Anorak | Did Toyota trick its customers? Is Volvo worse?

Did Toyota trick its customers? Is Volvo worse?

by | 5th, February 2012

THE Sunday Times has a story on how a mechanic woking on a Toyota Yaris found a fault that the customer had not noticed.

The technician, who worked for a large dealership in the south of England, decided to replace the entire steering column and made a £500 order for the parts he needed. Within an hour, his manager marched into the workshop angrily demanding an explanation. “All hell let loose,” the technician recalls. “He told me Toyota would never agree to the repair . . . without the customer complaining.”

The technician stood his ground. “I went off my head at him. I just said that it was a load of horse s**t. The customer deserved better,” he says.

The Times says that Toyota’s warranty policy and procedures manual, “a secret document seen only by dealers”, states that “the warranty should address only those issues raised directly by a customer”, unless they are a direct risk to safety or reliability.

It gets worse:

Dealers who are caught out repairing these “cosmetic” faults under warranty without a customer complaint can be fined up to four times the cost of the work.

A meeting between Toyota dealerships and the makers took place in 2009:

The minutes of the meeting say the dealers felt the policy was “very demotivational” to technicians who feared being held responsible should “something terrible happen”. Ignoring manufacturing defects in new cars in order to avoid paying for the repairs was “most definitely not in the spirit of complete customer satisfaction”, they said.

A whistleblower speak up:

…Shaun Mcelhinney, who ran three Toyota and Lexus dealerships in Suffolk and Essex, said concerns about the policy continued until he sold his business last summer. “If it was a safety- related issue and the customer hadn’t reported it Toyota would always say ‘get it done’,” he said. “If it wasn’t safety and it wasn’t going to affect the performance of that car there and then: ‘not interested’.”

He listed items that might not be fixed if the customer failed to report them as: “water leaks, oil leaks, noisy steering racks, cosmetic things on the car such as alloy wheels — basically anything that wasn’t safety related”.

When cars came out of warranty, the dealer became free to tell the customer about the very same faults and charge them for the repairs because, he said, Toyota is “in the business of selling parts”.

Another source is quoted:

A second former dealer has made similar allegations. “This is how it works. A Yaris comes in for a routine service but the technician may find that it has an oil leak in the engine. Oil leaks were a company problem, a major problem. The engine could lose all of its oil and if the engine seizes up at 70mph the car will go out of control.

“If it was clearly safety related the dealers had to carry out the repair. [But] the issue of clearly safety related was one that the dealers and Toyota did not agree on.”

Toyota denied this and insisted all oil leaks are safety issues and will be repaired.

Have you had problem with care under warranty that has not been fixed?

A reader tells us of his Volvo, an XC90 that in its fourth year suddenly became uncontrollable when the steering seized up. The owner was doing 40mph on a busy road. There had been no warning that the car’s steering was about to fail. It is by dumb luck there was no accident. A local independent garage investigated and found a big hole in the power steering system. The fluid had suddenly leaked out. When ordering the part from Volvo it turned out that this was a known fault. Volvo has ordered a product recall but NOT told the owner of the car.

The owner had bought the car from new. He had had it serviced. But the local garage in Dorset had not told him of the issue. A call to Volvo revealed that the dealership in Ferndown had closed down – the business taken over by another dealer in Poole. And – get this – they had no records. A call to Volvo met with a comment that loss of steering may not represent loss of control. After a few days, Volvo said they would reimburse the owner the cost of the part – but NOT the cost of having it fixed because the garage was an independent. After an exchange of receipts and emails, Volvo offered to pay for the work as well. The owner was told they would have to have the work checked at the Volvo dealership. They did. They asked for the faulty boot lock – a thing that had been “fixed” in Ferndown twice under the 3-three warranty – to be repaired again. But Poole said it was now out of warranty and would cost £130 to fix. Volvo then offered £250 of vouchers to be used only in a Volvo garage.


Jon Williams, the managing director of Toyota GB, tells The Sunday Times.

He promised to “drop everything” and travelled to London the following day to tell his company’s side of the story.

At the meeting, which took place 10 days ago, Williams told Insight’s reporters: “We wanted to show you today that we are real people and we care about our customers, and we care about our dealers and we want to do the right thing. It hurts that you are writing a story that could undermine that and damage our business”…

Williams emphasised that any safety or reliability fault would always be fixed and the cost would be covered under the warranty policy. He said nothing was more important to the firm than the safety of its customers.

The Toyota executives initially denied that Toyota had any policy of refusing to recognise “add-on repairs” — a term for faults that are not reported by the customer — until the reporters produced the firm’s confidential warranty policy manual, which clearly states that this is the case.

Williams and his executives argued that very few faults would not be fixed under the policy because almost all would fall into the category of safety and reliability. It describes all faults that are not safety or reliability related as “purely cosmetic”.

Toyota firmly denied the claim by dealers that the policy stopped them fixing any faults that could have affected a vehicle’s operation such as oil and water pump leaks, faulty shock absorbers and engine oil blockages.

The company said that steering faults would almost always be considered safety related, but it had conducted a full investigation into the clicking noise from the Yaris steering column and concluded that it was not dangerous.

Toyota says that customers are encouraged to report all problems when they book their car in for a service or repair.

Is Toyota typical? Is Volvo worse…?

Posted: 5th, February 2012 | In: The Consumer Comments (3) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink