Somehow I knew that the infamous '96 Tacoma would make its way on this thread, along with the same worn-out reliability survey claims that no one cares about.
We're talking about long-term reliability, which means a vehicle that is over 3 years old. Lexus was the top-rated brand, which incidentally is also a Toyota corporation product. So I stand corrected.
"Occasional" sludge issues? Not even close, and no they were not exactly addressed either. If you bought a re-manufactured unit, the design of the PCV system was still the same. Also the oil passages in the cylinder heads being as narrow as a pencil didn't help either.
Just because you say you never met anyone with a Toyota sludge issue, doesn't mean anything. How many people do you know? Or better yet, how many DIFFERENT Toyotas have you worked on in the past decade?
I do a lot of side work as a mechanic out of my fully equipped warehouse, and have replaced over a dozen Toyota engines in the past 15 years, including a family member's car that sludged at a whopping 48,000 miles.
You have a good Toyota that you got in 1996. Let's not lose sight of that in 2013.
Also, having a job, any job, is that particularly anything to make a big deal over? Much lower pay or coming into a southern area with low taxation and a labor force willing to work for less. Most with no union to protect the work force. I have a relative that went from being an engineer to painting houses. It's really great getting herded in a large room and being told it's your last day. Not everyone wants to move and uproot their families to move to work for much less. That's not raising the standard of living. But maybe that hasn't happened to you.
I do not have a problem with mixed ownership with imports and domestics in the drive. It's your view that it's Toyota or no car or truck. There are nice cars out today that are nice to own, other than just an old Tacoma.
As far as auto manufacturing in the South, well I happen to have been born and raised in the South. I'm in my mid-30's, and when I was a kid, our area was very economically depressed (much like how a lot of the upper Midwest is now) and there were not many job prospects. Auto manufacturing has played a major part in the South's Renaissance.
As of now, the Southeast has one of the highest standards of living in the country. Most of those factory jobs there pay well above the regional average. Given that you can buy a decent house and sometimes on a large chunk of land for under 100k, means that those wages go a LOT further than they would in say - the Northeast or the West. There is a reason why more people are moving to the South than anywhere else: Better weather, better economy, better overall standard of living. I lived in the Northeast for a few years. No thanks. The weather was awful! But the bottom line is that the Southeast made some wise decisions in regards to attracting new business to that region, and the result has been an overall improvement in the economy as a whole.
I too agree that there are nicer vehicles than an old Tacoma. Mine is about as basic as they come. It's also very plain-Jane. I make a very good income and could afford a brand-new top of the line Bimmer if I wanted to. But I keep the old truck because to me saving for retirement is more important. This truck has saved me 10's of thousands of dollars, if not more, simply because it runs without issue year after year. I don't see anything wrong with that.
I also totally put 1996 and 2013 into perspective. Again - the current reports shows the same as it's been for years: Toyota's brands are still at the top of the long term quality lists. That doesn't mean the other brands aren't also reliable or as nice, or even maybe nicer. But it means that as far as having problems, Toyota's brands have less. That DOES NOT mean that ALL Toyotas are fault-free or that they (like everyone else) aren't prone to recalls or issues. It simply means that the brand has LESS issues than the other brands taken as a whole. Big deal. If others want to buy other brands, then that is their freedom.
The only quip I've had during this whole debate, has been from people who claim Toyota makes junk, when the reports show the direct opposite. I'll repeat: If you don't like Toyotas, then luckily you have the ability to buy whatever other brand or model you choose. That's why we have a free market economy: It's about choice.
Reliability and build quality claims are extremely deceiving. Ford and GM rank far higher than any Japanese car in MECHANICAL reliability, but so much of Ford's issues have been with their hard to operate electronic gadgetry. Basing a true assessment of drive-train reliability on overall quality surveys is very deceptive.
The long term reliability survey you refer to that does list Lexus first overall, is the 2013 J.D. Power dependability study, I assume. This study does not rate cars over 3 years old, it's for original owners of 2010 models.
I suggest you have a look at the truck category of this same study. Ranked NO. 1 most dependable large truck; 2010 GMC Sierra HD. Midsize truck; 2010 Ford Ranger. Tundra and Tacoma? Nowhere to be seen.
So the heavily populated North shuttered plants have lost, and that indicates growth? Plus the concessions given away to woo industry to the lower cost south. A lot of industry is going even further south to Mexico. Time will tell. The middle class is becoming lower today.
The reliability reports were for overall vehicle reliability and the results were from the reported problems per vehicle. So that to me makes this a fairly open and shut case. Now - like I said before, that does not mean that the Big three can't also make a decent product. I'll even go as far as to say that I have been more impressed with the amount of improvement the Big three have made - particularly GM and Ford than from the more recent offerings from Toyota or Honda, who in my opinion have become a bit complacent with their products in terms of the somewhat bland appearance of some of their best-sellers.
I recall being in high school and in driver's ed, the cars we had were twin 1990 Chevy Corsicas. The quality was awful! It felt like I could likely snap the shifter off in my hand. The interior was just horrid all around and the car handled like a whale. That's a far cry from the Chevy Cruze I rented a few months ago. I'd have no problem buying a car like that. It was tight, well-made, and it got good fuel economy.
But as the current situation sits, Toyota is still the most reliable automaker. That may change at some point. But I will stand behind the brand when it comes to overall reliability.
As far as the decline of manufacturing in the North and Midwest, well that was caused by a number of complicated issues that put together made manufacturing less desirable in that area. The South had more or less a clean slate and lots of cheap land, low taxes, and of course as mentioned - incentives to give. It's not like any other state couldn't or doesn't do the exact same thing. The South was simply smarter about it. I think the Midwest is going to have to make some drastic changes in how they work with business if they are to change their situation. Perhaps now that places like Detroit are now so dirt-cheap, maybe it is again ripe for setting up new business.
The bottom line is that the plentiful and robust environment that existed in the US from the 50's-60's, where the rest of the world was in ruins from WW2 and thus were not competitors, disappeared a long time ago, and where at one time the US had zero foreign competition and places like the Midwest likewise had no competition from other lower cost regions, is no longer the case. We are now in a truly global economy, where every brand from around the world has to compete with one another.
This in turn leads to better pricing, more innovation, higher quality, and more choices. That is the reality of the economic situation, and in order to make success out of that, it's out of the question to have any sort of protective economy which prohibits foreign competition. We now sell more American brand cars in China than we do in the US, and if we were to take a closed-port policy, that would likely in turn be financially damaging to any US company that does business overseas - which is MOST of them at this point,
Ironically at this point, the US now exports more American-made Japanese cars than we actually import. We have become so efficient at making cars of all types that we now make and export cars from pretty much every single foreign-based automaker.