Toyota and McDonalds

Posted on December 6th, 2007 in Driving Emotion,Hybrid Power by Julian Edgar

The car industry can be thought of as having parallels with the fast food industry. For example, Toyota is rather like McDonalds.

McDonalds is a company I’ve always found enormously impressive. For so long associated with the consumption of unhealthy food (every media story of obesity accompanied with a pic of a McDonalds burger) and gratuitous consumption (talk of “McMansions”), the company has in recent years undergone a wonderful metamorphosis.

You can now buy food as healthy as salads and apples; breakfast can be high-fibre cereal; and all is provided at the cost and quality (one low, one high) for which the company is famous. But, if you so desire, you can stick with the high fat fries and burgers – cos they’re all still available too.

Commentators have suggested that the McDonalds reinvention is all a façade, that the vast majority of people still eat the unhealthy food but they feel better at attending a McDonalds restaurant because there’s also healthy food available. The same commentators say that while some food looks – and is – healthy, by the time you add the available condiments, the scales tip the other way.

Both points are probably to a degree right, but in my view the company still needs to be congratulated for making a huge cultural shift in the foods it makes available to the public.

In short, it sniffed the breeze of social change and took decisive action.

And Toyota is much the same. Over a decade ago it looked at long-term cultural change and realised that it needed to produce some very different products. The hybrid petrol/electric Prius was the first result.

But, like McDonalds, Toyota didn’t disenfranchise its existing customer base: salty high fat Landcruisers continued (and continue) to be produced. The parallels persist: some commentators suggest that the Prius is really for people who only want to appear to be green; that the environmental reality is actually quite different. And that the hybrid Lexus 600hL is really a huge, fat and greasy burger – but with a low kilojoule dressing and sold in a green box.

Like other fast food franchises that originally laughed at McDonalds healthy food move (but now do imitation garden salads and low-fat health burgers), car companies that were once happy to state that hybrids were a dead-end fad are now developing or selling hybrid cars.

But at this stage, those ‘me too’ products lack the cut-through decisiveness of the originals.

Both McDonalds and Toyota have been bold and brave. They’ve copped criticism – some with an element of truth – but by their foresight, they’ve changed the product paradigm. Rather than being driven by their current customer demands, they’ve looked at their goods in a far wider social sense, innovating rather than defending the status quo.

You can see why, in a world context, both companies and so successful…

12 Responses to 'Toyota and McDonalds'

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  1. OttoAu said,

    on December 6th, 2007 at 10:20 am

    A Lexus on green LPG would be a good image maker

    Esp. if the use the new rectangle wonder tank designed and manufacturered in Oz!!



  2. Richard said,

    on December 6th, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    I am not sure how LPG is “green” as a car using it spews out a similar amount of CO2 as a similar model running on Petrol.

  3. Russ said,

    on December 6th, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    An engine that relies on internal combustion can never be green. The only way to remove combustion based emissions is to remove the combustion process.

  4. Brendon said,

    on December 8th, 2007 at 9:48 am

    An LPG car emits at least 15% less CO2 than an equivalent petrol car. Carbon Monoxide is down by at least 50%. Emissions of ‘Air Toxics’ and SO2 are or close to zero. (source:

    Whilst emissions from an LPG car are quite a bit less than an equivalent petrol car, I completely agree that a non combustion process is what is badly needed.

    If it were not for vested interests, its very likely that we would that sort of thing in use widely already.

  5. James said,

    on December 8th, 2007 at 10:06 am

    What the hell are you talking about????

    Toyota has changed heaps. Have you happened to notice Toyota no longer makes performance cars. Toyotas quality is slipping and Toyota is WAY behind the competition eg. compare a Corolla to a Mazda 3

    I think Toyota is more like KFC. They haven’t created anything new in the past decade they have just found different ways to dress up the old crappy chicken. They lure you in with blanket advertisements telling you how good their chicken but once you have bought it and taken it home you regret it.

    Toyota is absolute rubbish and you are insulting McDonalds by making comparisons. McDonalds have responded to consumer concerns even though the “Deli Choices” is very ineffiecient and barely turns a profit.

    Toyota have gone cheap and nasty. They are living on their reputation in the late 80’s and early 90’s of quality and technology so they can flog off their outdated products. They went from being ahead of the game in the late 80’s to barely competing with Mazda.

    Get our hand off it and start a real blog. Perhaps about the recent quality problems with the TRD Aurion and RAV4? Or the massive corporate cover ups in Japan over quality problems?

    I don’t expect much considering Toyota sponsors this site but considering Mazda is set to take the title of number one retail sales I think the consumer has more of a clue than this site.

  6. Russ said,

    on December 8th, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Perhaps this may balance opinion.

    In 1990 the Californian Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted legislation to gradually introduce Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) by 2003. Honda and Toyota responded with battery electric hybrids in the late 1990’s, but no manufacturer could produce a
    vehicle to meet the ‘zero’ emission requirements.

    Followed by legal action from US car manufacturers and the US govt, in 2003 Californian Air Resources Board changed their requirements from ZEV to fuel cell/ electric vehicles The Insight and the Prius now complied with the regulations.

    Interestingly, there does not appear to have been much further ZEV development since. I think if CARB had not given it a go in 1990, we may not ever have seen a commercially viable low emission vehicle.

    More info at

  7. Rick M. said,

    on December 15th, 2007 at 6:58 am

    If Toyota is like McDonalds then is Tesla like Subway?

  8. Julian Edgar said,

    on December 15th, 2007 at 7:12 am

    Nope, Tesla is like a new Subway that hasn’t yet sold any food…

  9. Brent M. said,

    on December 15th, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Boom Tish!

    Nice call Julian – Tesla looks great in the You Tube videos but…

  10. Andrew Gallagher said,

    on December 16th, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    One thing that has impressed me is their lean manufacturing philosophy called the Toyota Production System. It’s a pretty good book, i now can see why GM and Ford are going down the drain…

  11. John Williams said,

    on December 19th, 2007 at 9:51 am

    In my opinion, Toyota has gone backwards.

    To start with, I’ll state that I am a Toyota fan. My first car was an ’85 Corolla sedan, and I loved it, and a year or so ago I owned a lovely little ’86 Twin Cam. It handled well, went like the clappers, had a nice mechanical gearshift motion and sounded absolutely sensational with a straight through Lukey exhaust system. It also seated five quite happily for country trips (although after driving it from Adelaide to Canberra I couldn’t hear out my right ear for a while … oops).

    I also owned a ’98 MR2 GT for six months or so. That was lot of fun, but on occasions quite ‘heart in the mouth’.

    I have driven current Corolla’s (including the Celica-engined Sportivo), and would take a nice old Twin Cam every single time, without a second thought.

    In the new ones, the gearshift is rubbery, they feel tinny, they’re not as responsive and they don’t sound anywhere near as good. They’re bigger, heavier and thirstier, and don’t offer all that much more room.

    And don’t get me started on my sister’s automatic 2003 Rav4 (which she has thankfully sold).

  12. Damian said,

    on January 23rd, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    The old 4a-ge engine family was one of the best but toyota manual boxes have never had great shift quality when compared to mazdas. But they are incredibly reliable and the looks are on the improve. (current corolla)
    The problem with Lexus ever using LPG is that all their engines are all alloy and won’t run reliably on gas. Personally i love toyota but think the prius is let down by its petrol engine which is coarse and instantly noticable from the electric one. A diesel golf is a better choice, any chance on a review of the turbo diesel Hyundai I30?