As long as I've been writing this blog I have received my fair share of insults ("Moron" is, by far, still my favorite) and complaints ("Phil, you just hate the big 3"). But more than anything else, the number one comment I hear from people is that Toyota has duped me and America into believing it's cars and trucks are better than others. These comments typically end with a variation of the line, "I hope you are happy driving your Lexus."
Every time I get these e-mails think two things. First, I don't own a Toyota or Lexus. Second, I wonder if these people ACTUALLY think me and other journalists covering the auto industry are blindly giving Toyota a pass?
The fact is, Toyota's growth has come from strong showings in J.D. Powers quality ratings (the latest come out Wednesday), steady earnings growth (that's why the stock is close to its all-time high) and a consistency other automakers have been unable to match. That combination is the reason Toyota has become the second best selling automaker in the U.S. And number one worldwide.
Still, to paraphrase a friend of mine, many people would rather "hate than congratulate" Toyota. Some of this is because they blame Toyota for the struggles of the big 3. Fact is, the struggles for America's automakers come from a number of self-inflicted factors: poor quality in the 80's and early 90's, lackluster product design, and marketing that has often made people wonder what the heck Detroit is selling.
I bring all this up because tonight on CNBC's "Business Nation" at 10 pm Eastern, we go in depth and look at Toyota's growth and plans for winning in the biggest and most lucrative market in the U.S.- full size pick-up trucks. What we found is a company succeeding because of it's discipline, forward vision, and slow but steady approach to changing the perceptions of middle America about Toyota trucks. Want proof? Talk with ranchers and farmers in Texas who have driven Chevy, Ford, and Dodge for decades. Those who have test-driven the new Tundra admit it's a heck of a truck.
So maybe it's time some people adjust their attitudes. If you think Toyota's are boring looking or the Lexus models lack the styling you will find in other luxury models, that's fine. But if you think there's a grand conspiracy by America's auto journalists to give Toyota a free pass at the expense of the big 3, that's just not the case.
Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com