With Toyota getting so much bad press, I thought it would be an appropriate time to analyze its cleverly-phrased claim:
"80% of all Toyotas sold in the last 20 years are still on the road today."
If we read this closely, the claim isn't that 80% of all Toyotas sold in 1989 are still on the road today. Rather, it's that 80% of all Toyotas sold between 1989-2009 are still on the road.
Except for the last two years, Toyota has been steadily growing; they simply sold fewer cars in 1990 than they did in 2009. And since newer cars are undoubtedly more likely to be on the road (ok, there's some doubt), the claim sounds better than the reality.
The genius of the spin is in how it is combined with the creative above. Toyota implies that there's an 80% chance that the car could be handed down to the child in about 20 years' time, when really the chances are going to be significantly lower. I've included some data and a hypothetical situation below.
Toyota - Total US Sales
1991: 1.02M *
1992: 1.04M *
1993: 1.06M *
1994: 1.08M *
1995: 1.10M *
1998: 1.34M *
1999: 1.48M *
I don't have access to the figures that Toyota/R.L. Polk uses, as they are not published. So thinking about a purely hypothetical situation:
if 95% of 2004-2009 Toyotas are still on the road
and 90% of 1999-2003 Toyotas are still on the road
then only 45% of 1990-1998 Toyotas would still be on the road.
To put it in another way, in a completely different hypothetical scenario, Toyota's claim could theoretically still hold true, even if 100% of the Toyotas sold between 1990-1995 were in the scrap heap.
* Some of this data has been difficult to source; for these estimated years, I just assumed linear annual growth between two known numbers. I also started with 1990, since 1989 numbers weren't available. If 1989 numbers were available, the differences would be even more extreme. Either way, the examples are hypothetical.