Toyota, I Don't Get It

Ok, at the start I'm a migrant & I live in the city so this is why I'm asking. In the UK Toyota is a niche brand, outsold by VW, Kia, Ford and many more, they dont stand out.

But here in Australia Toyota seems to rule & I don't get why. What I see is bland cars, low levels of value for the price point with competition that seems to offer far more in tech / design and price.

Is this a city V's country thing? If you live in the bush I totally get it, bullet proof practical cars with great support from a dealer network. Or is it a perception that these cars last longer / are better quality.

Looked several times but never seen great value or great design… but easily the No 1 in sales.

What am I not getting?

Edit - Thanks everyone for their views, I get it way more now. Good insights, guess my comparison was more against Mazda, Kia, Hyundai & to a lesser degree Ford & Honda. Not the Euros, I get why Toyota is favored above them.


  • +93

    Reliable, economical and availability of parts/cheap servicing. They're also better suited to the climate here.

    Toyota is the Ford/VW of UK. A Corolla here is the equivalent of the go-to Focus/Golf there.

    • +29

      The old saying: if you want to go to the outback, buy a Land Rover, if you want to get back out again, buy a Landcruiser.

      The biggest Toyota fiefdoms in the world are the middle East, Africa and Australia. Basically, the places where you do not want to get stuck on the side of the road beside a Range Rover which has just crapped itself and died. Incidentally, Honda and Toyota also outsell VW in Canada. Similar situation Id imagine.

      If you are in Europe or the US breaking down is no big deal - the furthest you can get from a sealed road in the US is 35km away. You're not going to die because of a breakdown over there.

      • +7

        furthest you can get from a sealed road in the US is 35km away

        This is hyperbole right? Surely they still have some remote areas.

        • +3

          It has to be, there are certainly parts of Alaska which are more than 35km from a sealed road, so the statement is false on its face.

    • +11

      Also contrary to what many have mentioned, some Toyota cars come packed with innovations and heaps of electrical components. For an example, Toyota got over 2,000 patents just for second generation Prius which was released in 2009 packed with features (especially itech model which had Auto intelligent parking, radar cruise, autonomous breaking, sunroof with solar panels - some of these features aren't even seen in today's top luxury cars more than 10 years later). And they (Prius cars) are extremely reliable and easily last 500,000 or even 1 million KMs on the original engine and gearbox (ask a taxi driver). If someone think European cars are less reliable due to innovative designs and electrical components then think again. Toyota's are generally bullet proof cars, any country where you can't afford breakdowns by the side of the road would naturally rely upon Toyotas (not just Australia, Canada and similar bigger countries, even in third world countries where reliability matters - obviously they keep their cars generations - Toyota prevails)

      • +3

        True. Toyota is more reliable because they care about reliability, not because they use old technology

        I'm sure even their sports cars are more reliable than the competition

        The Toyota Production System is famous in manufacturing, but it seems to be very difficult to implement outside Japan

        • That’s why their engines make piss poor power and torque, because they’re derated from their theoretical maximums for reliability and robustness.

    • +2

      According to the internet Toyota used to make cars in Australia for 50 years. That's a very long time and it makes you feel good to buy a local produce regardless of where the company from.

    • Most importantly, reliability means less dollars per year.

      When you buy a less reliable car, you are actually paying a few hundred (or thousand, after a few years) extra per year in servicing and fixing all the bits that wear out and break.

      It doesn't take a genius to see that a Toyota that costs half as much over 10 years as another car with the same initial sticker price is the smart option.

  • +23

    easier/cheaper parts to get, reliability, word of mouth

    VW parts in aus are pricey and they have a lot of problems in my experience

    not too sure about KIA as i've never had one but they're a relatively new brand in aus i think

    all the european cars have the problem of getting parts

    i have no preference what my car looks like as long as it's reliable, can get me from A to B and cheap to maintain

    • +26

      Kia has been in Australia for 25 years or more. Not exactly new just way more reliable in the last 5.

      • It that true or just opinion? Not picking a fight or anything but I'll be looking at cars shortly and if Kia are any good now I might add them to my list.

        • +1

          Kia are good now but their innovation has lead to a similar price point as Toyota imo.

        • +12

          Kia are much better now (at a point I'd buy one over a VW). They're owned by Hyundai and the management is more closely aligned.

        • +2

          Owned a 2007 Kia Sportage, bought second hand and can confirm they are the Korean Toyota. Very simple 2.0l engines (no turbo) that run on normal unleaded. Have had 0 issues in the 7 years i've owned it.

          Now the reason Toyota, Hyundai and Kia are realiable is generally the lack of innovation in the engine department, in many of the cars there are no turbos (unless diesel),superchargers etc to blow up that you find in VW's, BMW's Audi's etc.

          So yes they are simple cars but having that security at the end of the day far outweighs the badge.

    • +10

      Toyota is the most reliable car company in the world. Their Lexus brand is #1, Toyota is #2 in reliability ratings. German cars have so many electronics which means more chances that something will go wrong. Which it usually does. VW has had many issues and recalls overseas. But they won't give Aussies the recalls for the same parts.

      • +9

        On top of the recalls, VW, Benz, BMW, etc also has the legendary precision German engineering.

        If warranty is 5 years, all the parts will start to fail from 5 years + day 1 onwards. The Japanese engineers aren't good enough for that sort of stuff.

        • Yeah I know it's funny how they seem to fail right where the warranty is. When they're working they are great cars! Drove a Passat and a Merc the other day and the VW was the smoothest car I've ever driven. Got talked out of it by everyone I knew because of the failure rate and went Honda V6 Luxury instead.

        • -1

          Their materials engineers must be so good. Just pin point accuracy.

  • +2

    Fist bump mate - I agree.

      • +5

        a price point at the top end of the catagory and much lower tech than other brands

        Really? I thought they were slightly cheaper than Honda/Subaru/Nissan (the other Japanese manufactures), but more expensive than Hyundai/Kia.

        I think their price point is just a function of them being a more established player in the Australian market.

      • +5

        Probably what explains it. They're sturdy and easy to love, but hard to idolise. Good engines. Literally what comes to mind when you think of a stock standard, decent car. Imho design is never something to write home about of theirs (although their recent camry/rav4's have been challenging that viewpoint of mine)

        The lack of tech you mention probably helps funnily enough.. lack of tech = inversely proportional to reliability problems (if German cars teach us anything). don't have one myself, but would definitely equip myself with one over the rest if a zombie apocalypse happened.

        funnily enough, in Malaysia, Toyota is considered the premium segment, whereas the local brands proton and perodua are the cheaper, less desirable/reliable cars.

        • +13

          funnily enough, in Malaysia, Toyota is considered the premium segment, whereas the local brands proton and perodua are the cheaper, less desirable/reliable cars.

          I think it is more accurate to say, any car brands, other than Proton and Perodua, are considered the premium, given Malaysia slaps a 150-300% import duty on imported cars.

          • @Banana: yep in my observation Proton was crapola and only supported by huge tariffs making it much cheaper for locals to buy than Toyotas

            hopefully it supported the growth of manufacturing there - I did notice I think a hard disk factory just over the mainland from Penang Island

        • That new President (Akio Toyoda) is doing some real work pushing Toyota to design more interesting cars. The evolution of the Corolla's looks and that new Camry are very welcome in my opinion. With the 86, the Supra and I think they're working on an MR2 successor too, I think they're headed in the right direction.

          • @Munki: Corolla sedan’s butt is pretty standard imo. I do agree that the fronts look decent enough. The Camry was a big leap though.
            Also, Just checked out the new 86 design. Uhhhh 😶 to each their own

            • @KeplersLaws: Who buys a Corolla sedan?!

              Isn't the new (the 2021 model) 86 just concept right now?

  • +9

    Its caused by a high proportion of Ozbargain threads reccomending Toyota.

    Source: last 3 car purchases were Toyota

    • +5

      Were you disowned by Nissan?

      • He might need a name change. Perhaps a Prado Grande?

  • +31

    Blame this guy ;)

  • +12

    Yeah, it's the durability. Many older Toyota models have a reputation for surviving poor treatment. And when something goes wrong, finding a part at the wreckers or aftermarket is easy since Toyota made such few changes throughout the life of a car model (and sometimes between car models, of the same era).

    It does hurt to pay so much for an old, ugly featureless car when you see luxury European brands going for the same price. But I gave in myself.

    • last I looked Toyota Corolla had sold the most cars in history (not sure about the Model T Ford) at least 2 million

      and Toyota was the most valuable car brand in the world - before some problem with brake recalls let Ford come again - haven't looked lately

    • +22

      They'll be similar to run but when something goes wrong you're in a lot of trouble. My family wasted a lot of money one a VW Golf. It had heaps of issues with the DSG gearbox - I encountered one where the fourth gear wouldn't engage, scary when I'm going 40km/h around a bend.

      Japanese cars tend to be no frills but no scares as well.

      • +11

        Never liked VW. Solid cars but common as muck, bland styling and the DSG is a worry. Peugeot use Japanese Aisin transmissions and share engines with other makes too. They do have some unique quirks about them and need to use the correct spec oil, straightforward for someone who knows the brand to work on but would never take to joe blow at the local servo. I wouldn't let country of origin sway a purchase decision too much, all cars use a mix of Japanese and German parts now and will be reliable provided you keep up with the maintenance. 12 month/15000km service intervals are great too. There are lemons with every brand but do your research and you will be fine. Peugeot and Citroen have a long history in Australia and are ideally suited to our roads. They lost their way for a while producing some very average cars but the latest models are a return to form, they deserve a lot more recognition.

        • +4

          Get a manual transmission and all your maintenance/reliability problems are solved

        • Agree with what you said about Peugeot. I had a 308 MY11 that was alright but faced some underlying issues. A major one was that the coolant system seemed to leak when parked. Apparently that needed a redo of the coolant tubes (?) I remember filling up coolant quite often when I had it. I heard about people having issues with timing belts, although I also heard after a certain year they redesigned transmission in their cars from the ground up. Never driven a car that had the check engine light come on so much.

          Got tired of paying so much to service plus ongoing issues and eventually traded it in. The newer models seem decent though

          • +1

            @snoopster: Old Peugeot's (And Mini's) with the Prince 1.6 petrol were renowned for timing chain issues. This is no longer an issue, the engine was revised around 2013. The engine itself is fantastic, very perky and fuel efficient too at around 7L / 100km combined. For the smaller cars, at least in our market, Peugeot is choosing to offer the 1.2l 3cyl which has even better fuel economy and is a good engine too, but the 1.6l is definitely more fun to drive. The diesels are renowned for doing high mileage and people swear by them. Peugeot's are extremely reliable cars provided you look after them properly, the only people who talk shit about them are misinformed mechanics or people who bought lemons in the past and swore off the brand based off that. If only they would take the time to walk into a dealer and experience what the brand offers now. Buy from the current lineup and you will enjoy years of trouble free economical motoring. Not expensive to service if you find a good specialist, about $200-$250 for most services or you could always do the oil change yourself.

            • @nubzy: Good to know - the current lineup looks really good - I especially like the 308. Good point about the servicing, I was going through Peugeot directly which would account for higher $$. I had the 1.6L Petrol Turbo and it was fun to drive - probably has more character than the 2.0L CVT I'm driving now.

  • +33

    Reliability. Dealer network. Availability of parts and don't forget they were a manufacturer here for 60 years. So you could group Toyota in with Ford/Holden/Mitsubishi.

    There is a long history of brand loyalty with Toyota for many people in Australia. They also have a long relationship with aussie sport and people have seen Toyota adds on TVs their whole lives.

    Toyota has also long proven its cars can take on the desert climate with ease. Euro/American cars fail in this area.
    You don't see ISIS driving around American and Euro trucks.

    I also think also think 20 years ago international travel was not as popular here due to cost. So family's would often see the country. And if your driving remote or going long distances, a Toyota makes sense.

    Edit: I drive an Audi and have had a few Alfa Romeos/Porsches/Renault's. While they are excellent, fun to drive and well refined. Would you honestly feel comfortable driving hundreds of kms on a remote road with your nearest petrol station and phone tower 150-200kms+ away. And thats just the country, go bush then you have it way worse and are on dirt roads. Euro cars don't like dust and if you pop a tyre, well.. Lets hope the repair shop in the middle of no where has your tyre.

    • +34

      You don't see ISIS driving around American and Euro trucks.

      Well that's an interesting way of selling the car …

      Toyota, Used and Recommended by ISIS More Than Any Other Brand.

      • +21

        Rob is an ISIS leader, morning Rob. We can't show you Rob's face, but he drives a Toyota….

      • +9

        one bloke traded in his hilux and the dealer promised to take off the company logo and phone number before reselling. only a few months later the bloke sees his company truck being driven in an ISIS video

    • I had a 1985 Suzuki Swift 1.3GC for 13 years that was the most fun to drive - closest thing to motorbike fun on 4 wheels - they won a lot of Bathurst races around that time

      it was totally reliable, never broke down, and I would have happily got in that car and driven around Australia without a moment's hesitation that it wouldn't make it

      only problem - due to an old motorbike injury (not my fault) left ankle fracture, using the clutch pedal caused me chronic pain and limping and the doctor told me to get an automatic

      which with those small engines made them gutless

      so I swapped to an automatic 1991 Honda Civic - I've since had for 17 years, still under 200K on it - and a friend told me this model was very reliable and motors commonly did 400K before needing an overhaul.

      As my army grunt friend told me coming back from basic service around 1970 - 'want something hot red and throbbing between your legs ? Get a Honda !' - like

  • +7

    What I see is bland cars, low levels of value for the price point with competition that seems to offer far more in tech / design and price.

    In most segments, a Toyota will generally be more economical, whether it's Corolla vs Golf, or Camry vs Commodore (RIP). Toyotas are generally reliable, affordable to run, don't need premium fuel vs Euros, and parts/servicing are much more accessible. I agree that Toyotas can probably be priced lower, as Kia is nipping at their heels; but for most people who simply need an A-B car, you can't go wrong with a Toyota. Want a reliable car? Look at Uber drivers and rental companies: it's all Toyotas.

    I'm a city-dweller who drives a European car.

    • +2

      look at taxis in Sydney - from what I've seen - every - single - one - of - them is a Toyota Camry Hybrid

      • Look at taxis in Bangkok, all Toyota's in every color imaginable

  • +27

    It gives Aussies a feeling, oh what a feeling.

    • +4

      advertising suggests the opposite of reality

      so the joke was 'oh - what ? a feeling ?!' - as the opposite suggestion to the white-goods blandness of Toyota's boring but safe functionality

  • +4

    As someone that's only owned many older Toyotas (>15yrs old), mother owns a few year old Camry (found interior surprisingly plastic and cheap, though mechanically seems reliable), I'd say it's based on their history of innovation, excellent standards and reliability, all of which stems from their "kaizen" philosophy (developed at Toyota). They truly did historically raise production standards, affordability and quality.

    Though I get the (non informed) sense that it's not been the same in recent years, and more and more asian brands have caught up giving equal or greater bang for buck. No idea if there's ever been any proven reliability that's ever topped Toyotas.

  • Capped servicing for the new corolla is 179 i think.

    Competitors are all in the 320 ranges

  • It is same through out the Asia as well

  • +81

    I get what you're saying. Below is from a thread from Reddit where a former Toyota employee explains what makes their cars so reliable. I've only included the first part of his response but the whole thing is worth reading. It's quite interesting and explains why their cars are so popular despite not really being exciting.

    Former Toyota employee here.

    Firstly, they are very conservative in implementing new tech. Their R&D have pretty advance tech, but for production, everything is validated (probably) twice as much compared to other carmakers, thus by the time it’s green lit for mass production, it’s old tech.

    New tech adoption is so slow and difficult, it often frustrate even Toyota employees.

    Another thing about Toyota R&D, they have regional design houses, with the aim to “localized” parts design as much as possible, even the smallest design (engineering) details.

    For example, the inside ribs of a Hilux’s wheels in Brazil is about 5mm thicker than the ones in Thailand, so they can withstand 12G, instead 10G, because they did a survey of Brazil potholes, found out they are 20% bigger compared to a Thailand pothole.

    Vietnam tires have tickers sidewalls, because people on Hanoi like to climb over curbs. South Africa’s absorbers are 2mm thicker, because people less likely to brake when they see a rock. Air intakes for tropical countries are placed 15mm higher, because there have more floods. Tiny changes which are easily managed at parts manufacturing level, but have significant impact in reducing failure rate.

    For comparison, a German 3-series’s Transmission Oil cooler may be good enough for German weather, but they are same size for a UAE 3-series, which will kill the transmission.

    A Golf’s Dual-clutch is nice in Autobahns, it won’t lost long in Indonesia’s stop-go 20km/h traffic jams,

    And that's why North American Toyota's a rarely exported, or Euro/Asia model imported, not only because of regulations and tax, but NA's usage condition is so much different from other countries, the cars wont be as reliable as intended.

    Another thing, not all country has the same situation regarding car service. And Toyota is very knowledgeable about this.

    Missed the Civic Type-R turbo oil change schedule because that single Honda dealer in your island is full? You just slash 2 years out of the turbo’s life..

    But do you know a Toyota Etios in India have water proof Volume knobs, because they did a 6 month in survey 10 different states and concluded most dealers use soap to clean the interior, seriously.

    And don’t let me start on materials, so many version, variation, caveats for standards, sometimes it feels like they are exporting to a different planet.

    So, this is why most Toyota ends up with a 4 AT, 50hp/liter engine, with boring hard plastic interior, numb steering, and goofy tiny wheels with huge wheel arc gaps.

    • +2

      Just read the whole thing, good read.

    • +2

      Thanks for sharing, great read! Very insightful.

    • +6

      This is a great read, thank you. All makes sence about why they appear a little bland, goes with the bullit proof reliablity

  • +1

    What about Mazda? Why is Australia(maybe NZ) the only country where Mazda has a large share of the market? The rest of the world see Mazda as niche.

    • -2

      Probably because most of them used to just be rebadged fords.

      • +7

        Other way around. Fords were rebadged Mazda.

        • Ford had a stake in Mazda up until 2015 hence why they have shared platforms.

        • +1

          Fazda :)

    • +1

      Mazda's are great to drive and the 3 and CX-5 were excellent at the time when the Corolla and Rav4 were pretty 'terrible'.

      Best graph I can find is this:
      Mazda jumped up to number 2 in Australian sales around 2014 (release of Skyactiv 3) doubling their Australian market share from 5% in 1996 to 10% in 2015.

      So far my experience is the Mazda is as reliable as Toyota, but the interior seems slightly more premium. Except for the current model 3 which is priced way too much of a premium over their competitors.

      To OP's point, Toyota also has a model for almost every use case.

      • +1

        Mazda seems to have a reputation as solid and reliable and that of the Japanese cars, they handle better - even before the ‘zoom zoom’ campaign.

        • but Mazda's were noisier for road noise (I'm an acoustic musician sensitive to noise) until they finally started to do something to reduce it in new models in the last year or two

          • @Hangryuman: True, but solid, dependable with decent handling will trump a bit of road noise for many drivers.

    • Coming from overseas, I can tell you that the issue that Mazda has overseas is their terrible network of dealers and business model.
      In North Amreica only recently they have gained market share, despite their links to Ford (may be that was not well looked IDK).
      In South America they are niche, despite being rcognised as high quality. No Factories other than Europe, Japan, US and Tailand, so hard to enter South America.
      Africa is the same.

  • +5

    If you live in the bush I totally get it, bullet proof practical cars with great support from a dealer network

    You don’t understand it, and yet you do.

    A reputation built 40-50 years ago and continued because they were Aussie built longer than the competition. Back then reliability and comfort/handling was everything, not features. Build em solid and honest.

    Now cars are seen more than utitlitarian transport so being seen as honest, reliable but slightly dull isn’t as popular. Tastes and priorities are changing. Personally I can do without the latest gizmos and would rather have the good old honest, reliable over the best textures in he interior or the latest electronic trickery.

    • -2

      Yes, I totally overlooked the Australian made bit. Still think they are overpriced for what you get but I'm clearly not their target (I'm swayed by interior and technology!)

      • +10

        why do you say it's overpriced? Yes, Toyota comes with the "Toyota tax" but one is paying for durability and reliability and potentially years of stress free driving. Manufacturing a "bulletproof car" means you can charge a "premium". Yes there is interior and technology but of many punters, a car serves a function of taking them from point A to B. They want something reliable and cheap to maintain and historically Toyota would one of the "best in class" for these punters.

        In your case, you are chasing a different driving experience hence your criteria is different so you are assigning value to other aspects such as interior and design. Value proportion is always going to be different….

      • +3

        Maybe you’re looking at used car prices. New Toyota’s are significantly cheaper than Europeans. Used cars are closer because the European will need expensive parts soon and not last as long.

      • +3

        So you're a sucker then, got it (you do realise this is a cheapskate forum lol, OFC people are going to big up the ultra reliable low maintenance car)

        • True but even the richest of the rich go for toyotas when it comes to outdoors and offroads/rough terrain

  • +4

    I agree - when it comes to interiors, engines and tech Toyota are zzz

    Most new cars are amazingly reliable now anyway so may as well choose one that excites not puts you to sleep looking at it

    • +1

      I agreed until the current-gen Corolla and C-HR.
      They're uniquely Japanese in a way Honda forgot about.

    • +5

      Interiors, engines and tech Toyota are zzz?
      Toyota right now are probably the most exciting of all the Japanese brands, tech and engine wise. Their interiors are a bit meh, but not enough to be an issue, IMO.
      Toyota is currently the only Jap brand with sports cars across small, medium and tourer.
      They currently offer the pretty fun and cheap 86, the Supra, GR Yaris, and the 400z is due next year.
      They lack in the service “experience” when comparing them to the better euro brands like BMW, Benz etc, but the servicing is cheap and plenty of dealers around.
      My 86 LandCruiser is sitting on 400,000kms and has not missed a beat.
      Looking to upgrade the wife’s polo to either a hybrid Corolla or RAV4. Leaning towards the Corolla because they are really well priced

    • +2

      Why do I doubt that most new cars are amazingly reliable now? Hasn’t reliability of products declined steeply over the years with planned obsolescence and all that.

      • +1

        It’s not so much that newer cars are more or less reliable, it’s different. Modern cars tune themselves by using sensors and stuff when old cars need adjusting fairly often to run properly. New cars however can be more expensive to fix because of all the extra electronics. So an old car might need a new part for a few hundred $ the new car might need the same new part, but it’s twice the price because of the extra electronics.

  • +3

    I agree they are generally boring to drive, plain interiors and never the prettiest cars.

    They have such a good name in Aus due to reliability and servicing.

    They were also made in Australia for a long time in Adelaide and Melbourne, so people in cities bought local Aus made products - camries mainly as family cars and I forget what other models were made here. So theres a lot of brand loyalty for that reason. 40 years of locally made has a big influcence - particularly a few decades ago when brand loyalty was much stronger than it is today.

  • +4

    Still got my 1992 Toyota Celica that i purchased 14 years ago when i was just a wee lad and although it's had a fair few repairs, it has been driven on a lot of windy, bad condition potholed country road for most of that time.
    It's going to be 30 years old in a few years which i think will make it vintage haha

    Plus it has them sweet pop up head lights that are still bringing a smile to my face after all these years ^_^

    • +3

      Scotty Kilmer?

      • +1

        Haha i wish, if i had his kinda money i would have a new car by now!
        My little old celica is just about to hit 400,000km…

      • +2

        googled…. add that one to the list of things we pronounce very differently haha

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