Toyota’s Next Big Problem: Boredom

Other than the Prius, which is now nearly 10 years old, I can’t remember the last Toyota model that got people really excited.

Owners talk instead about how their Toyotas are “trusty” and “dependable.” They are “easy on gas.” And they “never, ever give them any trouble.”

Toyotas have been “safe bets.” Purchasing one wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at the water cooler. But it wouldn’t inspire a high-five either.

“Oh, what a feeling” has become “oh, it’s a Toyota.”

And that’s the car maker’s next problem. People may be bored with the brand and its ubiquity.

Toyota’s current gas-pedal crisis creates a disruptive environment that will lift the “brand blinders” of current owners, giving them permission to shop around—and creating social pressure to do so.

When those shoppers hit the showrooms, cars from Ford and GM, Hyundai and Honda, VW and Kia, may look unexpectedly exotic and alluring.