Reddit user 555_till_666 explains why Toyota cars are so reliable, and shares fascinating insights on Toyota’s R&D:
“Toyota R&D has regional design houses, with the aim to “localize” 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 of 10G, because they did a survey of Brazil potholes, found out they are 20% bigger compared to a Thailand potholes.Vietnam tires have thicker 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 won’t 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. 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…
Anyway, back to these “localized” R&D, it’s not all rainbow & unicorns. Toyota also messes up and ends up with a sub-par car, because of misjudging, or under estimating market demands.
Like a commenter mentioned below, yeah the Ethios is a pretty bad car in India. Main reason is the over generalization of the India market. Their aim is to make it cheap, and doesn’t break (on certain components). Almost everything else in Toyota parts bin were deemed too high-spec for the India market, thus a lower-spec component, just enough to satisfy what they considered “an emerging market”.
Oh boy, how they were wrong. And now, Toyota learned that India is actual 10 different market, intermingled with each other, with their own purchasing power, expectation and usage condition.
Another example, you notice how most Toyota cars have this “ECO” or “High efficiency” certifications from different countries while maintaining the same old NA engine. Well, sure the engine is “tuned” a bit here & there to be more efficient, but mostly it’s the transmission and throttle detune.
For example, A 2nd gear is fine in this situation.. nope you get 3rd gear!. So you pressed 80% throttle, here’s a discount, 60% throttle to you, oh the magic of fly-by -wire throttle.
So, the car will feel a bit sluggish, but it will produce those nice consumption ratings. And most people won’t notice anyway, because who would full throttle a Toyota Estima amirite.
OK, back to happy stuff.
So I mentioned about procurement. Toyota don’t mess around when it comes to suppliers, it’s borderline Stockholm Syndrome.
I’ve seen Toyota engineers who after a meeting in 10am, book a 4pm flight from Japan to the Philippines, buying some clothes on the way to the airport, just so the next morning they could go to this one supplier 50km from Manila, to confirm one particular welding machine of one particular brackets, because one of Toyota’s material lab found out 2 out of 100 sample of theses brackets developing micro cracks, which have 10% chances of breaking apart. So let’s set a camp in front of this welder, until we know why some of it cracked.
See, there are definitely engineers in Toyota Philippines who are capable of doing the same welding study, but this guy from Japan is the one who signed off this supplier, 5 years ago, so no way he going to trust some guy over a phone 3,000 miles away. He “owns” this bracket.
So Toyota have this concept called “Genchi Genbutsu”, which means something like “actual place, actual thing”. So the engineers no matter how many reports, data, pictures, nothing beat actually going to see the thing itself, studying it, discussing about it, in front of the actual problem. And I would have to admit, it just feels more right doing studies on on-site instead in a meeting rooms with printouts and PowerPoints, even if now that you have facetime/skype.”