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I Drive A Yaris

Thu, 02/04/2010 - 8:12am
by David Mantey, Editor, PD&D

I drive one, I don’t own one — the only vehicle with my name on the plates (2LGT2QT) is a ’98 Dodge Neon that has made me its most outspoken proponent since high school.

I remember the day a future cop and former friend rode beside me and called the Neon a disposable 10-year car. This weekend, I’m going to fly through Burlington’s one-way streets at 90 MPH, hoping he pulls me over. The obscene ticket will be worth my absurd gestures as he’s chasing me through the loop.

I’m not sure how I’ll pull it off. The Neon's transmission is shot and it tops out at 55 MPH, the brakes slip, and the power steering is hit or miss — and those only begin the to-do list that has me wishing I was motivated enough to cash in my clunker when the opportunity arose.

The door panels walked out on me years ago, and the trunk has an odor that reminds you of an episode of CSI — I assure you that it’s not a body, just a forgotten gym bag that went horribly awry in college and spent the better part of a summer under the La Crosse, WI heat. I will miss that hooded sweatshirt with my adolescent nickname embroidered onto the sleeve.

Back to the vehicle I navigated through the snow-covered streets of Madison this morning: a faithful, pedal-failure free Toyota Yaris yet to be recalled. It’s troubling to read news regarding the one thing you expect to be the safest on a day-to-day basis. Now, think of being the one to read it hot off the wire every morning as the car cools under an early February snowfall.

February 1, 2010 – AP – Madison, WI – If you drove in a Toyota today, you’re lucky to be alive …

The car is safe. The pedal does not stick, but every time my slush-covered foot slips off of the accelerator, I think I'm five minutes away from my fiery high-speed demise.

It’s hard to lambast a company on poor product design when it constructed the crumple zone protecting your feeble body. So I won’t. Toyota is the greatest car company in the world — as long as your life insurance premium isn’t due. Life insurance gags, they never get old. I apologize, I watched an episode of Scrubs last night, and this entire thing has been written with Zach Braff narration echoing through my malnourished brain. 

"This is unprecedented in having caused this huge problem for customers," said Shinichi Sasaki, quality control, Toyota. Yeah, life-crippling fear and death have been known to cause huge problems for customers.

Like I said, I don’t own the car. I own the aforementioned family punch line; but if I were to buy one today, you can bet that it would be a Toyota. Gas pedal flap aside, for my money, I haven’t driven a better car in terms of reliability, mileage and comfort.

My only qualm? The design staff put the cup holder directly in front of the heat fans. If you ever hope to enjoy a tasty winter beverage in the Yaris, make it one best served hot because that cup becomes hot enough to warm your child’s Chicken & Stars soup. I had an incident with pink lemonade. The reach, the burn, the spill, the pink-stained khakis, the family dinner, the hilarious brothers with a night full of ammo.    

The recall was late. The first patch was insufficient, and, if the comment sections have been an accurate indicator, people would sooner play roulette than pull out of the garage – then again, consumers do have a tendency to overreact when they’re inundated with body counts.

Let’s assume Toyota learned its lesson: The recalls are estimated to cost $900 million with $155 million lost in sales every week — I think the company's peering at the iceberg’s tip. We love good drama and harsh overreactions. I’m surprised that I haven’t received a Facebook invite to a mass Toyota burning in a field in rural Wisconsin.

Toyota has apologized, though it’s similar to a child telling his/her parent, “I didn’t mean it.” A postage stamp-sized piece of steel fixes the gas pedal problem. I have a feeling the public relations Band-Aid will need to be slightly larger.

Do you drive a Toyota? Do you fear for your safety? Do questions at the end of columns do anything for you? Send hate mail to david.mantey@advantagemedia.com. Also, I haven’t received a decent threat via the U.S. postal service in a while, so feel free to mail me a few sheets of loose-leaf as well, it’ll be nostalgic.

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