When I applied through the Clever Girls Collective, I thought a couple of things. The first one being, slim chance I’ll get accepted for this one. Big brand, great opportunity, and a 90 day program.
But I thought… I’d be perfect for this. I seriously love cars (not spouting statistics or talking about horsepower or torque or even the viscosity of oil – I leave that to my husband). I love looking at them, driving them, talking about them. I once sat at the mall waiting for someone or other and proudly identified every car in the long parking lot based on their grill.
When I met and married my husband, we found we were the perfect match. He cared about mechanics and I cared about aesthetics. But since he knew the mechanics, he had a few rules he imposed: Only German cars (think Mercedes and Volkswagen) or American cars (preferably Ford). And he also insisted that we bought brand new cars. He didn’t mind the whole depreciation thing because his odds were better knowing that he was impeccably taking care of the car himself from day one.
Six months after we got married, I picked out my brand new Ford Escape. I was in love.
A few years later, we went to the local car show, an annual outing for us. And I fell in love with a Nissan Murano. My husband did his research and started to allow some of the innovative Japanese automakers into his roster of acceptable manufacturers. A few months later, we got the Murano exactly to my specifications.
When the mileage starting getting high, I said sadly goodbye to my Murano and picked out a brand new Ford Flex. After two years and high car payments and not the most efficient gas, we traded it in.
And this is when my TWIN story becomes a love story.
My relationship with Toyota really started at the end of February when I traveled to Torrance, California – the North American headquarters for Toyota. I had recently been to the car show and had been collecting the literature and reading the stats. Despite it’s Japanese origins, it’s a very American company in that it employs thousands of people from manufacturing all the way up to corporate.
You hear about brand trips for bloggers. Typically, it’s a lot of fluff and enough perks to make you quietly seethe with jealously while watching it all on Instagram. With our trip to Torrance, TWIN camp as we called it, we really were schooled. We talked to their people. Their people talked to us… with PowerPoints! We test drove most available models. We learned about kaizen.
“Kaizen” is a Japanese philosophy that Toyota embraces. It means “change for the better” or the process of continuous improvement. I saw some of these changes and heard about those to come under the helm of Akio Toyoda, CEO, whose ideas take several product lifecycles before coming to fruition.
We also talking a lot about Toyota’s involvement in the community. Their commitment to supporting the principles that, as a corporation, they believe in. And they talked a good game but it was throughout the year that I saw them time and again quietly put their money where their mouth is.
I attended the Women in the World Summit as a guest of Toyota in March. I interview their Mothers of Invention grant recipients and watched the tears in their eyes as Toyota graciously gave them each $50,000 to pursue their dreams.
It was the small things too. Toyota recycles its billboards into handy little (and cute) tote bags. They sponsor and host eco-driven, eco-friendly events.
Toyota helped me get back to my natural roots by hosting a “Glamping” event in Santa Barbara, California last month with my fellow TWINs. They graciously provided us the vehicles of our choosing while we had a mini-road rally up the PCH. We experienced the beauty of Southern California with kayaking, biking, hiking, and, yes, driving. We even did some good deeds for the community on our way.
This was the brand trip to be envious of. And yet, at the same time, we were immersed in the Toyota driving experience. One of my favorite parts was the owner of the adventure company that took us kayaking proudly showing us his Toyota Previa. It was an epic part of his company having been rolled, repaired, crushed, repaired, and still carries kayaks on top. Completely unplanned and coincidental but a testament to the customer loyalty Toyota drivers fiercely feel.
They’re also embedded in American culture through more traditional ways like the Toyota Racing team. Some of my fellow TWINs recently attended a NASCAR immersion experience that they describe as “life-changing.” Had I known a bunch of cars driving around a track could be life-changing, I would have thrown my name in the hat for that trip.
Sadly, that was the last TWIN experience as the program comes to a close. I have been thrilled to get to know so many other women who have fallen in love with Toyota as much as I have. More importantly, I’m glad to have had the chance to really embrace what Toyota is about. So much so that they actually earned my business as a consumer.
In May, after much thought, we traded in my Ford Flex for a Toyota Camry Hybrid. I’m in love with driving again.
What does my husband think? I think he’s embraced a little kaizen himself. But I still won’t let him drive it.
Thank you, Toyota, for allowing me to be a part of this program!
If you missed any of my posts as part of the program, feel free to go back and read them again and again and again.
Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of the Toyota.