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It's ironic when you think about it. The vehicle manufacturer known for setting the standard for safety in the automobile industry (i.e. Toyota Safety SenseT and Toyota Star Safety SystemT) is also well known for throwing caution to the wind when it comes to image. Toyota is not afraid to put itself out there. Perhaps that's why the mainstream public has embraced the brand for so many decades, proven by the fact that it lays claim to the best selling car on the planet.
While we continue to be humbled by the fact that North America has chosen us as their on-road companion, you'll have to excuse a little swagger as we put this out there - Toyota, is awesome. What has sparked this brief moment of boastfulness?
Well, the summer of 2017 is heating up with news about Toyota. We're not talking about Consumer Reports' accolades or other reviews about new vehicles, EPA-estimates, and 60/40 split fold down seats. No, we're talking outside of the box, with news items that span beyond the norm. Curious? Let's dive in.
Four Recent Examples of How Toyota Has Changed the Game for What Automobile Manufacturers Can Do
The Rock 'N' Roll Hot Rod Daredevil
The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) is the largest auto racing organization in the world and when it comes to daredevil antics on the track, the NHRA is it. The drivers behind it all are downright maniacs, performing unlike any other. And one look at today's feature driver and you'll join the masses who ask, "Danica who?" The only true female lead in auto racing today is Alexis DeJoria, but even the boys can't keep up with one of the few people (and only woman) to compete in 100 Funny Car events as well as record a sub-four second run. Next to talent, her Iron Maiden soundtrack, and what seems to be a lack of regard for sanity, Alexis' unmatched success can be attributed in part to her chariot - a souped up 10,000-horsepower Toyota Camry hot rod funny car.
Here in the summer of 2017, Alexis tore up the track at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals (completed July 23) and is making headlines across the continent. Follow her through the NHRA schedule at the up and coming Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals, NHRA Northwest Nationals, Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, and the Performance U.S. Nationals.
But before you think you can't relate to this daredevil in a jumpsuit, take note. As a mother of a beautiful daughter and proud pet owner (eight dogs and a monkey), Alexis depends upon a trusted Toyota Sequoia as her day to day vehicle.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Domination
While the NHRA is the largest auto racing organization in the world, mainstream America associates the sport with NASCAR. Toyota is dominating that current conversation too. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the championship and as of July 2017 Toyota drivers are found in three of the top 5 spots. These drivers include Martin Truex Jr (#1 with 3 wins and seven top 5 finishes), Kyle Busch (#4 with seven top 5 finishes), and Denny Hamlin (#5 with 1 win and seven top 5 finishes).
Behind the wheel of the new 2018 NASCAR Camry, Toyota took three of the four top spots this past July 16 at the NASCAR Overton's 301 and is expected to carry the momentum through the rest of the schedule as the season solidifies a near certain 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
Trains Drivers for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Sort Of
Toyota announced official partner sponsorship for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and this past spring announced a National Governing Body partnership with Speed Skating (U.S. team) among other events. And now, given the crossover appeal between auto racing and high octane winter sports, Toyota has thrust its NASCAR drivers into the spotlight to put them through the paces of the Olympic sports, including participation on a ski simulator in addition to various balance and power workouts. The brand has made it clear that it intends on expanding its presence in future Olympic games and their racing team is more than happy to get a glimpse at what the athletes go through in their training regimes. Does this mean we may one day see auto racing in the Summer Olympics? That may very well become a reality.
Helps Keeps Extreme Athlete Survivor in the Game
Earlier this month AutoWeek ran a feature on Riley Poor, an extreme sports (free-skier) athlete and filmmaker who suffered a terrible accident that left him a quadriplegic.
The story details how Riley had been in the middle of a free-skiing documentary when the accident (unrelated) occurred. But rather than let his debilitating injury stop his life completely, he went on to complete the final cut within the same year. Even though he himself is no longer able to star in such future films, Riley's connection to the sport and talents in the production room would allow him to stay in the game. But in order to do so, a strong support system was needed.
Next to family, that support came from Nike, which delivered Riley a well-earned executive producer job, and Toyota. Knowing how important mobility is to someone living as a quadriplegic, an accessible vehicle would lay the foundation for living life to the fullest. Toyota outfitted Riley with a wheelchair-accessible Toyota Sienna, complete with a low floor, push-button motorized ramp, and custom seat arrangement that allows Riley to transfer himself to the driver's seat, or to drive from his wheelchair.
The Sienna is one of the few mass market vehicles that is able to accommodate those in a wheelchair. More importantly, you don't have to have a backstory such as Riley to afford a truly accessible minivan. This is because Toyota offers a partial reimbursement to any buyer who purchases a new wheelchair accessible Sienna. Given their recent foray into the development of wearable robotic leg braces to help partially paralyzed people walk, it seems that Toyota has big plans to help make the world a better place, on and off the road.
Stay tuned as we continue to monitor more awesome developments from the world's favorite automobile manufacturer.