Viral > Lesson

This burned Tundra gave Toyota a chance to do good

Owner used truck to evacuate hospital patients in US wildfire

The heroic owner of this Tundra used it to evacuate people in California wildfire. INSTAGRAM POST BY THE PANDRA

Car companies spend millions of dollars on marketing and advertising campaigns. All in an effort to polish their brands in the eyes of customers, both present and potential ones. But we guess we can all agree that in this age of social media—where the genuine and the fake often get mixed—the best way to make a brand or a product popular is via organic, feel-good stories (as opposed to sleek, concocted posts courtesy of ad agencies).

Here is a case in point. The Toyota Tundra you see above belongs to a healthcare worker in California. The truck got burned as the nurse was helping evacuate patients at his hospital while a wildfire was raging in the town of Paradise. Here’s how the owner described the whole thing, as posted on the Instagram account attributed to his pickup truck (which he had named The Pandra):

This truck literally saved my life today. My little town of Paradise was literally burning down around me and The Pandra got me to safety where I could help others…twice. Thanks to the firefighters, law enforcement and my fellow healthcare workers for the work we all did getting the hospital evacuated [and our patients to safety].

Apparently, the guy also lost his house in the conflagration, leaving him to try and pick up the broken pieces around him and rebuild. People naturally responded by calling him a hero. They also kept tagging Toyota USA. The Japanese automaker did not disappoint, posting the following comment to the thread:

We are humbled you’d risk your life and Toyota Tundra to drive people to safety. Don’t worry about your truck. We’re honored to get you a new one!

Yes, Toyota is giving the valiant nurse a brand-new Tundra (at least that’s how we understand the company’s message to mean). And everyone is now praising the car manufacturer for its pledge. Here are some of the positive comments Toyota has been reaping:

* This is why I drive a Toyota. —fiafia_lingling

* Glad my wife and I both bought 4Runners now. —txvstrom

* There you go! Well done. Glad I’ve been loyal to you since my first car. —iwindsurf78

* Way to step up. I’ll never buy anything but a Toyota truck as long as I live. —adventuredan17

* I used to have a Toyota, then switched over to Chevrolet. But this comment makes me want another one for my next truck! —sam.nestor

* I need to invest in a Toyota! —megancarlton_xo

* Outstanding! I’m going to go buy a new Tundra this weekend because of this! —drewzilla505

* Amazing company!! Happy to drive a 2003 Toyota Sequoia. —meggieekeat

* Thank you for being an ethical company. —ssphere2018

* My next truck will be a Tundra just because of this. —bigwillstyle77

* I love my new Tundra Pro. Now I love the company behind it that much more! —positivetrimclothing

* Forever the best car manufacturer on the planet! —vi_kustoms

* This makes me wish I had bought a Tundra last week instead of my Sierra. Big ups! —brianurlage

* I drive a 1999 4Runner. My dad has driven a 4Runner since I was a baby, and my brother is getting a Tacoma. I’m proud to have one still and will always have a Toyota because of things like this. —justin_freshflower

* This made me so proud to own a Toyota. Thank you for proving that there is still good in this world. —lady_downshift

* Class act by Toyota. Definitely a proud owner here. —fj_dory

* Giving up the Jeep life and getting a Yota! —kodak_roe

* If my 230,000-mile Sequoia wasn’t enough of a reason already, this has convinced me that my next truck will be a Toyota. —goodtrain

* Much respect! This, along with the reliability of your vehicles, is why I’m a customer for life! —shadowrunner_tacoma

* I’ve owned a few Tacomas and a Tundra over the years. I was almost ready to pull the trigger on a new Ram Rebel, but after seeing this, the Tundra is back at the very top of my list. —tango165

Well, you get the point. No amount of marketing money can buy this kind of goodwill. Even assuming Toyota USA gives the guy the top-of-the-line Tundra Pro—which costs around $50,000 (P2.65 million)—that’s peanuts compared to the excellent publicity the brand will get out of this.

Now, to be clear, we’re not naively swooning over Toyota just for this. We’d like to think any car brand—or at least most of them—would do the same thing if presented with the opportunity. We just want to show how real-life stories make for more effective (and more relevant) marketing than contrived ones. We hope other companies—automotive or otherwise—are taking note.

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist for 26 years. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.