Toyota’s Clown Decision

Over the past few months, my wife and I started receiving inquiries from car dealers, asking if we wanted to sell our 2010 Toyota Rav4.  The first couple seemed to be ordinary junk mail, but as they kept coming, sometimes with bids sight-unseen (although they could check the VIN for records of any incidents), it became obvious something was going on.  It turns out that the people at Toyota have made a very bad decision again.  Dealers were calling to buy our Rav4, because a lot of customers found out Toyota made a big mistake in their new model.


If you pay close attention, you may notice that the Rav4 no longer has a spare tire.  At first, I thought the commercials meant they had moved the tire from its convenient rear mount, but it turns out they weren’t satisfied with normal stupidity.  Nope, the Rav4 no longer has a spare tire at all, not even the weenie donut tire which past idiots thought should replace the useful full spare.  Instead, you get a temporary inflation kit, which may get you going again, as long as your flat is small and only in the tread, but of course this would ruin the old tire even if it would normally be fixable, and the inflation kit would also have to be replaced.  Toyota, to be blunt, made a very bad decision, and one which will hurt its brand.


To see why I say that, let’s look at the decision.  First, what upside is there in getting of the spare tire?  Well, obviously Toyota makes more money, because if you look you’ll see the Rav4’s MSRP is about the same as it was when they had a complete package.  Hmmm, you get less but the price is unchanged.   I’m sure Toyota likes it, but it’s not something Toyota could pretend made the Rav4 better for customers.  Toyota has said the new Rav4 is lighter without the safety equipment, so it gets better mileage.  Well, the 2011 Rav4 had the spare and got 24 mpg in the city (EPA), while the 2013 model … also gets 24 mpg city.  So Toyota doesn’t look too smart there.  And that’s it for upside; unless you really like the look of the new model so much that you don’t care about what you’ll do if you get a flat in bad weather, have a blowout, or face any number of real world conditions, there is no upside.


Now for the downside.  I’m 53 years old, and I have seen all kinds of tire situations.  I’ve had sidewall punctures, one blowout where the tire simply ceased to exist, one where the tread fell off … you get the idea.  The point is, if you drive long enough, sooner or later you will have a flat tire where the equivalent of fix-a-flat will be useless.  And if it happens somewhere you can’t get help quickly, like on a road trip with your family, not having a spare tire becomes a very serious matter indeed.  No, Toyota won’t get sued for being cheap and showing they don’t care about safety, but they have forgotten what built their brand, and why they should – first and foremost – make quality and true service the foundation of their product.  The people who have long experience in driving know the need for a full-size spare tire; they are already displeased by Toyota’s craven attempt to pass off a cheaper, less safe auto.  Those who have not experienced a serious road incident will not be happy to find themselves essentially stranded because some marketing guy in Japan figured short-term profits were more important than taking care of our customers.  The bottom line here is that there’s no way to spin this as anything but putting profits ahead of people, and that never sits well with customers.  Representatives for Toyota only made things worse when they claimed most people don’t know how to change a spare tire.  Insulting your customers after cheating them is not a wise business practice.


So why does this hurt the Toyota brand?  Aren’t other companies doing the same thing?  Won’t a lot of young buyers buy the new cars without the spare tire?  Yes and yes, but both of these excuses miss the point for Toyota.  I’m old enough to remember when Toyota was a struggling brand, a company which made a pretty good car but was dismissed as a cheap carmaker, a choice only for someone who could not afford the quality cars.  Toyota built their brand by making sure their cars were economical, safe, and dependable – in other words, a car with no bad surprises.  Not including basic safety equipment is by definition a bad surprise, and the buyers will discover this trick at a time when they are already upset about having a flat tire.  What, exactly, does Toyota think these people will think about Toyota when that happens?  Obviously, the execs at Toyota have stopped paying attention to what customers want and need, just as US automakers did some years back, with the same arrogance that their success will continue simply because they expect it to continue.

To the people at Toyota, I will be clear:  I bought a Rav4 because you convinced me at the time that it was the safest and most dependable vehicle of its type.  When I buy my next car, it will again be whatever is the safest and most dependable.  A full spare tire is not optional, and I will not consider – even for a moment – any vehicle which does not have one.  I will not be swayed by marketing schtick or what some ‘focus group’ pretends, if you do not provide a product worth my money you will not get it.  There are competitors who want my business, and someone will make a car/truck with the safety and dependability I require.  Right now, I have no intention of buying a Toyota, not only because you took out a vital part of the vehicle, but also because you showed that my needs and opinion are not considered in your brand.  The best course for Toyota would be to recognize their blunder, admit it, then work on rebuilding the trust they have violated.

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  • Paul Hooson

    The whole spare tire thing with automobiles has been weird for many years. I used to be quite a fan of those V8 powered AMC Gremlins during the 1970’s, but they had those temporary space saver spare tires I never liked. But, I usually got rid of the stock tires pretty fast and put on an air shock suspension system so I could put big rubber on the back wheels along with nice smaller steering rubber on the front. The stock scissor jack and their dreaded cousin, the bottle jack, went out right away, replaced with one of those floor jacks that will actually hold up a car without it falling on you and a jack stand along with a small crew of tools. Oh, and a V8 engine can’t breathe well through a motorcraft 2barrel carb with normal aspiration, so you go with a high rise intake manifold and race style custom Holley carb arrangement as well. – Those cars eliminating the spare tire, well that’s just the latest insult in what has been unhappy relationship with customers. But, I still rate that scissor and bottle jack thing as worst yet. How many guys had a car fall on them with those unsafe items compared to a floor jack and jack stand.

  • Brucehenry

    Great article, DJ. I hope it goes viral or whatever. Is there any kind of organized pushback on this thing?

  • GarandFan

    Check out the Korean made cars. They’re hungry, and no longer living off copying year-old Japanese models..

    • Paul Hooson

      What I don’t like about the Korean cars is that they quickly fall apart no matter the brand and you see them dirt cheap at the auto auctions for dealers to buy for a few hundred dollars to resale on their lots. Give many Korean cars just a few years, and they end up as $450-$800 wholesale auto auction car for dealers to pick up who don’t fixing everything on them from bulbs to brakes to head gaskets,etc. – Some dealers are able to patch up head gaskets with a chemical from drugstores called sodium silicate. It doesn’t mix well with antifreeze, but in works well in water. And synthetic oil will stop most cars from smoking enough to pass state emissions tests, etc.

      • jim_m

        Your info is out of date. Most Korean cars are made very well today and they are holding their resale better than they used to. Most cars on the used market are OBDII and many state’s emissions tests are little more than a check of the data in the computer. If your check engine light is not on you’re going to pass. Illinois, for instance, doesn’t even test your tail pipe emissions.

        Another reason your info is sadly out of date: Hyundai owns nearly 50% of Kia. So in reality there is only one brand of Korean car sold in the US. today.

        But for me it doesn’t matter. I only buy German cars.

        • Paul Hooson

          Believe whatever you will. But, I’m applying for a license to become a car dealer here in Oregon and have attended quite a few auto auctions in the past year to look at the market. Check out Speeds Towing Auction Website and Brashers Website, and a few other auto auction sites to see what many used cars actually wholesale for to dealers, and it’s not often very much. You see the same problems over and over again on many cars that are being sold as-Is, or just a little above scrap metal value at these auctions. In fact, the biggest competition for the licensed used car dealers at these auctions are the scrap dealers like Pick N Pull, which sell off a few parts and then crush down most cars for scrap metal. – I see plenty of shit German cars at the auctions as well, like Audis, BWMs, Mercedes and especially VWS that pick up a lot of issues after a few years. Customers will buy cars like these, but they take a few repairs. The cars in best condition include some unexciting cars that old folks will buy like Oldsmobiles, which don’t go through a very hard life at all and generally have few miles on them. Subarus always sell for too much money at these auctions, with Hondas and Toyotas pretty high too. – Different cars attract different sorts of buyers. A new Mercedes will attract a well to do buyer, but the older one’s appeal to folks who are broke, and nothing like the higher end market buyers. Motorcycles also seem overpriced at these auctions as well, but are available.

          Korean cars have been great for oversstating their actual fuel mileage and other boasts not held up under actual tests. True, Korean cars are somewhat higher quality than a few years ago, but you see problems on virtually every car brand as the number of road miles picks up on them. Almost every car gets bad with a few miles on it, with very few exceptions.

          I’m putting together a real estate deal right now buy a 35,000 square foot lot with Oregon’s largest strip club on one side of the lot, and an used car lot on the other side, along with a third row of food cart businesses because it’s in an industrial neighborhood. The property is worth $1.9 million, and it will be a lot of work. But, the club when run right, grosses $2 million a year alone.

          Here’s a picture of a 2003 KIA Rio that bidders refused to even bid $350 for at the last Speed’s Towing Auction to illustrate my point of how little value some older cars have to dealers.This car looks perfectly clean and straight, but dealers refused to even pay $350 for this car, so it went unsold at last week’s auction.

        • It’s not what our progtards don’t know, it’s what the know that just ain’t so…

          • Paul Hooson

            Folks lose perspective what cars really are. They’re a consumer good, left out in the rain and cold to rust and left in the sun for the paint to fade, made to last for a few years and then break, then you buy a new one, and the old one mostly likely becomes scrap metal to make more new cars. It’s the chain of life for consumer products.

          • Ken in Camarillo

            But you’ve got to give them some credit; the chain of life is getting longer and longer, with better performance. I buy one year old certified used cars, and count on a 175,000 mile life. I favor Dodge minivans, Ford Mustangs, & Hondas.

          • Paul Hooson

            A good way to make many car engines last nearly twice as long is to use a high quality synthetic oil after the engine’s valves seat. Use the break-in oil for a few hundred miles at least, then switch to something like AMSOIL or MOBIL1. Engines could run as much as 20 to 40 degrees cooler, which saves on head gaskets too. I have a little background in metallurgy study, and bimetal engines, those with aluminum heads and cast iron blocks suffer from uneven heating and cooling cycles, causing head gasket wear over time. Synthetic oil cuts this down considerably. I always use AMSOIL in my cars, trucks and motorcycles, and I’ve gotten as high as 254,000 out of some engines plus about 8-10% better mpg and more power. – To give a good example how good AMSOIL is, a few years ago I put it in a newi 49cc moped I bought for the family. The small engine only had a top speed of 32mph and got 83mpg. With AMSOIL, the top speed improved to 40mph and the mpg to 94mpg, an 11mpg improvement. – If all motor vehicles used synthetic oil such as AMSOIL, oil consumption and prices could drop as much as 10% in the U.S., however new and used vehicle sales would suffer somewhat as cars, trucks and motorcycles would have a much longer service life. So normal fossil based oil does serve the purpose of allowing motor vehicles to wear out much faster. creating fresh demand for new one’s. – At my father’s old bakery, electrical consumption was cut by $100,000 a year by switching the oil in this machinery to AMSOIL. It cut friction that much in equipment that worked similar to rear differentials using gear lube type oil as lubrication. – There are bypass oil filters available where you can actually keep oil clean in cars and trucks for as much as 60,000 miles. These are real good for a long engine life as well. – But, don’t use synthetic oil in an brand new engine. It won’t get great gas mileage because you need to wait at least 500 miles for normal engine oil to wear the new valves enough for them to properly seat. After that, synthetic oil is safe to use. – Brand new Corvettes use Mobil1 for example. These engines run 30degrees cooler on this oil, and normal oil would cause engine failure.

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  • GM did the same thing with their LS model of the Traverse. I’m leasing the LT model so I have an emergency spare.

  • Calvin Murray

    Hmmm. You bought a car without a spare tire … and now you’re pissed at the manufacturer?
    Also, it’s a bit much to call a spare tire “safety equipment.” You’re no less “safe” when a tire goes flat if you don’t have a spare than if you do. For heaven’s sake, belt up and get a AAA card.

    • Ken in Camarillo

      I got the impression his current Toyota has a spare, but the newer ones do not.

  • Tim Earles

    The 2013 RAV4 DOES in fact have a spare tire on every trim level which includes the LE, XLE and Limited. In very recent years the only RAV4 that did have a spare tire but did in fact include run flat tires was the 2007-2012 RAV4 Sport with Sport Appearance package. Please, please get your facts straight before posting information like this.

  • Tim Earles

    The 2013 RAV4 DOES in fact have a spare tire on every trim level which includes the LE, XLE and Limited. In very recent years the only RAV4 that did have a spare tire but did in fact include run flat tires was the 2007-2012 RAV4 Sport with Sport Appearance package. Please, please get your facts straight before posting information like this.

  • Krotty Guy

    NOT TRUE! All models of the 2013 RAV4 have a spare tire under the rear floor.

    • Paul Trantow

      The Sport model with “appearance package” does not. They’re pretty rare. But they come with run-flat tires. This author does not know that, but chooses instead to rant about a nonexistent problem : )

  • mikegiles

    I wonder if the decision was made because in crowded Japan, you are never far away from help. He wouldn’t be the first overseas company to show a misunderstanding of the size of the US. It’s like that new Fiat 500 Abarth, which isn’t half bad if you’re a hipster living in NYC -during the summer. Of course if you’re driving in on slushy crowded highways, from the ‘burbs, in the winter; they leave a “little” bit to be desired.

  • Paul Trantow

    DJ, Rav4’s without spares have run-flat tires. That means, ahem, they run flat. Do your research, my friend! Most Ravs DO have spares, so if you’d like one of them, they’re much more common then the ones with the “sport appearance” package.