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Have Truck Quality Expectations Changed Unfairly?


This post first appeared on Tundraheadquarters.com.

One of the interesting evolutions in the past decade is how our expectations of truck quality have changed. It used to be if you got 100k miles out of a truck, you were doing good. Now days, things have escalated to the point where every item is a mark on the entire truck’s quality. Is this fair or unfair?

Have Truck Quality Expectations Changed Unfairly?

Every owner’s truck experience varies, but this owner’s response is a bit overboard in my opinion.

I don’t know the back story on the picture above and I’m not really that interested to know. Why? My thinking is if someone is willing to do that to their truck, they obviously are acting irrationally and it is hard to take anything they say for certain. Essentially, this destroys their credibility for me.

However, this isn’t to say they don’t have a valid issue. For me, it is how you define “valid.”

For me, I think of major powertrain issues as reasons for something to be a lemon. That is an expensive repair and is what I would consider major. Other issues liking door latches not working, replacing engine parts or interior trim/seat issues, just aren’t that high for me. Everybody is different, but all of those items can be fixed or replaced at low cost.

Now, I do agree we all see things differently. For example, when Toyota was developing the 2014 model, I remember their team relaying the story about a focus group of non-Toyota owners they had assembled. One lady stood out by saying she loved her pickup and how reliable it was.

“I’m only on my third transmission,” she said as Toyota’s PR told me. “Its been a really great truck!”

Toyota engineers were floored by her response. Yet, again, people perceive things differently.

What about customers like NO QDR Tundra?

I think NO QDR Tundra is another example of people’s different expectations. He has been a long-time supporter of THQ and a major commenter. Unfortunately, he owns a truck that he doesn’t feel has great QDR (Quality, Reliability, Durability). Yet, when I look over his issues, I have a different opinion. Let’s look over them here and people can weigh in.

The list:

Now, let’s remove all the TSB items since TSB repairs are common on any vehicle these days and really no manufacture has complete control over that. They try to, but when you have hundreds of parts and dozens of suppliers, things are just going to happen. It would be like calling out Honda’s quality due to Takata air bags. We just don’t do that.

Then, let’s remove the items that aren’t related to Toyota – the bug shield. This is an aftermarket addition.

Finally, let’s remove all the items covered under warranty since these were no cost to the owner. Sure, the owner had to take the truck to a dealer, but every truck out there has an issue here and there including the Million Mile Tundra.

Let’s look at the paired down list:

The rest of the items were either covered under warranty or of minimal expense. For example, the rear axle seal was $12.50.

Now, the paint issue was a warranty issue that the owner declined to have the dealer fix.

The Heater Box Evaporator is a true issue. I’ll give the owner that. It cost $1062.59 to replace.

However, I know he has an extended warranty through his discussions with Toyota and I’m not sure why that part isn’t covered.

I spoke with Sweers about the No QDR site at a dinner a while back. He response was one of surprise and after going through the list, he verbally commented with either TSB or not Toyota. I tend to agree with Sweers. Looking over the list I don’t see many issues that aren’t either a TSB or a non-Toyota problem. Also, the other items should have been warranty items.

Now, to be fair, NoQDR has valid points on the amount of times he has been in for service – 12 in 3 1/2 years. No argument there.

Recall Explosion to Blame?

GM Wins Ignition-Switch Lawsuit Shield, Hides Behind Old GM

Remember when this was a big issue?

Something I openly wonder these days is whether all the recalls are to blame for changing expectations. Remember last year when GM was recalled trucks for all sorts of issues. Like a bolt wasn’t tightened a quarter turn and they would issue a recall!

This, in my opinion, was a great way to cover up the fact they were dealing with the massive ignition switch issue. But, did it also create a world where we hold vehicles up to a higher standard? Do we know expect vehicles to be without any issues ever coming off the assembly line?

I grew up in Michigan and I vividly remember hearing my friends say product X has a Y problem that will go out at Z miles and you will have to fix it. Like we knew exactly when the odometer hit a certain mileage that a part would fail. Seems a bit absurd now to think that way, but we did.

At the end of the day, these trucks are filled with thousands of parts, safety equipment and technology. The fact they turn over everyday should be a miracle with all the moving parts.

Is Toyota’s Quality Going Downhill?

Yes, I realize this is opening a can of worms, yet let’s look at the facts. Toyota consistently wins quality awards and is still (for the most part) well thought of for quality. In fact, looking at Toyota Tundra owners list of complaints on CarComplaints.com, we can see out of the three “worst problems,” two of them are covered under TSBs. The other, premature transmission failure, has been reported by 2 people and this issue is covered under warranty. Over the past 3 model years, the Toyota Tundra has 22 reported complaints. Is that a lot?

Have Truck Quality Expectations Changed Unfairly?

Let’s compare:

  • Ford F-150 – 211 complaints
  • Chevy Silverado 1500 – 120 complaints
  • GMC Sierra 1500 – 194 complaints
  • Ram 1500 – 226 complaints
  • Nissan Titan – 3 complaints

Again, the Toyota Tundra had 22 complaints during the same time period.

Truck Prices to Blame?

The final point to be made is about truck prices. Is there escalation causing us to hold trucks to a higher standard? Is that fair or unfair? Seems like if trucks were cheaper, maybe we would let more things go? Consider NO QDR who states in his opening paragraph the truck’s price and how he feels he hasn’t gotten his money worth. Are the high prices causing this unintended by-product?

Your turn to sound off. What do you think? Are we fair or unfair when we look at quality? Is the price really to blame?

Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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  1. NoQDRTundra September 19, 2016

    My expectation for the Tundra’s QDR, was at a minimum, to be as good as the light trucks I’ve purchased in the past (3 GMs and one Dodge 2500 with the 5.9 Cummins). All three trucks I bought used with a minimum of 65K miles on the odometer. Now, lets toss in another couple of facts that the Tundra has won awards for QDR and Toyota boasts about it by claiming that it’s in EVERY Toyota. So I ask why is it even fair to think that my quality expectations should be less when I bought new?

  2. Edward Sanchez September 21, 2016

    Two things…part of it is the definition of “quality” which for JD Power and some other studies includes ease of use and user satisfaction with electronics and multimedia systems, which is more a matter of design than an actual flaw or defect. Secondly, newer trucks are much more technically complex, which increases the potential for problems. In terms of mechanical reliability, most newer trucks should be pretty solid.

  3. Jay Higgins January 29, 2018

    Statistically, you cannot compare Tundra complaint raw numbers to the other manufacturers. We all know that Ford, GM and Ram sell a lot more 1/2 ton trucks than Toyota. If you could compare raw data and not complaints/unit sold. then Nissan would have the highest quality 1/2 ton in America.

    1. Tim Esterdahl January 29, 2018

      True. Statistically it is hard to measure those items with varying sample sizes. Just using the information as a reference to make my point about expectations.


    2. Brick January 30, 2018

      Exactly. Ford and GM sell roughly 5 times as many fullsize trucks, each. Multiply the Tundra’s 22 complaints by 5 and you end up with a probelm rate much closer to its competitor’s. Not terrible, but it certainly makes you question their reputation for superior reliability.

      1. NoQDRTundra February 6, 2018

        My personal experience with two Toyota products now are quite different. A ’12 Highlander replaced the ’11 Tundra. Both have a sticker price of about $37K. The Highlander is far superior in terms of QDR and fit and finish than my former ’11 Tundra. The Highlander has one button up/down, a lite key ignition, an overhead light for the center console, more durable and scratch resistant interior, much better weather stripping around the doors, no rust, no oil leaks, an aluminum filter cartridge housing (Tundra a polymer material), and much much better paint quality.
        In summary, the Toyota’s QDR does not translate to the Tundra, not even close.


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