Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why I Don't Admire Toyota

In an earlier blog entry, I mentioned the power of story to persuade. Here are some experiences I've had with Toyota. See what you think.

Experience 1. My wife's 2010 Camry turned on the traction control fault light. I hunted for my OBD II code reader for a couple of days, but couldn't find it. "So what?" I thought. "I spent over a thousand dollars for the extended warranty, so I'll just take it to the Toyota dealer and have it fixed." So I did.
     A few hours later, the dealer said the car was ready. "The gas cap wasn't on tight enough," the service manager said. "The code showed that."
     "Why was the traction control fault light on," I asked.
     "They do that sometimes," he said.
     "Thank you, Mr. Dealer."
     "That will be $112 please."
     "Just for reading and resetting the code?"
     "But I have the extended warranty."
     "Not covered."

Experience 2. I took the Camry in to a Goodyear store to have the oil changed and tires rotated.
     "Your left front and right rear struts are leaking," the dealer said. Since it's not good to replace only one strut because of uneven handling (in the same way you shouldn't replace only one tire), all four should be replaced."
     "Good thing I have the extended warranty," I said.
     So I took the car to the Toyota dealer and reported the analysis of the Goodyear mechanic. A few hours later, the dealer called and said, "We have permission from Toyota to replace one strut."
     "But two are leaking."
     "Well, according to Toyota, there's leaking and then there's leaking. Your right rear strut isn't leaking enough to be replaced."
     "It's leaking, but leaking is okay??!!"
     "But what about replacing them in pairs?"
     The dealer didn't have the part in stock, so I had to return a few days later.

Experience 3. A couple of days after the strut replacement, my wife pulled into a parking lot and the right engine under cover panel fell off. When she got home, I looked over (or rather under) the situation and discovered that the left under cover panel was dangling by only a couple of screws, instead of the eight it should have. I took the car back to the dealer.
     "Please first, check to see if the strut replacement was done correctly, with no bolts missing or loose, and then replace the under covers properly."
     "We'll look into it," the service manager said.
     The next day (when the "Red Team" is working again) I get a call.
     "The Red Team says that the panel that came off has nothing to do with the strut replacement and that replacing the under cover panels will be $347."
     "But the two panels share several screws in common. How can they have nothing to do with the replacement of the strut since those screws need to be removed as part of the left undercover panel removal? And why was the left panel left with only two screws installed?"
     "I don't know."

Experience 4. I've been thinking about adding a backup camera to my 2013 Tacoma (the last Toyota I will ever buy). Since the truck is already wired for a camera and the display is standard equipment for the radio, all I need is the camera unit. Similar units on the Web are available for $30 to $80 or so, CMOS, color, 170 degree angle, etc. So how much does Toyota want for a camera that will plug into the Tacoma wiring harness? The list price is $815.02, but some benevolent dealers will sell it for as little as $611.23.
     Note to Toyota: You'd make a lot more money, not to mention improving on the public's view of the company, if you offered a do-it-yourself kit that included the camera and instructions for, say, $99. Or an aftermarket install with camera and labor done by the dealer for $199.
     If I may generalize, car manufacturers and dealerships alike need to study up on their economics, particularly the lesson on elasticity of demand and price sensitivity. How many cameras has Toyota sold at $815? No doubt the insurance companies are getting soaked over rear-end collisions that knock out the camera, but how many cameraless Toyota owners have slapped down their Visa cards and had the camera installed? And how many would go for it for a reasonable price?

So, those are my stories. And they show why I don't admire Toyota.

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