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Toyota cars’ reliability secrets revealed

Toyota cars last long, really long. Ask this Toyota Qualis owner from Kerala who’s Qualis has covered over 8 lakh kilometers with nothing more than routine service, or this Innova owner who has done over a million kilometers of punishing Indian roads with just regular service. This legendary longevity and durability of Toyota cars also means that they typically command  the highest resale value of their segments. But is there a method to Toyota cars’ extreme durability levels that other car manufacturers simply aren’t able to match? Does Toyota have secrets that make its cars so supremely reliable? Well, as they say, the simplest things often last the longest. Toyota’s secrets are simple yet stunningly effective, and this video will tell you what those secrets are.

Secret #1: Jidoka

Jidoka is a Japanese word that translates into ‘automation with a human touch’. While most car makers across the globe automate the entire process of building a car, Toyota does exactly the opposite, initially. Toyota’s engineers hand-build car parts to the point of absolute perfection, and after the part is hand-built to 100 % of Toyota’s specification, it is then put through an automated process. This ensures that every part that goes into a Toyota is nearly perfect, and this is why parts on Toyota cars seldom fail. In fact, this is also why Toyota cars have so few optional extras as the time taken to build parts that work perfectly is too long for Toyota to offer a range of optional extras. Once Toyota engineers design and hand-build perfect parts, the automaker then reuses these parts for a lot of cars to ensure that the painstaking effort of building perfect parts is replicated across a range of cars. For example, the Toyota Innova and Fortuner share a lot of parts including the 2.8 liter turbo diesel engine and gearboxes.

Secret #2: Kaizen

Kaizen, another Japanese word, translates into ‘change for the better’. Any Toyota employee irrespective of his position in the organization can stop the production line if she or he sees an improvement that can be made or a problem that needs fixing. This approach ensures that Toyota catches problems right on the production line, and fixes it rather than letting the production line continue and then issuing a recall for a faulty part/process. Kaizen ensures that cars are problem free before leaving the production line, which further translates into better reliability on the road, and fewer recalls. In fact, General Motors and Ford now integrating Kaizen into their processes so that their cars can be as reliable as the ones built by Toyota. Also, BMW and Subaru has already implemented Kaizen thanks to Toyota’s big success.

Secret #3: Function over form, and overengineering

Toyota builds cars to last at least a million kilometers and this is the primary focus of the automaker. And this means that Toyota has to often focus on function over form, and overengineer parts to ensure that they last for a really long time. For instance, the engines that Toyota builds are intentionally rev limited at lower RPMs than the engines built by competition to ensure that Toyota engines last forever. Also, a lot of parts that Toyota builds are over-engineered to outlast the vehicle itself. This overengineering is the reason why Toyota cars last so long, and command a premium resale value. It is not uncommon for 10 year-old Toyota Fortuners with over 2 lakh kms on the odometer to sell for more than Rs. 10 lakh. Now, that’s nearly 40 % of resale value for a vehicle that is 10 years and 2 lakh kilometers old. People who buy such vehicles at such prices are willing to do so as they know that Toyotas are over-engineered and that they will be able to get a few more lakh kms from their vehicles. That is the magic of over-engineering for you.