The Potential Is There For Toyota To Be A Fun Brand

For almost the past 20 years, Toyota has been looked upon as being the reliable, safe, and least fun brand in the automotive industry. Appealing to the average consumer rather than giving at least some attention to car enthusiasts can either be seen as smart from a business perspective, or a mistake by not creating an excitement that would extend to all car buyers. From an enthusiast’s perspective, utter the word “Toyota”, and there’s two cars that come to mind. The Supra and the Prius. Vehicles from two different extremes and eras, marked as either a car most recognized from Fast and Furious, or the hybrid that’s the bane of car lovers existences.

Toyota has made attempts through commercials the past three years to seem more exciting, as they released an ad for the Camry where two brothers are racing on the streets of Monaco. At the time, it didn’t make any sense why a brand that’s not recognized as being race oriented in the United States outside of Nascar, would try to change the direction of a brand despite the vehicles being no different than their predecessors. That all changed late last year with the introduction of the 2018 Toyota Camry XSE, and since then the brand that brought us the Supra and MR2 seems to be heading into 2020 with the potential of being a very fun and exciting automotive manufacturer once again.

2018 Toyota Camry XSE
2018 Toyota Camry XSE

Starting with the Camry XSE, Toyota surprisingly stuck with a V6 engine that gets 301 hp instead of following rival brands who are moving in the direction of turbocharged 4 cylinder engines. The XSE trim also comes with an optional two-toned exterior and red sports seats, which just feels really out of character for a Toyota vehicle. The only drawback is that fully loaded, the Camry’s price is around $40k, which many consumers have voiced their discontent as they believe it’s too high of a cost.

Around the same time the new Camry was hitting showrooms, Toyota added the GT86 to the brand, which was formally known as the Scion FR-S. A small coupe that has a cult following, it’s actually a fun and attainable car for young enthusiasts, and adding to the appeal is the list of aftermarket parts and modifications that can be done to the GT86 to enhance performance and appearance. Honestly, this little coupe is a throwback to what JDM culture was all about in the 90’s. I would never go as far to say that it’s this decade’s Honda Civic, but the GT86 does give you that sense of being a pure Japanese compact sports coupe.

Back in late March at the New York Auto Show, Toyota unveiled the all new Corolla hatchback which will come with an optional manual transmission. At this point, their vision for the next few years is becoming more clear as boring may no longer be an adjective associated with the brand. A few minutes later, the re-designed RAV4 was also unveiled and that’s when the energy in the room was lifted to a whole new level.

The new RAV4 is much more rugged than last generation, taking on the appearance of the Highlander, which was a very smart move by Toyota. For 2018 and beyond, crossovers are no longer just a family vehicle as the automotive industry is moving towards bringing either sporty or off-road elements to a segment that is actually quite bland. Toyota decided to go with more of the off-road look, which is a jab at Jeep. They’re also setting themselves apart from Ford, GM, and Honda who really haven’t drastically changed the styling of their crossovers. While it could be perceived as a major risk, Toyota could certainly be a legitimate player in stealing market share from rival brands in the crossover segment.

Lastly we have the long awaited arrival of the Toyota Supra which details have been leaked pertaining to performance and pricing. The new Supra is rumored to get a turbocharged inline 6 that gets 335 hp and 369 lb ft of torque, with a 0-60 time of around 4.5 seconds. Unfortunately as we all feared, it’s not going to be cheap. From the leaks, a starting price of $63,500 is to be expected. We won’t find out for sure until the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, but to know that the Supra is making a return is definitely something to look forward to.

The last 10-12 months for Toyota has certainly been exciting. Unfolding in front of our eyes the emergence of an auto brand that was once looked at as being dull or not cool to now being rather interesting and also a bit of a mystery. What is Toyota’s long term vision and plan? Is sports cars something we can expect from the brand moving forward, or is this a five year window of hope and change but then will fizzle out by the time we get closer to 2025? There’s so many questions that haven’t yet been answered, but for the time being, let’s take in the complete shift in culture at Toyota and enjoy every minute of it.

Toyota YouTube Marketing: Redundancy In Advertisement

In the previous article of this mini-series where we take a look at Youtube marketing by car manufacturers, Hyundai was the center of attention, as their 15 second adverts gave no reason to consumers as to why they should buy a vehicle from the Korean automaker. Toyota now finds themselves in the BostonAutoBlog spotlight, magnifying Hyundai’s bland marketing campaign, by going one step further in advertising technology or features that all or most car manufacturers offer in today’s market. Toyota has always had a loyal following, but if their goal is to increase sales, they’re missing big in their recent onslaught of 15 second videos.

Before we analyze the video above; is this the state the automotive market is in right now, marketing pre-existing features that any car company offers? In this 15 second clip, LED headlights are the main focus, with the spokesman saying, “How do you make Camry’s headlights stand out even more? Skip ahead a few hours”. It sounds like a punchline to a corny joke, one which won’t break the ice if you’re at a table surrounded by strangers.

Most cars come with LED headlights or you can order them to modify the current car you own. Toyota’s LED’s can’t even hold a candle to three year old used Audis or BMWs which would be in the same price range as a new Camry. Worst of all, as a consumer, why would I be attracted to a Camry after watching this quick ad? Yes, by now we should all know Toyota’s reliability record, but there’s no need to start marketing features that buyers wouldn’t find relevant.

The corny jokes don’t end there, it continues with yet another quick ad. At this point, you have to wonder if the same marketing firm that worked with Hyundai, moved onto Toyota a few months later. Toyota’s are not known for their handling, and as someone who has driven a Rav4 in the past, you don’t feel very connected to the road. If great handling is the focus of the commercial, there needs to be actual footage, and not a guy playing with a toy car who then places it in the driveway.

While 15 second clips on Youtube are the norm for automakers now, less information about the vehicle being marketed is presented. Even though there’s a risk of viewers pressing the skip ad button, it would be better to extend these ads to 30 seconds to offer potential buyers selling points as to why they should buy a Rav4 or a Toyota Camry.

The last video worth highlighting, might just be the worst of them all. People who buy a Toyota Prius purchase them for one reason, it’s environmentally friendly. Toyota has been marketing the Prius like a race car, or during the Super Bowl, a getaway car. It’s time to go back to their roots and advertise the Prius for what it is. It’s not “agile”, it’s not “fun”, and it certainly doesn’t need racing decals as the car doesn’t deserve racing credentials.

What’s lacking in this commercial? Fuel efficiency. Isn’t that why people buy a Prius? What YouTube marketing has done is take common sense and a well thought out commercial out of the equation. There’s no selling points, no facts about what the car can do, no demonstration as to why it’s “agile”, and there are no legitimate reasons as to why I, or anyone else should buy one.

Hyundai and Toyota have made the ads that popup before watching a video cringe-worthy. These two manufacturers can offer better in terms of marketing to the masses, as their cars speak for themselves. Both their reliability ratings and customer satisfaction should be the main focal points of these ads, not the technology or features within the cars.

If Ford, Chrysler-Fiat, GM, Mazda, Kia, and Honda are watching, they should take notes. Hyundai and Toyota have left the door open for better YouTube advertising that grabs consumers’ attention, thoroughly goes over what their cars offer in terms of reliability, safety, and performance, and not worry about the technology within the vehicles. What is truly lacking in the automotive market is passion, emotion, and excitement.

We should get excited when we see your commercials. There should be a desire to want to drive and buy your vehicles. Every time your vehicle passes us by on the street, our first thought should be that great commercial you marketed that created an emotional connection. It’s time to start marketing your cars as if you love them as much as the consumer. Without passion, you become a Toyota who is trying to crack corny jokes, or Hyundai who is in an identity crisis as they’re not sure whether to brand themselves as a company that offers luxury vehicles, or a company that has reasonably priced cars for the middle class.

Is Luxury Taking On A Whole New Meaning In The Automotive World?

If someone walked up to you fifteen years ago and said that Subaru, Honda, Mazda, and Toyota were making four door sedans that rivaled the Germans, would you believe them? Or better yet, if that same person told you Audi, Mercedes Benz, and BMW were offering smaller vehicles with starting prices near $30,000, would you think they were joking? The reality is, in the year 2014 the Subaru Legacy, Honda Accord and Civic, Mazda 6, and Toyota Camry and Avalon are all on par with German luxury vehicles, but for a fraction of the cost. While the big three German auto manufacturers are entering the cheaper luxury markets, the Japanese and even the Americans are meeting them with top notch vehicles that might make you question your bias towards a certain car brand.

The fact that any car can have an LCD monitor, leather seats, a spacious interior, and great fuel economy, really begs the question on whether it’s worth spending $10,000 – $20,000 more to get the same package and luxury you’d find on what used to be inferior car brands. For many, the dream of owning a Mercedes Benz or BMW will never go away, but when we were kids, who could have foreseen a Honda, Toyota, Mazda, or Subaru with a luxurious interior? What was once exclusive to those who were affluent, can now be found on most cars that were seen as average. Luxury really has taken on a whole new meaning, but it doesn’t stop there. Performance is also another feature that can be found on four door sedans that were 15 years ago, a family oriented vehicle.

You can own a Subaru Legacy with a 265 horsepower V6 engine for around $32,000, almost $8,000 less than the Audi A4 that has a turbocharged four cylinder engine with 220 horsepower. I must ask the question again, is it worth spending the extra $8,000 on an Audi when you can own a Subaru with the same comforts and styling? The Chrysler 200 has a V6 option which supplies a whopping 295 hp, completely blowing away any of the Japanese or German four door sedans in the price range of $30,000 – $35,000.

But at the end of the day, all the driver really wants is reliability with a combination of some form of luxury, and Honda, Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota can offer that. These brands speak for themselves as they’ve been known for reliability for years, but now that they’ve put in nicer interiors, leather seats, and performance for competitive prices, it’s hard to see why you’d pay extra for a car that offers the same. The only major difference is the badge on the front of the car and the recognition that brand has that catches the eyes of bystanders.

Heading into 2015, the consumer is going to have a boatload of options in the four door luxury sedan market in the $30,000 – $35,000 price range. Luxury is what you make it; the auto manufacturers are just making cars that help steer you into their direction. Owning an Audi, Mercedes, or BMW is a major feat, but when you see cheaper options that may offer more, it’s hard to say no.