How Toyota Messed Up

Toyota_logo_2 I wrote my post about a positive experience with my local Toyota dealership on Saturday. Less than 24 hours after I wrote that post, I had trouble with my car. The engine was smoking and something (which I later learned was anti-freeze) exploded all over my engine.

To me, it seemed awfully odd. I had my car in on Friday and then it started to mess up. I had never had a problem with it until I brought it in to get fixed. One would think it would be the opposite, but mistakes happen.

The point is how companies deal with those issues and end up fixing the problems.

Initial experience.
When I noticed my car was smoking (in my friend’s driveway), I opened up the hood and saw there was a liquid splattered all over. I called the direct line of the guy I had worked with on Friday, but he wasn’t in. I then called the dealer’s central number and was transferred to service. The guy I spoke to was kind of short and gave me the number for a tow truck.

The tow company.
I called the tow company and said I needed my car towed to the dealership. After about a minute of silence, the guy started to ask me questions. I’m not sure why the silence was there, but it was definitely noticeable. He collected my information and explained the tow truck would be there in an hour or so. It was there earlier than expected and the tow truck driver tried to say it could have been just a coincidence. It was a somewhat annoying thing to do, but at least the car was on the way to the dealership.

The dealer experience.
The person I dealt with on Sunday wasn’t as good at following up as Shawn was on Friday. I called a few times and got friendly and accurate updates each time, but I had to call myself. The car was going to be done pretty quickly (before they closed at 2 PM). The problem was because of a faulty cap.

No one actually apologized for the inconvenience. They gave me a certificate for a free oil change and the towing and fixing was free. They also washed the car, which was nice. I was happy with the result and glad the car was fixed so quickly, but no apology was ever given.

It’s about how you handle the mistakes.
The road to success is paved with well handled mistakes (a post about that here). You will make mistakes and there will be faulty parts. Anti-freeze will explode, computers will break. It is inevitable. How you deal with those mistakes, though, is what will set you apart from your competition.

2 Responses to “How Toyota Messed Up”

  1. Ankit said:

    Oct 03, 07 at 2:09 am

    I utterly hate it when people don’t apologize to me for an issue they made. If we’re going to continue doing business together, you might as well admit your mistake, apologize, and minimize the damage.

    By not apologizing, it leaves me in confusion and in a place where there are only vague answers. I want a simple concrete answer on what happened, how they’re fixing it, and why it won’t happen again.

    It might be as simple as this for the dealership, and it won’t cost them anything more besides their ego:

    “I sincerely apologize about the issue, it was our mistake. What happened was that when we did the maintenance, one of the belts that we changed caused a leak in the radiator, which is why the antifreeze was going everywhere. We fixed the issue, are covering the cost of the towing, and have washed the car to remove any of the liquid that might have come out. This is an issue that we normally don’t have, and so I do apologize about this, and the next time you come, if you present this certificate, we’ll give you a free oil change. I’ve written my name on there as well so you can come talk to me in case you have any issues.”

    In my opinion, that is an honest and sincere reply that they could have said. I made up the issue for causing the leak, but the main point I want to make is that a sincere apology doesn’t cost anything and it’s better to admit a mistake than try to hide it.

    No business can be perfect, and so as a consumer, I’d rather hear about the mistake than a vague response that doesn’t answer any of my questions.

  2. Jeff Farmer said:

    Mar 19, 08 at 11:21 am

    I am the owner of a 2004 Toyota 4Runner, I have owned this vehicle since new. This is my 3rd Toyota.

    My problem is that the O-ring recently failed on the Actuator Assembly, and Toyota does not make the replacement O-ring available. This means that I must purchase a complete actuator assembly for $1,100. Then to compound the expense, since the actuator is mounted inside the transfer case, I have been told by Jack Safro Toyota that the labor to replace the actuator is another $1,100. Paying $2,200 to replace a $4 part is excessive. It appears by the very nature of the design, that Toyota engineers felt that these actuator O-rings do not fail, otherwise they would have made them more accessible.

    I have authorized the dealer’s service department to move forward with the fix. I am looking for Toyota to be reasonable and responsive and step up and cover a portion of this bill. I have spoke with Toyota’s Customer Experience Center as well as my local dealer to cover part of the expense under warranty and both have declined without any reason. I am asking for someone to consider my request once again. This vehicle has been well maintained and never abused. The failure of a $4 part should not warrant a $2,200 repair bill.

    How can I get Toyota to listen and step up?

    Thanks in advance for your consideration. I welcome the opportunity to speak to someone from Toyota in greater detail regarding my problem.

    I look forward to your reply.