Fifteen years ago I owned my third Subaru, an Outback, which served my family’s needs pretty well. It buzzed and broke a lot, wasn’t much fun to drive, and it was underpowered, but it did some things I needed done, and well, it was easy to just keep getting a new Suby when the old one was worn out (which is about 65K by my metrics). It wasn't clever marketing or a billion-dollar Sports Bowl commercial that changed my mind and moved me into a new vehicle, but a rental. In fact, that rental moved me into a new type of vehicle.
Up until that point, I’d only owned sedans, wagons, and some sports cars. The Outback in those days was still a wagon based on a Subaru Legacy, not an SUV with a hood extension. I didn’t like crossovers or SUVs. Mostly because I had never driven or owned a crossover or SUV. I was a car person, and I knew it all. So there was no point in trying to convince me of what I didn’t want to know.
Then I made a trip to Florida for business. I was consulting then if my memory is right, so I could afford to rent something better than the Pontiac Sunfire that fit the typical business traveler budget. The up-market offering from Hertz was a Toyota Highlander Sport V6 AWD. I figured I’d tolerate the thing better than the Pontiac, so I asked for it.
The Highlander changed my opinion on crossover SUVs within ten minutes of my time in it. It handled better than any wagon I had ever owned, it had much more power than the Suby I owned despite being in the same price range, and Toyota had this reputation I had heard about. Something about not breaking all the time. And the Highlander didn’t buzz!
Over the few days I was in that rental Highlander (it was blue with a beige interior), I fell in love with it. It was the single best piece of marketing genius I had ever experienced. All Toyota did was sell the thing to Hertz. The car did the rest.
Within a month of my return, I owned a new 2007 Toyota Highlander Sport V6 AWD blue on beige. It was identical to the rental. It’s still in my garage. Two sons, a couple of wives (not at once), and three au pairs have come to love it as much as I have. I still believe it is the best vehicle at what it was designed to be I have ever driven. And since I’ve been a car tester for the past decade, that sort of means something. Don’t ya think?
My Facebook friend and colleague, Urvaksh Karkaria, posted today, “Tesla’s deal with Hertz will enable extended test drives for millions of prospective customers. And it will drive awareness of Tesla’s biggest differentiator: its Supercharger network. This deal is more than a win for just one automaker. It'll help drive broader adoption of electric vehicles.” He’s right. I know he’s right because I have lived exactly what he is describing. Vehicle renters who think they don’t want an EV “because they know everything about them” are going to have their eyes opened. By the millions.
Top of Page photo by E.R. Davidson courtesy of Hertz Media page. Beloved Highlander image by the Author.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American news outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin
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