Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Saw Your Ads Toyota ...

... where you claim to want to restore my confidence in your quality product. You have a long way to go. I noticed the picture of the 70's era Land Cruiser inspiring me to want to own one of your tough vehicles. It's not working really. Those pictures, those suggestions of happy families; those are of old cars, an old Toyota -- that's not me and my car.

I am the guy whose always scraping together an extra grand to get his car maintained. I am the guy that goes to Toyota to pay a couple of hundred bucks to have a guy explain how the air conditioner is working the way it originally did, even though we all know better.

I remember after I drove my truck though some water 18 inches deep for a while and then the slave cylinder on the clutch failed, which isn't that unusual (or is it?), that the Toyota dealer (2 actually) told me he couldn't find anything wrong, even though the clutch pedal randomly collapsed to the floor and stayed there while driving. When this happens it is important to reach down and pull it back up to it's normal position, which is what some people are telling Toyota owners they might want to do to their gas pedal while there car is speeding ahead. Lucky for me the local mechanic was able to diagnose and fix the problem with my clutch.

I remember seeing those Kurdish Toyota trucks, with the machine guns mounted on them, tearing up the desert and wonder if they had to stop and turn back during a mission because their steering rack failed in the middle of a trip. I am sorry, the romance of it all just isn't getting through to me. The quality of your cars, I am thinking ... it's just not there.

My truck is a 2003 Tacoma, and the real story is about the electronic throttle controller, my gas pedal. When it first started behaving erratically, my car had about 90,000 miles on it. The primary symptom was that the acceleration would disappear randomly while accelerating, particularly at freeway speed.

So I took it to the dealer, several, in fact. Superstition Toyota in Mesa Arizona, Toyota 101 in Redwood City, California, and City Toyota in South San Francisco. Repeatedly I was told that they couldn't find a problem ... bring it back if it gets worse. SO finally I took it to the independent Toyota Shop (C&T, in San Mateo, CA), and they diagnosed and found the problem, a faulty throttle motor controller, a part which costs about 1300 dollars. I am sure this is why Toyota didn't want to find the problem. C&T found me a used one which they installed for much less, and it's been running well since.

The problem that I see isn't so much that the quality isn't there (it obviously isn't), but to have seemingly reasonable people tell me that there's nothing wrong with my car, when there clearly is, is definitely a problem. In fact, denial of the problems with Toyota vehicles seem to go way beyond my car and the three or four dealers I have dealt with, it seems to stem from the very top level of the company. Listening to the news reports leaves me thinking that Toyota knew there were problems with their cars, dangerous problems, and categorically denied the problems at a time when full disclosure seemed imperative.

It's really easy for me to believe this since they have repeated done this -- denying there's a problem -- about every problem I have brought to them.

Your advertisements are good Toyota, but I feel that you are trying to whitewash a somewhat dire situation. It's hard to believe the sincerity of the ads, when your mechanics and service advisors have been standing in front of me, telling me it's fine when it isn't, on a regular basis for several years.

Personally, after this car, I don't think I'll ever own a Toyota again.

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