2009 Corolla: Product Degradation in Action

trashonomicsNot living in one of the two or three U.S. cities where car ownership is plausibly optional, I have a 1998 Toyota Corolla. For American road conditions, where you have to confront a sea of huge trucks and SUVs and travel a high percentage of miles on curvy, undivided high-speed suburban and rural roadways, I consider this to be the most rational auto. It has 120 horse-power and an EPA miles-per-gallon rating of 32 city and 41 highway. The only time it is ever even arguably under-powered is on the steepest final approaches to mountain-pass ski areas. Even then it’s fine, really.

I say all this to give you a base for judging corporate capitalists’ familiar claim that they use big business marketing to understand buyers’ needs and improve products. This lie is exposed yet again by Toyota’s forthcoming release of the 2009 Corolla.

The 2009 Corolla will be a substantially INFERIOR product to my 1998 version. As we listen to Al Gore accept the Nobel Peace Prize for his tepid movie about climate change, all signs suggest that we live directly atop the peak of the long-predicted Peak Oil curve. By the time the 2009 Corolla get released, gas may very well be selling for $4.00 a gallon in the United States. By the time the warranty on the 2009 Corolla expires, it may be $10.00.

So, with full knowledge of this impending reality, what has the seller of the Prius done to the engine of the 2009 Corolla? The standard horse-power will now be 132, and the miles-per-gallon will DROP BY ALMOST A QUARTER to 27 city and 35 highway!

This shocking degradation of the product and egregious dismissal of the most important need of prospective buyers is the opposite of an accident. It is marketing-era corporate capitalism in normal action.

Since small cars mean small profits, even the green-flag waving Toyota Corporation hates and resents them. Like all other car-makers, it uses it marketing operations to discover new ways to sell its customers “more car.” This is partly done by exploiting people’s irrational admiration of superfluous horse-power and acceleration. Ergo, the worsening of the Corolla’s fuel-efficiency.

It is also done by the newly “e-accelerated” gambit of promoting of ever-expanding lists of junk “equipment” on the interiors of the ever-more insane gas guzzlers that remain the compulsory core mode of mobility in this, the land of the “free market.”

Standard features

The all-new Corolla will come with a long list of standard performance and convenience features. All models will be equipped with a heavy duty rear window defogger, AM/FM/CD audio with four speakers that is also XM satellite capable, auxiliary audio input jack, air conditioning with air filter, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and 60/40 split folding rear seats.

The sporty S grade will feature standard P205/55R16 tires with full wheel covers, color-keyed front and rear underbody spoilers, fog lamps, front sport seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, black headlamp housing, chrome exhaust tip and AM/FM/CD XM capable audio with six speakers.

In addition to S grade features, the XRS grade adds a rear deck spoiler, P215/45 R17 tires with alloy wheels, sport strut tower brace, VSC with TRAC and an off switch, XRS scuff plate, leather-trimmed shift lever and knob, cruise control and an interior chrome accent.

Options Optional comfort and utility features include AM/FM/six-disc CD changer with MP3/WMA playback capability, satellite radio (subscription required) and six speakers, a power package that includes power windows and door locks. Additional options on select grades include JBL Audio system with AM/FM six-disc CD changer with eight speakers and Bluetooth, Navigation system with AM/FM CD with MP3/WMA playback capability and XM satellite radio with XM NavTraffic capable with six speakers, leather-trimmed seats and shift knob, tilt and slide moonroof, VSC with TRAC and cut-off switch.

If we let it run its course, such is the detritus with which this decrepit system will carry humanity over the precipice.

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Ingyu Oh
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Ingyu Oh

Toyota’s founder, Toyota Kiichiro, published Toyota Rules. They are, 1. Lower ranks must obey higher ranks and carry out work in order to create a successful business for our nation. 2. All must put their efforts in R & D and make Toyota ahead of the contemporary trend. 3. All must worship practicality and strength more than superficial beauty or appearance. 4. Warm heart and fraternity should guide our behavior to make Toyota a family-like organization. 5. By worshiping God and Buddha, Toyota employees will lead a life based on appreciative mind and in fact will repay what Toyota has… Read more »

Chuck Lesker
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Chuck Lesker

Apparently “shocking degradation” refers to the lower EPA estimates. These estimates are lower only because EPA revised how they do their ratings. In apples-to-apples terms the old and new cars are the same.

Chuck Lesker
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Chuck Lesker

The revised (new) epa rating for the 1998 Corolla is 25/34. See, e.g. http://www.topqualitymotors.com/Info/Corolla.htm or EPA’s own web site http://www.fueleconomy.gov . The 2009 Corolla is rated at 27/35. Apples-to-apples the new Corolla has marginally better mileagem even though it has higher horsepower. (No reason hp should have a monotonic relationship to mileage given advances in technology over the ten years.) The new EPA ratings were introduced precisely because no one ever achieved the old ratings in real-life driving. If you say you did, great; but then you’ll presumably get even better mileage with the new model. It’s always better to… Read more »

Chuck Lesker
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Chuck Lesker

By the way the new technology (not in the 1998 model) is V V T-i (Variable Valve timing with intelligence).

Chuck Lesker
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Chuck Lesker

And what’s amazing is that, corrected for inflation ($1 in 1997 worth $1.35 in 2008), the 2009 Corolla is cheaper than the 1998 model. Now surely that’s worth getting angry about.

Chuck Lesker
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Chuck Lesker

My point is that all arguments must be reality-based, not faith-based. “Even if I got the facts wrong, my conclusion remains the same.”…Not much difference between ideologues on the right and those on the left. Shame.

Michael Dawson
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OK, Chuck, let’s presume you have corrected me and that, if I were to purchase a 2009 Corolla, it would get the same mileage my 1998 Corolla gets. I have my doubts, but that could be right. So permit me to refine my point: Toyota has spent 11 model year doing nothing to improve the fuel efficiency of the Corolla, which remains one of the best, most rational cars you can buy in the USA. Instead of raising the MPG, Toyota has once again made the Corolla larger and given it more horse power, despite the fact that the prior… Read more »

Chuck Lesker
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Chuck Lesker

Your last post is merely a verbose repeat of your previous post. My response remains the same.

By the way Toyota DOES make more fuel-efficient cars. They’re just not called Corollas, but this doesn’t matter. You are still allowed to buy them.

Since no one else reads this blog, continued discussion is pointless.

Cargo Cult
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Cargo Cult

Dear Chuck, You talk about “facts”, but facts are merely weapons of the capitalist running-dogs. I can’t judge the validity of your facts until you first tell us what you believe and whose side you are on. Maybe in your world the two Corollas get the same mileage, but in my world they do not. That’s because I already know that Toyota is an evil empire, as are all corporations. Fooling us and trying to dissuade us from the True Path by intentionally and cynically making a car that had better horsepower but the same mpg is just the kind… Read more »

Isaias Risk
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Isaias Risk

but whipe why dont you just get a Yaris if you want more MPG and stop bitching leave the corolla as it is.

Sajid
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Sajid

I concur with the writer; between my 2008 Corolla vs 1999 Corolla; i averaged 16km/litre (’99) highway/city combined. 2008 Corolla gives 14.6km/litre hwy/city combined.
99 – 120hp engine vs 2008 – 132hp vvti engine.