Too Much Free Time

by Mike Masnick

A Child's First Car Loan, Courtesy Of Toyota

from the snag-'em-young dept

During the original dot com boom, there was an interesting company called "DoughNet" which was supposed to to be a financial site for kids -- trying to teach kids how to be responsible with money at a young age. Of course, that was the marketing spin. Others believed that it was just a sneaky way to give kids access to some of their parents' cash so they could spend it online (parents usually had to set up an account with a certain amount of money that the kids could "manage"). While it got a lot of hype, it quickly went nowhere. However, now that so many people have forgotten what happened last time around, it's no surprise that we're seeing similar ideas -- with new twists. Last month we wrote about Toyota's strategy to get kids hooked at a young age, by sponsoring many different aspects of a virtual world for kids. Of course, if you're going to get kids hooked on wanting a certain car, you might as well get them primed and ready to do so with debt. Jeremy Wagstaff notes that Toyota has now added a new feature to this children's virtual world: the ability to buy one of these virtual cars on credit. It even involves a fake credit report using "WhyCO" numbers designed to mimic FICO numbers. Of course, to get a good WhyCO number you have to be very involved in the Whyville virtual community. It's being pitched (of course) as a way for kids to better understand things like car loans -- but some might wonder why 8-year-olds really need to understand things like credit scores, debt and interest payments. Next thing you know, we'll find out that these kids are being taught the importance of purchasing the extra warranty and the virtual undercoating as well...

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    dorpus, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 1:49am


    Toyota is fast becoming the GM of Japan, with constant recalls. Today, 260,000 Toyotas across 12 models, including Corollas, will be recalled because of faulty engine timers.

    In 2004-2005, 560,000 Toyotas were recalled because of faulty steering wheels. In May, 100,000 land cruisers were recalled because the tires fell off. In April, 11,000 Lexuses were recalled because the seat belts failed. Also in April, 76,000 vans were recalled, including 3000 ambulances, because of faulty brakes and wiring.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    SortaLikeJake, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 1:58am

    Get them while they're young

    I think that getting kids to learn about finances and such is a good idea, considering the current state of affairs in the US. This, however, is a really misguided marketing ploy. DoughNet, too. It should all be virtual money and virtual businesses.

    Do parents sit down and teach their kids how to manage a bank account anymore?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Backwardsfish, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 2:44am


    When you sell as many cars as Toyota (Japan's largest) it's a wonder they've gotten this far with so FEW recalls. Toyota also recalls many of it's products before anybody ever notices something is wrong. Living in Japan now for 3 years has taught me that this is Toyota's way of getting good PR.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Frank, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 2:54am

    If I recall...

    Toyota tends to recall products BEFORE anyone gets hurt from the problem, whereas historically GM and Ford and Chrysler will wait until the accidental death legal settlements threaten to outweigh the cost of a recall.

    Toyota and Honda are still far and away the most reliable auto makers according to every industry survey.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    ?, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 3:34am

    At 8 they are being taught about drugs, and sex (both from teachers and peers). Might as well teach them about cars, and nifty ways to get them so that little johnny can have his bling and pimp his women!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    PopeRatzo, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 3:56am

    If Toyota's program includes some educational materials about responsible debt (unlikely), it wouldn't be a waste of time. It would be nice to believe something can stop the race to personal financial destruction in which most Americans find themselves. A negative savings rate. Shocking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    MrPaladin, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 4:28am

    Kids have been targeted latly...

    Alot of car makers are turning to kids to get branding in their heads long before they buy a car...

    I mean seriously who really wanted a van with bugs bunny on the side? and WB branding all over it...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    MEoip, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 4:58am

    Short Step

    It's a short step to kids buying cars for future pick up, like parents can do with college education, pay todays price go later.
    Parent's could pay Toyota $100 a month for a few years and when their kid turns 16 they get a car, might be a better idea for GM who could use some capital now and might have a good car for kids to drive in 8 years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    magoh, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 6:13am

    A better idea

    If you really want your kids to learn about finances and responsible debt, take them to the local Boys & Girls Club and sign them up for their program called "Money Matters".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    the Way, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 7:00am

    Re: Funny

    Please post full data including Toyota Defect/Sell Ratio and GM Defect/Sell ratio as well. Split up by year... then I'll believe your jibberish.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 7:43am

    found this at

    I've been building a spreadsheet based off of information found on NHTSA's recall website and with this Toyota is in 3rd place. GM and Ford got most of their big recalls out of the way in 2004 and 2005. That said before this recall GM was ahead in total number of recalls by about 150,000.

    Some interesting numbers though when you divide the number of recalls by the YTD sales numbers.

    Not counting the last 367,600 announced here the ratio is 39 recalls per 100 vehicles for Toyota. If you add this total to June's YTD it jumps to 69 recalls per 100 vehicles.

    The numbers are a little awkward since I am taking the cars build in 1 year and some of the recalls span several years. Unfortunately there is no breakdown of how many of each year are recalled. However, the numbers are interesting as some companies are consistent depsite this.

    For reference (not including new recall):

    2006 YTD
    Nissan**: 183/100
    DCX*/**: 73/100
    Ford**: 45/100
    Toyota**: 39/100
    GM**: 30/100
    Porsche: 27/100
    KIA: 22/100
    Honda**: 5/100
    VW**: 2/100

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 7:43am


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 7:44am

    BMW**: 1/100
    AVG: 63/100

    GM**: 196/100
    Porsche: 173/100
    KIA: 153/100
    Nissan**: 153/100
    Toyota**: 129/100
    Honda**: 114/100
    DCX*/**: 105/100
    Ford**: 77/100
    Subaru: 72/100
    VW**: 67/100
    BMW**: 15/100
    AVG: 127/100

    *included Mistubishi sales because of the Dakota/Raider recall would skew numbers since recalls numbers are total vehicles, not total of that make/model/year

    **includes all brands and major alliance companies. Numbers would be skewed too high if I did each individial brand seperately

    ***Recalls do not include listed recalls where the manufacture is for an aftermarket part designed for that vehicle. Only included recalls where the manufacturer field is the automaker itself.

    ****Does not include recalls for MY07 vehicles

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 8:00am

    According to JD Powers report at

    page 4 of the report has a chart of all the major Nameplate. Toyota has 106 problems per 100 cars, GMC has 119 per 100, and Chevy has 124 per 100.

    This surveys may looked skewed from previous years because they not only include defects but also malfunctions and problems reported by the consumer.

    THe worst of the lot, Land Rover with 2 problem for every vehicle they make. (204 per 100)

    The best- Porsche with 91 problems per 100 vehicles.

    But, according to John Boy and Billy (radio syndicates) at, Porsche owners are also the most likely to cheat on their spouse. look for the date 4/10.

    So do porsche owners have a good car but a shakey marriage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Franssu, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 8:00am

    Re: Short Step

    You made a syntax error : you typed "GM" and "good car" in the same sentence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    John, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 8:19am

    Re: If I recall...

    That is SO TRUE. They are FAST when it comes to recalls. So is Honda. I had a Honda guy call me from over seas to ask me if I was happy with "their" dealership and asked me if I would change anything what would it be. This was a human.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Distrustful, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 8:29am

    Monopoly Money

    We love to play with money, and teaching kids to manage money is good, and fun for the kids, but Monopoly money is fake and you can´t REALLY buy Boardwalk or Park Place from the game. Toyota would cross the line if it has a real product it's getting kids to lust after. Almost any kid would give anything to have a car of their own. Having one in a play universe isn't so bad. That said I don´t trust Toyota marketers, I distrust marketing in general, especially marketing aimed at kids.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 8:37am

    You are all MORONS

    This thread is about Toyota's "teaching" or "brainwashing" or "indoctrination" of young minds! It has NOTHING to do with recalls, who makes a better car, or anything else AT ALL. You people want to see your views in print so badly you would screw up a good thread in anything!
    You make me want to puke!
    And Besides that, you know YUGO made the best cars ever!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    usa number one, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 8:42am

    Re: You are all MORONS

    I agree, every one here is a dorpus.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    dan, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 8:44am

    Re: Short Step

    Pay GM good money now, and gamble that they'll even *exist* eight years down the road. Sheeyah, right. i might as well dig a pit in my backyard, toss my cash in it and set it on fire.

    Has anyone forgotten history? In the early days of WWII, Hitler sold KDF-Wagon (Volkswagon) stamps to the Germans. When they accumulated enough stamps, they'd get a car.

    i think something like maybe 200 were actually delivered.

    GM and the Nazis have too much in common for *anyone* to piss away money this way.
    -- dan

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    DittoBox, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 9:03am

    Re: Re: Funny

    Do we have a toyata fanboy amongst ourselves?

    Read the links he posted, that's not "jibberish".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    wolff000, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 9:27am

    None Of It Matters

    All this boils down to is the same thing parents not teaching kids. If you teach your kids about how to handle money then all the ads in the world won't make them buy outside thier means. its that simple buy what you can afford and teach your kids the same. problem solved and all the evil marketing geniuses defeated. Any other problems need fixing? oh and as far as the recalls go i just have this to say, OFF TOPIC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    anonymous coward, Jul 18th, 2006 @ 12:24pm

    I would rather leave my kid unsupervised on MySpace than let a huge corporation get this level of access to him/her.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    Gryphon (profile), Jul 18th, 2006 @ 6:37pm

    Re: Funny

    That's because Toyota - and to a lesser degree, Honda - is starting to cheapen up it's cars and add more gegaws than is needed to bring in consumers and make more profit.

    GM did the same thing in the late 80s, as did Chrysler. All those fancy displays, talking dashboards, and mega-computerized engines were nothing but devices to fail sooner.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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