This is how you reward brand loyalty.
All of us have owned cars that we've loved. Cars that are so special, so dependable that they become a part of the family. For Florida-based Mark Miller, it was his trusty million-mile 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Sadly, his relationship with his wheeled companion was cut short when Hurricane Ian destroyed his Japanese workhorse. Toyota, moved by Miller's story, rewarded his loyalty with an extraordinary gesture.
It all started when Miller contacted the Toyota Brand Engagement Center. Not prepared to see his four-wheeled friend head to the scrapheap, he contacted the automaker and asked whether it would be interested in purchasing the Highlander for research purposes.
Customer relations representative Daniel Nichols knew Toyota had to do something special for Miller. "I could hear his smile through the phone. He was full of energy and positivity."
Word of Miller's story soon spread like wildfire across the Toyota network and, soon, employees across 15 departments hatched a plan to reward Miller with a brand new Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition.
Miller was sent to Germain Toyota of Naples, the same dealer he trusted to take care of his old Highlander, under the assumption that he would be sharing his story with staff members. "My wife and I were talking, and she said, 'Oh, you're going to get another cooler.'"
When his Highlander reached 500,000 miles, the same dealership awarded him with a cooler. But that wasn't what awaited Miller when he arrived at Germain Toyota.
"The fact that you [drove] your Toyota for over 16 years, put over one million miles on it, and allowed us to be a part of keeping that vehicle going for you, in my mind, probably makes you the most loyal customer we've ever had," said dealer owner Richard Germain. "We wanted to thank you for that loyalty."
Parked just behind him was the ultimate thank-you gift, a 2023 Highlander Hybrid finished in Cement Grey - rather fitting for Miller, who owns an asphalt paving business. Naturally, the Toyota supporter was overjoyed by the gesture. "My heart is just all over the place. I'm overwhelmed. This is just an incredible thing. It's a massive financial burden lifted from me because I needed it and couldn't quite afford it."
Prior to this, Miller told Toyota he was saving up for a new Highlander because "there's no way I'd get anything else."
Like his old Highlander, the Bronze Edition has become Miller's new workhorse. His previous model was the very definition of a trusty steed and did just about everything, from serving as a mobile office to towing trailers. "I've probably done about 8,000 trips across [the 80-mile long] Alligator Alley," he added.
The new Highlander is significantly better than its predecessor and offers more luxury, performance, and safety. Even though retirement is on the horizon, Miller said the first thing he wanted to do was load his new SUV up with tools. "But first, I need to protect this. I'm going to get some seat covers."
It's unlikely he will hit the magic one-million-mile mark again, but Miller shared some advice for those wanting to achieve this goal. "Never forget to change your oil," he said.
Even though his car and home were damaged, the skilled tradesman didn't let that get him down, using his time and talents to help rebuild his community. Still, he couldn't help but miss his trusty SUV. Happily, he's back where he belongs - behind the wheel of a Highlander.
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