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Sunday, 5 February 2012

Toyota denies Sunday Times allegations

The Sunday Times has published a story accusing Toyota GB and its dealers of acting "unethically" towards customers over warranty claims. You can see the headline on the public part of the website, but the detail is behind the paywall. It seems from other reports that the paper alleges that Toyota prevented dealers from fixing defects under warranty unless they related to safety and reliability or had initially been raised by the customer themselves. Anything the dealer found during routine servicing or inspection could, the Sunday Times asserts, be ignored. The Fleet Street Blues blog gives the following (presumably) extract from the paper's report:
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.
As a result, defects such as the clicking Yaris steering column, heavy clutches, corroded wheels and faulty wing mirrors cannot be fixed under warranty unless the customer reports them.
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.
Toyota GB, unsurprisingly, responded with a statement in which they said:
All manufacturing defects, however identified, are covered by the Toyota warranty.
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.
The company also said it “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”. I'm not sure anything has been refuted yet - but clearly they are denying it. I would give you a link to the statement, as the Sunday Times apparently does (behind the paywall!), but it doesn't seem to be on Toyota's website: you can read about it on Auto Retail Network.

The suggestion in the Sunday Times story seems to be that dealers can postpone rectifying some faults until the car has come out of warranty, which does sound a bit dubious, but to call the alleged (and denied) practice in general "unethical" strikes me as over-the-top. And what's so sinister about the document setting out the warranty policy being "secret"? There are reams of documents governing the manufacturer-dealer relationship which are not disclosed to the public, and that's entirely as you'd expect.

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