Toyota celebrates 25 years of the Sienna, Mercedes-Benz wants to be rich and exclusive again, Ford CEO Jim Farley gets a podcast deal. All this and more on today’s issue of The Morning Dump.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
Toyota Celebrates A Silver Van-iversary
Toyota released its Previa-replacing Sienna minivan in 1997 for the 1998 model year, which means the Japanese family hauler turns 25 in model year 2023. Yes, that means the first Siennas are about to legally become classic cars in some jurisdictions, just in case you wanted to feel old today. More importantly, the new fourth-generation hybrid model has been a rousing success, shifting 107,130 units last year and outselling the Highlander Hybrid. As such, Toyota’s been a good sport and given their trusty family hauler a special 25th Anniversary Edition model for 2023.
For the minivan’s silver anniversary, Toyota has blended features from the XSE and Limited trim levels, laid down a few coats of Celestial Silver (white is also an option), and set production to 2,525 units. Nostalgia for the unremembered 2000s might be tilting the table a touch, but silver looks really good on this van. It highlights the lines well and is much easier to photograph than white. Contrasting with the paint are several blacked-out elements, from special emblems to black mirror caps and a black antenna. Color’s all well and good, but what about feature content? Well, the 25th Anniversary Sienna starts with the sporty XSE trim and adds some fancier things. Executive-style second-row seats? Check. Heated and cooled memory front seats? Check. A JBL stereo, wireless device charging, and a 1,500-watt power outlet? All on deck. Add in roof rails, silver interior stitching, illuminated door sills, special floor mats, and a special key fob cover, and it looks like Toyota’s created a really pleasant, tasteful special edition. Not bad.
Honestly, it’s almost hard to believe that the Sienna is 25 years old. I still see pre-facelift first-generation Siennas all the time, something that can’t be said of Ford Windstars, Pontiac Montanas, Mk2 Honda Odysseys, Mk3 Chrysler Voyagers, and Mk2 Nissan Quests. Toyota generally built the original Sienna to last, so it’s no wonder the lineage has been so successful. Who’s going to be the first person to own a 1998 Sienna and this 25th Anniversary van at the same time? I doubt many people collect Siennas, but who knows?
Ford Brings The Risk Of Fiery Death
Sometimes a bit of mystery can be good. Mystery keeps Shaggy, Scooby and Co. in business, adds a certain mystique to Banksy, and lends drama to scary campfire stories. However, mystery can often be bad, as certain Ford owners are finding out. A recall without a certain cause or fix has come out to play.
See, Ford has recalled 39,013 2021 Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators due to spontaneous engine bay fires even when the affected vehicles are unattended. That’s really not good, it takes a pretty big screw-up for a car to ignite when parked. So what’s the risk factor here? Well, recall chronology details show that of the 16 vehicles that have caught fire, 12 have done so while parked and off, and one has gone up in smoke while parked and on. If you own a 2021 Expedition or Navigator, maybe keep it away from buildings, grass, trees, the sort of stuff otherwise known as “the world.”
In all seriousness, center-driveway away from your house is probably fine. Unless you own a condo, in which case why do you own an Expedition? Honestly, this recall is giving shades of Ford’s infamous cruise control deactivation switch recall where faulty switches in 17.5 million cars ran a risk of self-immolation, even in parked vehicles. Here’s to hoping that a fix is found shortly before more full-size Ford SUVs have a chance to become aluminum puddles.
Mercedes-Benz Refocuses On The Rich
Look back at the Mercedes-Benz lineup of 30 years ago and you’ll see very little catering to the aspirational. Sure, the 190E formed the bottom of the range, but the 190E was exquisitely-built and most certainly not cheap. Going up from there, the W124 E-Class, W140 S-Class, and R129 SL all felt hewn from single chunks of granite. Add in the inimitable W463 Geländewagen, and you had five models with impressive build quality and price tags to match. While the German brand has plunged ever downmarket over the following decades, the C-suite in Stuttgart are beginning to realize that exclusivity translates to money.
In a press release issued Thursday, Mercedes-Benz details their plan to become the most valuable luxury car brand in the world. Now that’s more like it. See, entry-level cars dilute a luxury brand, while high-end vehicles build a luxury brand and feature higher margins. Instead of messing about with gateway cars, Mercedes-Benz is now putting their focus on Maybachs, G-Class SUVs, S-Class sedans, and just about everything ultra-lux. That Virgil Abloh special edition Maybach? It’s allegedly only the first in a series of designer edition Maybachs. 1970s Lincoln product planners would be proud. Meanwhile, Mercedes plans on going above and beyond with a newly-announced MYTHOS series of small-batch vehicles.
On the core product side of things, Mercedes is keeping the E-Class and C-Class lines close to its heart, as it really should. The E-Class really built the Mercedes-Benz brand into a cultural phenomenon. While Mercedes-Benz currently offers seven entry-level models (A-Class sedan, A-Class hatch, CLA-Class four-door coupe, GLA-Class subcompact crossover, GLB-Class three-row crossover, EQA electric subcompact crossover, EQB electric three-row crossover), the German brand plans to cut that lineup to just four vehicles. A smart play considering how thin margins are on cheaper cars. The German luxury marque trends of model line ballooning and brand diluting had to stop at some point, but I’m a bit saddened that it took a global shortage of everything to do it.
Ford CEO Jim Farley Is Starting A Podcast
We’ve entered a really weird period of celebrity automaker CEOs. Akio Toyoda is famous for putting the fun back into Toyota, Mary Barra is famous for taking GM into the electric future, Carlos Ghosn is famous for escaping Japan in a musical instrument case, the list goes on. Honestly, I blame Elon Musk. Jim Farley was already famous in automotive circles before taking the reins at Ford, but the launch of the F-150 Lightning and some excellent tweeting and press conferences has thrust the 59-year-old into the mainstream spotlight. And what do people do when they get famous in 2022? They host podcasts.
Yes, Spotify has tapped Farley to host a weekly podcast called Drive, and the list of guests reads almost like Top Gear’s celebrity power lap leader board. According to a press release issued by Spotify, confirmed guests include Dax Shepard, Jimmy Kimmel, and The Duke of Richmond. Not a shabby lineup by any means. The podcast is set to debut on May 25 and I’m honestly pretty curious to see how it does, especially considering this fairly uncharted territory.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on this edition of The Morning Dump. With the Sienna celebrating its 25th birthday, I’ll share one of my Sienna stories. My parents had a 2001 Sienna bought new, and it was rubbish. It was immortalized on Google Streetview outside one of the many shops it visited for maladies like knock sensor wiring harnesses, oxygen sensors, prematurely-worn bushings, and air conditioning woes. I swear it must’ve been built on a Friday afternoon. Still, that thing had utility. It hauled paving slabs and barbecues and IKEA furniture like nobody’s business, all in a footprint roughly equivalent to a new Ford Maverick. The three-liter 1MZ-FE V6 was silky-smooth and the velour seats were properly plush, it was a great van to see some miles in when it worked. It eventually got traded in on a 2013 Hyundai Sonata in 2012, gone but most certainly not forgotten. If you have a Sienna story, I’d love to hear it in the comments.
Lead photo credit: Toyota
I’d be really interested in the Ford podcast, if it weren’t only on Spotify’s horrible UI. I understand why they want to lock down their podcasts to try to get subscribers, but I buy Premium Spotify for music and still refuse their podcast system because it’s so bad. If they pipe it into PocketCasts, then I’d love to give it a listen! #firstworldproblems
Toyota left out the most important feature for ANY reputable minivan. Drift mode button.
We had a Pontiac Trans Sport Montana for years and years before it blew its head gaskets for the second time (which, might have been our fault given how we treated it). Although it couldn’t exactly drift normally, that thing could definitely get sideways in snow or the wet if you were aggressive enough with your weight transfer.
Thing also hauled 1500 lb loads of wood in a trailer up steep muddy hills, pulled stumps, corner carved in the mountains, cruised at 95 with a bicycle rack, and offroaded like a beast.
Anyone who says minivans suck isn’t creative or stupid enough to deserve them.
Amen to this… minivans are awesome.
I bought a AWD Sienna as a second vehicle to camp in and do light offroading/tow a trailer/ drive in crap weather, and it’s terrific.
Have decent AT tires on it and that thing will go anywhere, and is very comfortable to sleep in, plus has the roof space for a decent solar panel so when it’s parked in my yard it can provide power for my house in a pinch.
I see far, far, far, far, far, far more Mk3 Voyagers/Town & Countries than I do similar era Siennas.
TBF, a LOT more of those were sold here.
I got a real sweet deal on a Sienna that had a problem with the power sliding door on the passenger side. The door wouldn’t open or close with the buttons and it was extremely hard to pull open or closed. The seller got a really high quote to fix/replace the mechanism and decided to sell it instead of fixing it.
I bought it for well under Blue Book private seller value because of the door issue making the van basically inaccessible from the passenger side.
I took about 10 minutes figuring out where the mechanism was located and simply disconnected both end of the cable that pulled the door around and turned the power door into a regular manual door.
We drove that van for the next 8 years until we traded it in on my current Ram truck.
My 2008 Sienna – a FWD XLE with leather, navi, moon… was ultimately just whelming. The equipment specification felt nearly Lexus-level, and the space and performance were great. The build quality and trim fit-and-finish was passible. But I used the heck out of the Toyota Platinum service contract – the water pump failed, the power sliding doors broke, the a/c quit… I eventually got rid of it when the power sliding doors both quit within a week of one another for the second time. I miss having a minivan, but not a Sienna.
Considering who Jim Farley is related to, if he is half as funny I’d listen to the podcast.
If you’re young enough that you hear “Farley” and don’t think of a big funny dude, get off my lawn.
are they really related, or are you just improvising?
Cousins, kinda close I seem to remember reading?
Mr Farley’s twitter page:
CEO of @Ford Motor Company.
Mustang and racing fan. Happen to love white vans…preferably down by the river.
I think Callahan is still a Ford supplier too.
Yep, they were cousins.
inb4 ford is a joke
Come on you don’t use “fat guy in a little coat” reference?
You embarrass yourself sir. Lol
He’s a motivational speaker and lives in a van down by the river.
Swagger Wagon! We have a 2016 Sienna XLE (Premium) and I love that darn thing. Sure, the Odyssey gets better mpg, and the Chrysler and Korean vans have some more features and better ICE, but nothing breaks in the Sienna. And even when we need to replace something, it is so easy to do. Just passed 100K, and the 2GR-FE just keeps pumping away. It has plenty of torque to embarrass most immature (like me) teens (not like me) at a stop light, and it’s easy to hold wheel spin for a solid 100ft in a light rain… 10hr road trips with a German Shepherd and 2 kids are a piece of cake in this thing.
A few thoughts spring to mind here:
1. Morning Dump? Well considering esst coast time I’ve taken at least 2 before this is posted. Maybe just Dump time or a better heading?
2. Farley- I’m a big fan of Chris but we’re talking the cousin of the most famous guy in the family. What Kardashian would this be?
3. Jimmy Kimmel? Isn’t he just a 4th generation talk show host? He’ll Leno seems willing to go on any talk show sitcom etc. And they go Kimmel?
4 Dax Sheppard? Yeah I know the name. I’ve seem him in a bunch of mediocre shows. He’s like the current Dee Snyder. A band member of a decent band but a small genre aka hair band. He is 70 years old wearing wife beater t shirts and will appear on any reality TV show that asks. DAX is the same. What has he done to get the salutation as a highly regarded guest?
5. The Duke of Richmond? I was embarrassed to admit didn’t recognize this person. Google told me it is a British guy with that title. I’m thinking why not go after the King. I had to check but apparently Richard Petty is st I’ll alive and well. Who do I want to listen too?
Man this so much just appealing to the younger, what is a clutch crowd, and trying to keep real car people for legitimacy. I don’t expect this blog to succeed.
I’m down with Daily Dump.
Duke of Richmond is a pub near me. I thought they might be hosting the podcast live from there.
I wonder if he will bring Elon on to share a spliff?
Not entirely sure who you’re thinking Dax Sheppard is. He is an actor and also Mr. Kristen Bell. And he is way younger than 70…
That Mercedes is butt ass ugly with that color combo.
And those wheels. Yuk. I think I saw something like those on a luggage cart somewhere.
I know it’s a short story, this Morning Dump, but you aren’t even going to mention the truly horrifying and genuinely significant news that broke this morning?
Here, I’ll help.
Car loan defaults shattered a 15 year record in February, hitting 8.8%
8.8% is a really, tremendously huge number. That is … hang on, gotta get the TI-83. Oops, out of memory, let me find the TI-92 … $114,400,000,000 in defaults, or $114 BILLION DOLLARS.
To give you an idea how much $114B is: that is nearly equivalent to GM’s total revenue for all of 2021. $114B of collateralized, repackaged loans that just went poof. It’s also basically double what the default rate was just a year ago – 4.17-4.64%.
“Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.”
I hit post too soon.
I think the Morning dump is bite size info nuggets packaged together that don’t deserve a full length article on it’s own. Stuff that fell through the cracks.
I feel like that breaking news deserves it’s own deep dive and will be a full length article later today.
“In other news today, something that was totally predictable has happened. Let’s go to Ken for some confected shock and reaction. Ken, this was totally predictable and has now happened, and I guess the question is: How does something like this happen?”
“Thanks, Steve. It’s absolutely shocking that this entirely predictable outcome has come to pass. My sources tell me that extremely long loan times make more time for people to default on the loan, and, not only that, they help to convince dumb people that they can afford something they actually can’t. This was totally predictable, but I’m sure you can agree it’s absolutely crazy that this is happening and people should keep watching the channel so we can repeat this with different words in half an hour when we discuss how some people are saying it’s the fault of immigrants who don’t speak English good.”
Holy crap, that’s not good. I’ve heard that car loan defaults have been threatening to be the next mortgage crisis for a while, and there are plenty of worrying factors like increasing loan amounts and term lengths.
It’s nice to see a hybrid powertrain being the default on a (relatively) reasonably-priced model, although I find the Sienna to be particularly unattractive. The Pacifica Hybrid, otoh…
“the Japanese family hauler turns 25 in model year 2023. Yes, that means the first Siennas are about to legally become classic cars in some jurisdictions,”
This bugs me. My first car was a ’78 Mercury Zephyr wagon, y’know, basically a Fairmont, the Fox platform that went on to underpin the ’79-’93 Mustangs. Mine had a 302 and was reasonably fun to drive, and I remember telling my dad I wanted to hang on to it until it became a classic in another 15 years or so. My dad said, “Son, that car’s never gonna be a classic. All it’ll ever be is old.” And he was right. Sure, by now it’d practically be an antique, but c’mon, it was a late 70s Ford station wagon, the polar opposite of cool, with vinyl upholstery, bench seats, 139 hp, and the hideous 2700VV carburetor. I have many fond memories of that car (got laid in the back more often than I would have expected), and I wouldn’t mind driving one again sometime for giggles. But it was a gray underpowered smog-choked shoebox. Even if I saw a mint one gleaming in a parking lot I wouldn’t look at it twice, nor would anyone who wasn’t some Radwood fetishist. There was no artistry anywhere in that car. And I feel like that’s the case for the vast majority of its contemporaries. There are a small handful of late 70s cars that I think of as classics (the Trans Am for one), but I resist the idea that any old POS had attain classic status simply by avoiding the crusher long enough.
I’m disappointed Toyota didn’t look for inspiration to that other famous 25th Anniversary model made by Lamborghini. That would have been wild.
I still remember when I saw the new Sienna for the first time last year, and I was disgusted because it looked like they just extended the roof on one of those hideous 2018 Camrys. After seeing it in that silver paintjob that makes all the lines more visible, I can safely say, it looks like they just extended the roof on one of those hideous 2018 Camrys.
It’s definitely ugly AF, but something seems to have gotten into the water supply at Toyota a while ago. Perhaps they just know they can sell on their cost of ownership reputation and are just trolling people with their awful styling. “Just paint it beige, it will sell anyway”.
Regarding the mysterious Ford and Lincoln fires – was Walter White seen in the vicinity?
Funny, I was behind a Sienna this morning. Those tail lights are terrible. The actual brake light is just a little tiny thing. Plus that black vent thingy looks like hot garbage too me
Someone should notify Torch.
Toyota has tiny tail lights on a lot of their models. I thought there were regulations saying that there had to be a certain amount of square inches of tail light area that actually lit up. The red plastic areas are big, but with only a few led points of light.
They’re still doing penance for the whole 2016 Prius tail light fiasco.