Untold millions of pages and pixels have been spent on debating whether cars were better back in the day, and consensus has been reached in a few key areas. Better looking? No doubt. More emotional, more visceral? And how. But safer? Not a chance—as shown in stark relief by this Toyota dealership's showroom display of a 2018 Camry that got squashed between two semi-trucks on the highway.
A new car showroom is typically filled with flawless examples of a company's latest models, but Toyota of Surprise in Arizona decided to make an exception for the Toyota Camry that saved its driver's life last week. A dealership employee identified as Ramon Suarez was on his way to the airport to pick up a customer when the Camry was rear-ended at speed by a semi-truck. The impact then pushed it forward into the back of another large truck, sandwiching the sedan in a nightmare scenario.
This is the kind of crash from which urban legends are spawned, but thankfully a whole lot of modern engineering went into preventing the Camry from becoming an accord-ion (zing). First, the 2018 Camry rides on a version of the new TNGA modular platform, which has been praised by auto journalists for its rigidity and strength. Then there's the fact that the Camry's crumple zones functioned exactly as designed, absorbing the kinetic energy of the crash to keep the passenger cabin wholly intact; the Facebook post sharing the story notes that all four doors still open and close like normal.
As a result, Ramon walked away from the crash with hardly a scratch. It's one thing to read about a car's safety rating, or even see the crash tests performed in clinical, unfeeling fashion—but it's quite another to see the real-world results firsthand. It's remarkable how the rear end was basically annihilated. And after retrieving the crumpled Camry from a tow yard in Phoenix and seeing just how perfectly it had performed, the dealership's general manager Lewis Goldstein had something of an epiphany.
"I thought, what better advertisement than to show that this vehicle saved a life, and did everything it was supposed to do in that process," he told The Drive.
Goldstein had his team give the wreck a central spot on the showroom floor, where a representative from Toyota's corporate side who happened to be visiting that day immediately raised some legal red flags and advised removing it. Had he listened, his Penkse Auto Group dealership (and the Camry) wouldn't be basking in this newfound viral attention.
"I don't want to make it sound like I'm the saint of Arizona. When a customer comes in to look at a new Camry, the first thing we do now is take them to that car," he said. "But now that I've seen the reaction out there, how it's truly informing people on safety, I think it's really important."
And now that word is spreading, it sounds like Toyota may have changed its tune as well. Goldstein said that he received a call from representatives of the Toyota plant in Kentucky where the Camry is made who want to fly out both Ramon and the car for a proper celebration. Of course, they'll have to fight both Goldstein and the insurance company if they want to keep their new trophy.
"If it's totaled out, which it probably is, we might have to get rid of it so the insurance company can do what they need to do. But if the salvage price is right, I'd buy it back in a heartbeat," he said.