When a Spanish-language publication wanted to know when Toyota would start building special Camry Solara coupes for tall people, executives at Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. knew they had a problem.
It all came from the now-famous five-day Toyota.
The phones started ringing last month after news reports about the new ultra-flexible production system at Toyota's Cambridge, Ontario, plant.
Some newspapers reported that Toyota would start building a car five days after the retail customer orders it. Some reports likened Toyota to Dell Computer Corp., which revolutionized ordering custom personal computers and does build within five days after the individual order.
Guess what? That's not what Toyota's doing.
'We're good, but we're not that good,' said Toyota spokesman Mike Michels.
A new logistics system does allow Toyota to make color, trim and option changes to its weekly Solara production schedule as close as five business days before production. The new system was outlined by Ray Tanguay, vice president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc., to an industry conference in Traverse City, Mich., on Aug. 2. It was covered heavily by national newspapers, including USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.
But there's no five-day, order-to-build car.
In reality, Michels said, customers cannot even custom-order vehicles from a Toyota dealer as they can from Ford and GM dealers.
Dealers can request vehicles from Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A, but the company orders them. It is a legacy of Toyota's import days, when custom-ordering was impractical because of long shipping times.
In the new Solara system, the orders are submitted one month before build, down from two months. Up to five business days before that order is built, Toyota Motor Sales can tweak the order, down from eight to 13 days.
Even then, a Solara takes 48 hours to move through the plant and several weeks to ship to a dealer, Michels said.
'The only way to get the car to the customer in five days would be to air drop it.'