Nova Scotia

Consumer advocate wants Toyota to compensate owners hurt by parts shortage

A national organization that's been helping consumers with car-related issues for decades is urging Toyota Canada to acknowledge its Canada-wide parts shortage problem and compensate owners affected, with some cars having been left in the shop for more than two months.

APA hopes Toyota will 'see the light' after some cars sidelined more than 2 months

George Iny of the Automobile Protection Association says Toyota needs to be open about its parts problem and compensate affected consumers. (CBC)

A national consumer advocacy organization is calling on Toyota Canada to be transparent about parts delays and compensate owners affected by the Canada-wide problem that has seen some vehicles in the shop for more than two months.

George Iny, director of the Automobile Protection Association (APA), told CBC in an interview on Ontario Today that he doesn't know the specifics of Toyota's problems, but it needs to speak up.

"It's non-transparent, and they will evade or provide incorrect or incomplete information for as long as they can get away with it, and when they feel something is potentially embarrassing," he said.

He noted that this has happened before when Toyota in the U.S., made statements and accepted responsibility for problems with their vehicles while in Canada. "They just kept quiet, and it usually works."

He said he's not sure exactly what is causing the problem, but typically with system changes it's poor co-ordination between the consultant and the client. Sometimes a consultant sells software that isn't fully mature. In other cases, there isn't enough focus on training people using the old system to adapt to the new one.

"The big surprise here is that Toyota is a world leader in inventory management, just-in-time delivery and continuous optimization," he said, noting that "if Toyota can be in trouble like this, nobody is really safe, in a sense … migrating from an old system in a complex company."

Toyota has said the problem is the result of a "planned systems transformation," although it hasn't specified what that means.

Company spokesperson David Shum told CBC on Aug. 20 that the systems change was aimed at improving customer service, but he acknowledged some delays in parts deliveries in the meantime.

"We recognize that these changes may affect some of our customers and dealers in the short term," he said in an emailed statement. "We apologize for the unusual delays, and we thank our customers for their patience as we make these changes."

Suspend lease payments

Toyota owners are bearing the costs of having their vehicles sitting in a repair shop while they wait for parts. Some have used all of their allowable insurance rental coverage, forcing them to pay for their own transportation or drive a vehicle that is roadworthy but still missing parts.

Iny said Toyota should take several steps, including suspending lease payments for any Toyota leased vehicle that is off the road while waiting for parts. 

"If you're a lease customer, you're not getting any use for your payment, and if it's an insurance repair and your car is off the road, they should take over paying for the rental car when your insurance company gives up on you," Iny said.

He noted the inconvenience is "extreme." He said it's not like waiting for a recall part to come in where you can actually continue driving your vehicle and just cross your fingers that you don't have the problem. "This is a more severe thing if your vehicle is sidelined and it involves costs."

He said Toyota should provide a courtesy car for any Toyota vehicle off the road more than a day or two waiting for parts.

He also called on the automaker to automatically authorize dealers to order parts from non-Toyota suppliers. 

"We've heard from people who started work on their car, were told there were no parts, and found parts themselves but the dealer is not approved to install them on the cars by the manufacturer because they're not Toyota parts," he said.

Finally Iny said Toyota should apply the Toyota warranty and indemnify dealers for extra cost they've incurred. 

Catrina Brown stands in front of the rental car provided by her insurance company. She waited more than two months for parts to fix her car, which was finally returned to her on Sept. 3. (Robert Short/CBC)

In August, Halifax resident Catrina Brown said it was like "pulling teeth" trying to get any information from Toyota Canada, the dealership or the collision repair centre about what was causing the delay and when the needed parts for her vehicle would arrive.

At that point, she had been been waiting 57 days (since June 30) for parts for her RAV-4, which had been in an accident. She finally got it back Sept. 3 and has asked Toyota to reimburse her for the lease payments she had to make, even though she couldn't drive her car.

She called on Toyota to communicate effectively, responsibly, and transparently, saying "all of the hit is on the public," not Toyota.

Iny said customers are frustrated in part because of Toyota's failure "to get out in front of the problem." 

What should you do?

Iny has advice for Toyota owners whose vehicles are not driveable because of the parts shortage:

  • Make sure you document everything.
  • Inform Toyota in writing if your vehicle is off the road because of the parts delay and ask them to cover the cost.
  • If you're going to a Toyota dealer, make sure you get not only an estimate but that they confirm the parts have arrived before they take your car apart, otherwise you could be stuck.  

Despite the current situation for customers with no timeline for fix, Iny remains an optimist about the situation.

The APA is hopeful that Toyota will eventually see the light and compensate customers," he said.

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About the Author

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days, she's focused on helping consumers get the most bang for their bucks and avoid being ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca.

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