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JohnManzano 12-22-2003 06:21 PM

Toyota Sailboats??
Several years ago I discovered that a Toyota car rarely breaks. I have owned three Toyotas that are not very impressive, but are thoroughly reliable. Is there anything on the market in a 30+ foot boat that is that reliable? I know this question could get me laughed off the message board. If there is, is it affordable?
Just curious.

WHOOSH 12-22-2003 11:12 PM

Toyota Sailboats??
John, your question isn''t laughable at all. Instead, it helps illustrate why boats are in general so problematic.

The large Japanese manufacturers in general emphasize proactive, intensely detailed design of highly engineered solutions well in advance of production (in R&D, they are very strategic) while concurrently they view production as a highly engineered set of micro-processes, each being heavily refined, incrementally, relentlessly and unendingly. Anyone who''s done Kaizen work can appreciate the power of this process.

"Style" remains somewhat a foreign concept to them, which is why all the major Japanese car manufacturers continue to use design studios in Southern California & elsewhere in the U.S. to supplement their innate engineering bias. The typical large Japanese manufacturer doesn''t employ thousands of ''wunderkind engineers''; instead, it relies on a relentless, iterative improvement process which its engineers are willing by culture and the job market to accept.

Boat building by contrast seems to consist in America & Europe of two different types of manufacturers. Numerically, a majority of boat builders are small shops with an everchanging workforce that struggles to incorporate substantial change in manufacturing techniques (let alone the R&D expense of developing them) because the cost of doing so is hard to support over very small production runs. These builders are much like the 2nd tier manufacturers (''job shops'') in Japan who are, in reality, where the major manfacturers obtain some of their cost savings and most of their lower level assemblies: lower wages, less ideal safety regs, less impressive working conditions, etc. prevail at this level. And often among our smaller boat builders, changes in models over time accentuate design trends more and true technological change less, again out of financial necessity.

OTOH we have a few high-volume builders (Beneteau, Hunter, Catalina, Bavaria all pop to mind) which have embraced the manufacturing process itself as a competitive weapon to reduce product cost but without necessarily including technology improvements or quality concurrently, a very different mindset than what you find among the top tier Japanese manufacturers. Perhaps some here see the modern mass-produced sailboat as reflecting product improvement and/or improved technology and quality but I think that''s mistaking the abundant in-print marketing hype and manufacturing-related cost efficencies with true improvements (such as vacuum bagging, complex use of high-strength composites, etc.). As for design, the big builders certainly are quick to roll in lots of fresh sizzle along with their bit of steak, again pretty much the opposite of their car manufacturer counterparts in Japan.

Also, let''s keep in mind that virtually every component in that Toyota will have been designed, inspected and finally approved for use by the manufacturer, even if totally built outside the plant by a 2nd tier vendor. Boat builders - and especially the smaller ones - must accept what the marine industry produces (and has generated an interest in and demand for from we, the boat buyers), no matter its suitability, build quality or long-term longevity at sea.

I''m hugely oversimplifying, of course, and there are some smaller builders and also ''production houses'' (TPI e.g.) that I recognize stand outside my generic comparison. I''m also ignoring some Northern European builders (Hallberg Rassy, Malo, Etap and many Dutch builders are only a few examples) that have managed to develop cost effective manufacturing techniques despite smaller production runs that build in product improvement, as well. But after working for some years with a high-tech manufacturer that had a sister-company relationship with Mitsubishi for 70+ years now (only broken by the WWII war years), Ithink I''ve become somewhat familiar with the Japanese 2-tier system and general R&D/manufacturing mindset and, in general, see little evidence of it in boat building.

A ''Toyota'' boat would be competitively priced, incorporate state of the art technology, be efficient in performance, thoroughly ergonomic in design, offer relative safety in use, suffer from few design and manufacturing defects, and those complaints we''d develop in it over time would, in truth, be largely driven by expanding families, our social position, and our desire for ''new'' over ''old''. I''m not sure how much of what I just described is reflected in many of the BB conversations I see.


DuaneIsing 12-23-2003 03:46 AM

Toyota Sailboats??
Thanks, John, for asking that VERY good question.

And Jack, that was a very interesting observation about the boat industry. We have been driving Toyotas for about 15 years now and have owned 3 in that time (since we usually get about 180K miles before we replace them - and they are still running very well at that time, by the way).

Staying with the car anaolgy, while I look at cars 30-40 years old with some nostalgic envy at car shows, I know that almost everything about today''s cars is better, and usually FAR better.

I think that many improvements in some areas have been made by many builders who survive today (better resins, better glass to resin ratios, more consistent quality, higher quality wiring, better access to engine/service points, as a few examples). Simultaneously, though, it seems that other corners have been cut along the way.

As you said, I suppose there is such a vast difference in the numbers produced, that a comparison is difficult to make.

I also want to mention that in all my reading, it seems that a goodly number of sailors who are knowledgeable in boat design/building do not hold 1960s-80s boats to be universally good, either. What I have gleaned is that there was a large number of crappy to marginal boats built during those times, too. Like everything else, I think it just comes down to evaluating each boat on its merits. {wish I was smart enough to do that! ;-)]


Jeff_H 12-23-2003 05:00 AM

Toyota Sailboats??
I will take a slightly different position here. I think that the Beneteau First series would be precisely the equivilent of Toyotas. These boats are produced using world class designers and engineers, working in concert with the latest and most advanced production techniques and materials. They have chosen to stick with tried and true construction methods (non-cored hulls with closely spaced framing)rather than to experiment with riskier and less reliable construction approaches. Sub-systems are sublet to small shops where posible and where it does not hurt the quality of the boat, while more complex sub-components are produced by known quantity shops. In the end they result in very high quality boats at a very reasonable (but not the cheapest) price. That sounds like a Toyota or a Beneteau First series to me.


928frenzy 12-23-2003 05:01 AM

Toyota Sailboats??
I don''t agree with the basic premise that Toyotas are all that great. My neighbor is now on his third Camry within 15 years, while we''re still driving the same 87'' Mercedes - which runs and looks great! Also, even though the MB is about 17 years old, it still has better brakes (still the most important safety feature on any car) than the my neighbor''s new Camry. (What''s up with that - Toyota?)

On the topic of sailboats, Doesn''t ''purpose'' matter when it comes to how well built it may be? Clearly, racing sailboats are made as light (but just strong enough to handle race conditions) as possible relative to their size and amount of sail area. Also, they may have just enough room for storing and handling sails. Being light and having just enough space for sails may be very good for racing, but not so good for a boat that will be used for cruising offshore.

Lastly, I do agree that, for the most part, newer boats (and cars) are better built than boats (or cars) of a decade or more ago.

~ Happy sails to you ~ _/) ~

DuaneIsing 12-23-2003 06:06 AM

Toyota Sailboats??

Maybe you are just a superior owner and driver than your neighbors. I have acquaintances that will kill anything by their driving habits and philosophy about maintenance.

I do drive mainly highway miles, but my last two Toyotas had/have a total of 335K miles. In that entire time I had never replaced the OEM battery for both (no BS), the original clutch in both, and only went through 1 set of brakes on the older one (current car has orignal brakes at 160K miles).

Combination of good cars, non-abusive conditions, and sensible driving works for me. ;-)

Fair winds,

928frenzy 12-23-2003 06:27 AM

Toyota Sailboats??
Good to know there are others who are gentle with and take care of their vehicles.

Although our MB has a bit less than 200k miles, I know of a few MBs with well over 300k miles on each! I also know of one with over 500k miles on it, and it still wins car shows for 50''s vintage cars!

Lastly, the last time I checked, the world''s record for car mileage was held by a 1953 MB (in Europe) with over 2 million miles. Second was a 1977 VW Golf with 1.7 million miles. No Japanese cars were in the top ten.

Here''s hoping we make it into the record books. ~ Happy sails to you ~ _/) ~

Stede 12-23-2003 07:25 AM

Toyota Sailboats??
Wow! 160K miles on the original brakes! Perhaps the accelerator should be used more since Toyotas are also good on gas 8^)

Johnrb 12-23-2003 07:28 AM

Toyota Sailboats??

Thanks for that post, it''s a good example of why I enjoy this message board. Thanks for asking the question John Manzano.


DuaneIsing 12-23-2003 07:41 AM

Toyota Sailboats??
Actually, Stede, I''m really no slow poke. I commute 48 miles each way and spend 30 of that on an Interstate. Driving before the main rushhour going and coming, I can average 80 mph on the highway, while getting 37 mpg. You know what works?: maintaining as reasonable following distance as the local nutcases permit, and anticipation.

I coast up to red traffic lights as long as it''s not impeding someone. I don''t make jack rabbit starts. If I need to be somewhere in 2% less time, I leave earlier.

Like Jackie Stewart used to say (paraphrased), you can be very fast, yet very smooth at the same time.

Getting this topic back onto boats, isn''t it the same thing? Smooth engagement of the transmission and throttle. Letting the wind and current do most of the work when docking. Anticipation of everything around you. Treat the equipment with care and follow preventive maintenance schedules.

Smooth is COOL in my book.

Fair winds all!

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