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Friday, February 5th, 2010

Thank you, Toyota!
By Greg Brown, columnist

I am not an employee of Toyota, neither am I an investor. I am simply one of those millions of Americans’ who drive a Toyota, and am red, white and blue proud of it.

I do happen to have social networks in Alabama, Indiana, Texas, Mississippi and Kentucky who benefit from Toyota manufacturing in their states. And though I have no friends in West Virginia, I am sure there are plenty of Americans there, as well, who are proud to build Corollas and Camrys, make good salaries and pay plenty of taxes.

I not only have one Toyota, silver Camry. I have two. One of them is afflicted with the viral accelerator pedal … the deadly pedal on 2.1 million vehicles that has resulted in six (yes, six) accidents. That’s right, I said six … sechs, seis, sei, sest. Whether pronounced in German, Portuguese, Spanish or Italian, the number still denotes a five-fingered hand plus one. Even if you’re an enemy of Toyota, it’s difficult to clap with that.

I still remember where I was when I became a fan of Toyota. It was 1997 and I was tromping around in the desperate terrain of Uganda, negotiating the landscape between Kampala and “The Bush.. Riding on roads that most bicycles could not safely traverse, I saw one Toyota after another, not just surviving, but quite apparently, thriving in the bucking rodeo of Uganda’s twisted roads. How those cars and trucks survived the rising and falling slopes, the dark contorted pot holes, I will never know. I still remember my pained hips, my twisted back and bruised skull, from riding on those roads with 20 other people stuffed in a van. I wrote in a prayer journal one night, that the skeleton of a man was no match for the chassis of a Toyota truck. I asked our Ugandan translator why the only truck I seemed to see in the bush was a Toyota. Revealing the reach of Darwin, he simply said: “Survival of the fittest.”

When I came home, I told my wife that the next car I was going to buy was a Toyota. I have been faithful, and I have not been disappointed. In fact, I am not bothered a bit by this national, knee-jerk reaction. I wish the congressional committee forming to investigate would summon me. I am humored by it. Selfish human that I am, I also calculate that if the skeptics are successful, I will just get a better deal on the next Toyota I buy … a little discount, maybe.

I write this article today, because I am bothered by the media hype surrounding the recent recall. The last TV hype that matched this was two weeks ago, when a weather report from Atlanta zoomed in on snow flakes collecting on the top rail of a bridge, somewhere near Buford. I mourn, not only, for the loss of good sense in the public discourse, but for the financial injury done to good, decent, hard-working people. Like those folks who work for Toyota.

So, I want to say thank you. A hearty thank you. You guys are doing a great job. Keep doing it. All I have done in the last 14 years with my Camrys is take them in for normal service. That’s all. And the service at my Toyota dealership is so professional, so inexpensive, so dependable and so good, I would get my lawnmower and bicycle tuned up there, if I could.