The Journey of a Million Miles; Long-time Toyota Customer Surprised with 2023 Highlander Hybrid after Hurricane Ian Destroys Vehicle

March 27, 2023

Germain Toyota of Naples customer, Mark Miller, surprised with a 2023 Highlander Hybrid after his 2006 vehicle was destroyed by Hurricane Ian.

Toyota surprises a customer with a new vehicle after their 2006 Highlander Hybrid, which surpassed 1,060,000 miles, was destroyed by Hurricane Ian

Interstate 75 has become a second home for Florida native, Mark Miller. Despite living in Bonita Springs on the West Coast of the Sunshine State, Miller owns and operates a construction company across the Everglades, out of Fort Lauderdale on the East Coast. Serving as the book ends to an average workday, Miller typically makes the 80-mile journey across the state driving through “Alligator Alley” in his 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid and is no stranger to the journey, making the commute at least five times a week for nearly the last two decades.

Purchased specifically in anticipation of this travel schedule, the Highlander became Miller’s trusted companion and was essential in the success of the journey.

“I heard about the Highlander coming out and got on the waitlist, I think I got one of the first ones that came off the assembly line and made its way to Florida,” said Miller.

Driving on average 1,250 miles every week, Miller trusted the experienced service team at Germain Toyota of Naples to keep the hybrid running at the highest quality possible. It was a no-brainer for the customer to utilize the dealership’s service center for any regular maintenance and large repairs, which is where he met technician Frank Brice.

“Well, never having had a new car I wanted to go to a dealership where they do it right,” said Miller. “I came to Germain Toyota of Naples for the first time for scheduled maintenance, that’s when I first met Frank. The guy knew what he was talking about, the entire service department was fabulous. They never failed.”

The partnership between Brice and Miller grew strong, and over the years, Miller became a loyal and valued customer of the dealership.

“When the vehicle would come in, we always knew whose it was,” said lead technician Erik Torres. “It was never just the Highlander—it was Mr. Miller’s Highlander.”

The relationship had grown to become so significant that when the hybrid reached one million miles, Miller wanted to reach the milestone in the dealership service bay. The team then reached out to Toyota who replaced the odometer allowing the customer to continue his up-to-date mileage counts.

With dreams of driving another million miles in the Highlander Hybrid, Miller continued his daily commute until late September 2022 when Hurricane Ian, the deadliest hurricane to strike the state of Florida in almost 90 years, made landfall near Cayo Costa, approximately 50 miles from Naples. The Category 4 storm ravaged Florida’s Southwest coast which still has not fully recovered from the devastation.

The 155-mile winds and 18-foot storm surges left the 2006 Highlander Hybrid unrepairable and undrivable. Believing his vehicle to be the first hybrid to surpass one million miles, Miller reached out to Toyota’s Brand Engagement Center to gauge their interest in purchasing the vehicle for research.

Daniel Nichols was the one to initially answer the call. “I could hear his smile through the phone,” said the customer relations representative. “He was full of energy and positivity.”

Heartened by the customer’s tale, the Toyota team quickly came together to find a replacement for the damaged vehicle, pulling a 2023 Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition off the assembly line with Miller’s name already on it. After a couple months of preparation, the vehicle was delivered to Germain Toyota of Naples where it awaited its new owner, complete with a large red bow.

Joining forces to celebrate Miller’s loyalty to his vehicle and the dealership, Toyota Motor North America, Southeast Toyota Distributors and Germain Toyota of Naples surprised him with the state-of-the-art vehicle. Rick Germain, president of Germain Automotive Group, presented Miller with the keys.

“The fact that you rode 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 that we’ve ever had,” Germain said to Miller. “We wanted to thank you for that loyalty. So, on behalf of Toyota and the Toyota family, we would like to reward you for your loyalty by replacing that 2006 Highlander.”

“This is tremendous,” exclaimed Miller. “My heart is just all over the place. I’m overwhelmed. This is just an incredible thing.”

Media Contacts

Christie Caliendo

Director, Public Relations & Integrated Marketing