When Bob and Sheila Wenzel rolled into Toyota of Huntington Beach on Monday, they knew something was up.
The Fountain Valley couple had earlier been informed that their recent purchase of a 2013 Highlander from the Beach Boulevard dealership was a milestone: the five millionth Toyota certified used vehicle sold in the United States.
They knew that was special enough for the carmaker to donate $10,000 to the Wenzels' choice charity: Family Promise of Orange County, which helps homeless families find housing. They also were aware that Toyota was donating another $5,000 to the dealership's preferred charity, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
What the Wenzels didn't realize were all the extras they were getting — the largest of which was a free car.
After doing interviews for a Toyota camera crew about being the five millionth customer and about Family Promise, the Wenzels were surprised with a $29,180 check to pay off their Highlander.
Then they were presented with $1,000 in free gas from Carfax, a framed copy of their Highlander's Carfax report, a two-year subscription to SiriusXM Radio, and a prepaid maintenance and vehicle service plan for their car from Toyota Financial Services.
Ray Jackson, Toyota of Huntington Beach's Internet sales manager, also received an extra $1,000 bonus for selling the Highlander.
The Wenzels' friends and family watched Monday's surprise ceremony, which was filmed by Toyota and HBTV3. Huntington Beach Mayor Jim Katapodis attended.
Sheila Wenzel said she was amazed that the purchase of her Highlander will have lasting effects through the work of both charities.
"Who would've guessed that ... in that given moment in time, that perhaps some suicides would be saved from those who felt their life wasn't worth living," she said, "and that those who are on the streets might find a home."
Bradley Zint, email@example.com