The Sunday Times yesterday published an Insight investigation where Toyota dealers and technicians lashed out at the Japanese car giant’s policies.
The dealers interviewed claimed that they had been asked to ignore defects on cars they spotted during servicing – and only fix those that a customer had complained about.
In a statement, Toyota said: ‘Toyota GB completely refutes the accusation that it or its dealers act unethically or seek to deceive customers by failing to notify them of non-safety or reliability manufacturing defects whilst a vehicle is under warranty.
‘All manufacturing defects, however identified, are covered by the Toyota warranty.’
The Sunday Times investigation claimed there was a ‘secret policy’ – detailed in a confidential manual only given to dealers – instructing them to only fix defects to new cars if customers alerted them to the problem, or if they affected car’s reliability or safety.
But Toyota says this is not the case, saying a warranty manual is ‘distributed’ throughout its dealer network with terms and conditions repeated in the owner’s handbook.
‘Toyota GB does not have, and never has had, a “secret policy” that prevents dealer staff notifying customers of faults with their car,’ the statement added.
‘The warranty policy manual is distributed to all dealers and authorised repairers (over 200 in the UK, all independently owned) which details warranty administration procedures. The terms and conditions of the warranty are also described within the owner’s service and warranty handbook supplied with every new car.
‘As acknowledged in the article, all items which may affect the safety or reliability of the vehicle, whether covered by warranty or not, are systematically identified and repaired by our technicians and no car is allowed to go back on the road until these items have been fixed. Customer safety is, and has always been, Toyota’s top priority.’
The Sunday Times article said the ‘secret policy’ was challenged in a meeting between dealers in Toyota’s southern zone and head office executives.
Minutes from the meeting leaked to the newspaper describe dealers’ fears that they were putting customers in danger, and that they were liable should an accident occur to a customer.
The dealers also felt that customers were being ripped-off. ‘Customers could suddenly be told of a list of previously unmentioned faults when their warranties expired. The customer would then have to pay for the work on the car,’ said The Sunday Times piece.
But Toyota has hit back saying: ‘Contrary to the accusation made by The Sunday Times, Toyota dealer technicians can and do bring to the attention of customers any type of fault (including purely cosmetic faults), regardless of the cause, which they find on a vehicle, whether or not previously raised by the customer.
‘There is a clear and simple procedure for any repairs to be carried out. Any work that comes within the terms of the five–year warranty will be covered at no cost to the customer.’
The piece is the last thing Toyota needs after it was just beginning to repair its battered reputation after last year’s recall disaster.
Are you a Toyota dealer? Or a dealer from another marque that’s seen similar things? Get in touch and tell us your side of the story confidentially.