Early last year we picked up our brand new shiny white Toyota Fortuner from the dealership in Accra. Buying a car new and from the dealer is at once a luxury as well as a necessity if you want a reliable car in Ghana. There are a lot of what is called ‘home used’ cars on the market- that have been used abroad and sent to Ghana in various stages of disrepair, with no guarantees of any sort.
So it was great to pull off the lot in the new smelling 4x4, once we’d convinced them to remove the plastic wrappers from all the seats (apparently in Ghana many new car buyers like to keep it on as a status thing…) ANYWAY – it was certainly a step down from the shiny new model Land Cruisers bought in bulk by the NGOs in town, but it was a Toyota – a brand I’ve always trusted.
My very first car as an independent woman was a modest little gold painted, Toyota Corolla. It was used and unassuming, but it represented an important phase in my life – my first days as a newly single mother and business owner, and that little car was so reliable! I washed it every weekend myself in the summer and treated it to car washes in the winter. It carried my most important human cargo every day – my little boy – and it served me without a hitch for years. Since then I’ve always had the naïve appreciation and trust in Toyota as a company. Made in Japan meant quality, reliability, longevity…
But something has changed with Toyota. Something dangerous and far reaching. It threatens to damage a solid reputation.
Back in Ghana, on the road, the first hour out of the dealership we were on the pseudo-highway, headed down the coast. As soon as we hit 95km, the car made a strange noise. JW, unlike me, is quite in tune with cars. He knew immediately something was wrong. This problem persisted and a vibration happened any time we went above this speed.
It had to be sent back for wheel realignment. It never got better.
Then one day, on a Sunday drive to the beach, a car in front of us lost it’s bumper at full speed – it just fell/flew off and it was up to JW to react fast, which he did. But our Fortuner had it’s own ideas. As soon as he swerved, the car felt unsteady, unbalanced and as if it would tip right over. It was quite scary.
Another Sunday soon after, a goat wandered into the road, as they are apt to do – in fact on the roads of Ghana, one must be ready for random animals, children and stray car parts to float into your path without warning, oblivious to your presence or speed. JW swerved again and the car wobbled precariously, seeming for that split second that it would overturn, before righting itself. It was frightening.
We did some research and found out these models are assembled in South Africa. They have been banned in many Western countries for being too top heavy, too dangerous.
SO – it seems Toyota have been trying to send the junk models into Africa.
We gave the car into the work pool and bought a Mitsubishi…
With all the recent recalls of Toyota cars in the west, I now believe they have cut corners in all their markets. The president of the company, (Mr. Toyota!) actually made a public statement last week that the company had grown too fast and priorities had become confused.
Once a company with a long held reputation for quality starts endangering people’s lives around the world to save a few pennies and sell bulk vehicles, it’s time to lose the loyalty. Time to turn somewhere else. I think our next car will be a German one…