Hurricane Ian was a whopper of a storm when it struck the west coast of Florida in September 2022. A strong category 4 hurricane when it made landfall, it caused an estimated $113 billion in damage, among which included a certain 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid that had covered over 1 million miles during its lifetime. The plucky SUV was purchased new by Mark Miller in 2006, and though it's now gone, it isn't forgotten.
Toyota saw fit to keep its memory alive by giving Miller a brand new model, and yes, we mean give as in free of charge. Sharing the story in a press release, Toyota explains that the goodwill gesture was done as a thank you for being a loyal customer. Miller, who owns an asphalt paving business, used the old Highlander extensively in his work life for towing trailers and even as a mobile office at times.
Throughout its life, the Highlander was maintained by Germain Toyota in Naples. Curiously, Toyota's announcement doesn't mention anything regarding maintenance done during its million-mile journey. As such, we have no idea if the original engine, transmission, or hybrid battery pack are still in place. However, Miller says it was "so dependable" and obviously it was loved, or at the very least appreciated. A photo shows the old Highlander with some battle damage on the back, notably a cracked rear fascia and dented hatch with 1,000,000 miles scribed out of the dirt on the gate. It's unclear if this photo is from before or after the hurricane.
We can definitely say the image at the top of this article is after the storm. That's the 2023 Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition given to Miller in a surprise ceremony at the dealership back in January. The dealer had previously given him a cooler when the SUV reached 500,000, and he thought another prize might be coming when he was asked to stop by and share his million-mile Highlander story. Suffice it to say, he wasn't expecting a free car.
This isn't the first time Toyota has garnered attention with a vehicle donation following a natural disaster. A new Tundra was given to nurse Alynn Pierce after his was burnt while rescuing people from California wildfires back in 2019. In a less severe (but still very public) situation, Audi gave a new Q3 to a Wheel of Fortune contestant who failed to win it under questionable decision-making from folks at the long-running game show.