher quality vehicles instead. In contrast to the individualized mechanical presses of western automakers, Toyota opted to use a single press to create each part needed for a single vehicle, which drastically cut the amount of factory space. Although this process was slower, it allowed for engineers to better inspect each vehicle, reducing the amount of flaws that could’ve potentially went unnoticed on a conveyor belt.

Eventually, this modest yet efficient way of automotive manufacturing became known as the Toyota Production System (TPS), a philosophy still held by Toyota today, albeit on a far larger scale. The TPS boils down to two key tenants, the first of which being “Jidoku” or “automation with a human touch.” This idea means that a machine should never be trusted over the human eye when determining quality. If a Toyota engineer witnesses a defect, the entire manufacturing process of that vehicle is stopped until the problem is resolved. The second tenant is “Just in Time” or making only “what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount needed!” This commitment to resource conservation and the elimination of waste was vital towards making a profit in the post-war period, and still remains a Toyota practice to this day.

Aside from the way its vehicles are produced, Toyota attributes its reliability to a variety of other shrewd business moves and the very nature of Japanese business structure in itself. Unlike in Western businesses, where employees will move from one job to another, the Japanese are known for their rigid loyalty to their company. Often referred to as “lifetime employment” Japanese employees will often work at the same company for the entirety of their careers. Although there is no way to actually calculate how this improves vehicle reliability via metrics, it is assuring to know most of the engineers assembling your vehicle have been doing it for quite a while. The same thing could be said in aspects of design and company leadership-Toyota hasn’t really experienced a dramatic shift in brand identity and design language as some western and even Japanese peers have underwent. Toyota takes a much more conservative approach when updating its models. Instead of living on the cutting edge, and releasing innovative and/or risky technology and designs, they prefer to watch industry trends and figure out how to perfect them. These technology and design updates are implemented slowly on proven platforms, rather than total redesigns. This slow and steady approach may not result in excitement, but it certainly helps facilitate a consistent, reliable product. Camry, Corolla, Land Cruiser, 4Runner: These are just some of Toyota’s enduring nameplates consistently produced for decades. Although the latest iterations may feature more technological features than their predecessors, their basic construction and quality has remained relatively consistent in order to preserve the standards they have set. After all, if it isn’t broken, why fix it? We implore you to visit our Baltimore, Maryland dealership to experience Toyota’s legendary reliability for yourself!

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