Toyota is known for being a dependable brand. A Japanese carmaker now firmly entrenched on American soil, its as common to see a Toyota car being driven around as are Fords, Chevys or Chryslers (now FCA). Now while Toyota mostly makes good cars like the Prius, Tacoma, Tundra, and the Camry – it has produced a few duds over the year.
All the more surprising because for many, JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) could do no wrong. Even Japanese engineering can go wrong, and if the engineering was okay, the design certainly did – so here are the 10 Toyota cars that let their customers down, in a big way.
10 1993 Toyota Cavalier: Rebadged For Japan
Hang on. The Toyota Cavalier? Wasn’t there a Chevy Cavalier as well. You caught on, right? To let their cars come to America easily, Toyota joined hands with Chevrolet and let the Cavalier come to Japan. So the Toyota Cavalier was a rebadged, redesigned and repackaged Chevrolet Cavalier for Japan.
This was done in a bid to lift the limiting import of Japanese cars by the US government. While we don’t know if the ploy worked, the Toyota Cavalier was a spectacular dud. Somehow, to Japanese drivers, the Cavalier seemed shabby and not up to the mark despite it being right-hand designed for Japanese roads.
9 1980s Toyota Van: Ugly To The Boot
Okay, so this was a vehicle that confused just about everybody. It looked like a peculiarly ugly version of a Volkswagen Bus and was targeted at transporting a really large family because it was a nine-seater. And this was its USP for its design was not worth a mention except in its horridness.
While in American markets it was simply called the Toyota Van, it was also dubbed the LiteAce and the MasterAce Surf in another part of the world. It came to America in the 1980s and went back soon after – though many owners recalled this was one car you could never kill. But it was so ugly, and slow, you wanted to kill it!
8 2011 Lexus CT: A Bit Confused
At the end of the 80s, Toyota decided to hit the American market with as much luxury as possible. They wanted to eat into the European luxury market that seemed to have a stranglehold on the US car bazar with a slew of BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes-Benz. So in 1989, Toyota birthed the all-luxury marque, the Lexus. And clearly, it was a wise decision – Lexus has been a top seller in US markets since.
However, they fumbled a bit in 2011 with the Lexus CT that was a luxury version of the Prius but overpriced as heck. So people who wanted it couldn’t afford it and those who could afford it didn’t want it much.
7 1999 Toyota Echo/Yaris: Not Cool Enough
When Toyota launched the Yaris/Echo is 1999, just a year before the millennium was supposed to take everyone down with it, it wanted to tempt the younger generation. Sadly, the design wasn’t all the rad for the millennium because even if the world ended, the youngsters wanted something cool to be caught dead in.
And the Yaris/Echo wasn’t up to the cool quotient of the 90s, not that we ever understood that quotient ourselves. Toyota did go all out with redesigns and the inclusion of a car audio system but there were little takers. Plus the safety crash testing was pretty bad too, just not bad enough to be rad.
6 2009 Toyota Venza: Redesigned Itself To Death
The Venza looked like a love child between a van and a crossover SUV. Which should have meant that it filled a much-needed market gap. Somehow, it was classified as a sedan. It did have high safety ratings, a rear camera, and several other cool features. And it was doing fairly well.
Then in 2013, Toyota redesigned in to look like a sportier version of itself. It still sold okay. But by 2015, Toyota figured it was costing more to make the Venza and other similar nameplates were turning more of a profit. So it was goodbye for the Venza as Toyota culled production by the end of 2015.
5 1991 Toyota Crown Majesta: Too Much Of Luxury
While the 1989-born Lexus was entrenching itself in the luxury market, Toyota decided to launch as a uber-luxury vehicle of its own. The Toyota Crown was a vehicle used by high-ranking government and police officials in Japan, and it was introduced in America as the Toyota Corona.
In 1991, Toyota felt the Corona wasn’t majestic enough and gave it a luxury spin – now calling it the Toyota Crown Majesta. Dipped in luxury, it was more affordable and practical than the limousines of the day. In 2014 though, there was a massive recall on it (and other Toyota vehicles) because of brake and fuel issues. That was the beginning of the end of the Crown Majesta.
4 2007 RAV4: Plagued With Engine Issues
Imagine driving in the RAV4, a cool car from the even cooler stable of Toyota, and suddenly having the engine light come on. Sadly for 2007 RAV 4 model owners, this was a grim reality. For some reason, the 2007 RAV 4 missed out on the stringent engine checks Toyota usually does on its vehicles and was plagued with engine issues from day one.
Leaks were common as was engine overheating; and to top it all the steering would abruptly buck, tighten or loosen up as it wished. This was simply a bad car offloaded onto the American market. With plenty of consumer complaints flitting about, no one wanted to hear the name RAV 4 again till they changed the engine for the 2009 model.
3 1990 Toyota Sera: Toyota’s Lambo
The Sera was primarily made for Japan but the car looked attractive enough for some imports into the US market. This was Toyota’s version of a Lamborghini – a sporty car with a glass roof and butterfly doors. It did have wonderful visibility considering most of its front and sides were glass and there were virtually no blind spots because of thin A-pillars.
Despite those unique looks, many did not like its performance. It was considered to be a bit too flashy, lacked the Lambo’s prowess and ended being a poor copy of a sports car – so it was on its way out soon.
2 2007 Toyota Camry: Yet Another 2007 Fail
It looks like 2007 was a bad year for Toyota in terms of bad engines and consumer complaints. The 2007 version of the Camry which was still the most sold Toyota car of the year soon began to fail and cause its consumers many driving issues. It drank oil like a starved fish and then leaked the same oil all over the place.
There were problems with the brakes which led to many fender benders and heart-stopping moments, and to top it all the transmission tended to jam during inopportune moments. 2008 sales of the Camry were at an all-time low before updates were made under the hood to fix it all.
1 1991 Toyota Paseo: The Ambling Car
So the Paseo ran in the US from 1991 to 1997, though running is a bit of an overkill when it came to this car. Loosely based on the Tercel, which was on the Starlet platform; the Paseo looked just about as boring as it drove. It was supposed to be sporty and fun to drive but with 93 horsepower, all it did was amble. Slowly.
They somehow named it wrong as well for Paseo is Spanish for a walk or a stroll. So it strolled like an elderly gent and looked just about as bland. It did not handle sportily and so sales were pretty bland as well. A very mediocre car for the 90s, the Paseo was out in six years in the US, though it stayed on for two more years in Canada.