Damn Toyota Let Me Down

It is the last day of 2017 and what am I doing? Nothing. I’m writing an angry blog piece about a car that let me down. Lately I’ve been bragging about how good my Avalon has been to me, but today that has changed. I’ve written about the lousy experience I had with my 1969 Corolla, and how it kept me from buying another Toyota, or any other piece of Jap-Crap for thirty-six years. Once I calm down I’ll be able to explain rationally how I really feel about my Avalon. Right now the bitter sting of having to fix a car in -5 degree weather still has my shorts in a bunch.

Yesterday, I left the house on my way to my stepdaughter’s sixty-second birthday party. I gingerly placed her gift on the back seat along with a walnut roll wrapped in aluminum foil along with a fresh bottle of Champaign to help with the celebration. The temperature in the garage was low at thirty degrees. Outside it was six below. We haven’t had a winter like this since the nineteen eighties. You know, the Liberals ordered the world to go into warming mode so they could impose exorbitant taxes on us to feed the tyrants of the world, and to enrich themselves by trading carbon credits. I’m here to say the warming trend is over. By next winter the pundits will be crying ice-age once again. I like global warming cycles they keep me comfortable in the winter time. I hate ice-age like winters when I freeze me ass off. Anyway, I pushed the magic button and the Toyota chattered at me. It is that bone chilling noise one gets when a battery dies and the solenoid clicks away.

This morning I mentioned to a friend that since I have owned cars I have had a streak of bad luck with break downs when it is cold. Below zero cold makes stuff break, it makes weak stuff fail, it makes tires split, and it makes car owners very upset. What can I do? I am so dependent on a car to get around that I don’t even think about walking two miles in below zero temps to get to Starbucks. I could spew another thousand words talking about my winter break down experiences but I won’t, I’ll speak of something good instead, like improved battery life. During my life with VWs, Fords, Oldsmobiles, and Mercurys It was not uncommon to have to replace a battery every two years. Since I bought the Avalon batteries have improved, and now last for six years.  My car is  thirteen years old, has 143000 miles on it, and the second battery failed. So even though I blame the Toyota for letting me down it is the battery that is the root-cause. Since the battery is not what I sit in to drive me places I have to blame the car.

I wish all who read this a very Happy New Year without any cold weather trouble.

 

 

Busted

A few weeks ago Peggy and I were driving home from Santa Fé, New Mexico. We passed through Oklahoma on the Kilpatrick Turnpike. I am totally familiar with toll roads and auto payment lanes, but the signage in Oklahoma confused me. I saw a sign saying PIKEPASS and decided yep I want to go on the Pike. I blasted past the CASH exit at seventy when I realized my I-PASS wasn’t going to work. Had I made a sharp right turn across three lanes in a flash, I might have made it into the pay lane. Oops, Oh Well.

By the time I arrived home a week later, a letter waited for me from PIKEPASS. They had my complete name and address, the exact date, and time of the violation documented in a very nicely and politely written letter of reprimand.

I called them this morning to ask what the toll charge was. I gave them the Transaction Number and a nice voice asked, “is it a white Toyota Avalon?” She very politely forgave the charge. I asked the nice young lady what technology they used to catch my violation. She answered, “a camera took a picture of your rear license plate as you went through.”

I commended her on Oklahoma’s speed and efficiency in apprehending a violator. I said if this happened in Illinois, I wouldn’t get a letter for ten years. She laughed politely. I commented that I didn’t want to take the chance of getting a ticket on my next trip through and have the cuffs thrown on me for having a moving violation on record. She assured me that wouldn’t happen.

The reason I am relating this incident is that Big Brother is watching us with capabilities that are unbelievable.

Doesn’t it make you wonder what else Big Brother does to creep into our private lives?

I Feel For Toyota

During my fifty-three year career in manufacturing, I developed a flair for solving a problem. It is not easy.  In order to find the root cause you have to continue to ask why until people think you are nuts.  My last job was manufacturing a product that we made in the billions. The item is relatively simple in appearance, but it is highly functional. The product is a cable tie. The original purpose of the cable tie was to hold wires together.  Over the years, people have learned to find many applications for this unique item.

My team designed the product, designed and made the molds that produced the product, and set the quality requirements of the manufacturing process. Often we received a complaint. Usually, a customer told us the ties were breaking. He wanted us to fix the problem. Our sales staff immediately replaced his defective product. Most of the time, it was a single package.  My engineers always asked for samples of the failures and any unused samples from the package that the failure ties came from. The failed tie often contained clues to why it failed.  The unused samples gave us some product to test in our lab. If we were very lucky, the Quality Control number was still on the package. That number allowed us to trace the manufacturing process variables.

Usually, I received a handful of broken ties from the complaint. With those samples, it became my job to determine what caused the failure.  I will not bore you with the details of how I proceeded, but if I could not duplicate the problem in the lab, I was looking for a needle in a haystack. Many times, we shut down our highest producing mold until there was an answer.  Talk about pressure to do something.  I can only imagine what is going on within Toyota right now, but I have a good feeling for what it is. I feel for the engineers whose job it is to solve the problem.

Currently, I drive a 2005 Toyota Avalon. I have rehearsed my reaction to a runaway acceleration many times. I only hope that if it happens that I have enough time to react appropriately before I kill myself or someone else. I have dubbed my car the Death Star. At this writing, I am listening to the Senate questioning of the CEO of Toyota. The man, Akio Toyoda from Toyota, said their fix might not be the answer to the acceleration problem. That is a nice way of saying they still do not have a clue about what is causing the problem.

I also studied the quality process taught by US guru Joe Duran, and utilized by the Japanese car companies. In this program, Duran taught that it is cost effective to shut a line down when you find a problem, and leave it down until you fix the problem.  That is a hard concept to swallow. Most manufacturing companies do not buy into it. Mine often did, but the justification for shutting down a mold had to be great. In Toyota’s move to stop selling cars, and to shut down their factories until they fix the quality problem, they practice what they preach. They will come out as winners in the long term.

In the meantime, I bet there are at least a thousand engineers running like chickens with their heads cut off trying to duplicate the problem. As they analyze every aspect of the design, they will come up with ideas that are very probably the answer, and they will implement solutions. They may even stumble upon the root cause and re-create the problem. That is when I will believe they have solved the problem, and until then I drive the Death Star.

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