Toyota Replaces One Unsafe Car with Another

January 28, 2010

Toyota recakkBy Angie Moreschi:

“I’ll never forget,” said Jon Newcomer, “Their exact words were: ‘We’re condemning your vehicle.  We’ve deemed it unsafe for the road.’”  That was the unfortunate news this Hudson, New York man received this week when he took his Toyota Tundra truck into his dealership in Kingston, New York to have a brake problem checked out.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the dealer turned around and gave him a 2010 Toyota Corolla as a loaner car.  That doesn’t sound so terrible, except, as it turns out, the Corolla is on the recall list for possible sudden acceleration problems.  Something Newcomer says they conveniently forgot to tell him.

“I’m definitely not happy about it, because I’m putting my wife and kids in this Toyota Corolla,” Newcomer said.  “I’m angry that they replaced my unsafe vehicle, with a vehicle that’s likely even more unsafe.”

Toyota is in the midst of a recall nightmare, because of growing safety concerns about sticking gas pedals that have led to the sudden, unexplained acceleration in several of its most popular models.

From Bad to Worse

It all started when Newcomer began having brake problems with his 2000 Toyota Tundra and took it into his local mechanic.  “He told me it had a serious frame problem that he couldn’t handle,” Newcomer said.  So he decided to take his truck to the dealership.

That’s when Newcomer learned his Tundra was actually part of an earlier Toyota recall for frame rot, which could lead to rear brake failure.  “I was definitely a little stunned, because I didn’t receive any recall notification at all, nothing in the mail.  I only found out about it, because I brought my truck in.”

Newcomer says the dealer didn’t handle the situation well.   They had very little information for him on how his condemned car situation would all be resolved.  They did say, however, they would give him that loaner vehicle until they could figure out what to do.  But Newcomer says, the fact that they gave him a recalled vehicle as a loaner is quite remarkable, if not down right irresponsible. “I’m not happy at all,” he said. “It really upsets me.”

Toyota dealers were first notified last week that the Corolla was on the recall list.  Then, dealers were ordered by Toyota on Tuesday not to release those vehicles from inventory.

Driving an unsafe car

CorollaNewcomer spent most of the day Wednesday trying to figure out what to do with his recalled loaner car.  He says the dealership offered to do an inspection on the Corolla to determine if it’s safe to drive, but he was having none of that.

“The woman on the phone said it’s only affecting 1% of 100  cars and only cars with high mileage.  She said I’d be able to feel some resistance in the gas pedal, if the car was affected.  I told her, ‘Ma’am, that doesn’t make me feel one bit better.’”

Ultimately, they told him to drive the car back to the dealership, and they would give him a different loaner car, not on the recall list.   “So now, I have to leave work early to drive this unsafe car 30 miles to remedy the situation, but what options do I really have?”

Unfortunately, Newcomer, like thousands of other Toyota customers, is stuck.  “I’m disappointed in Toyota, he says, “They claim to be this dependable, long-lasting vehicle, and now we’re seeing that’s not the case.”

Newcomer says the dealership told him they’re dealing with the recalled vehicles on “a case-by-case basis,” which he found unnerving.  “That certainly doesn’t make me feel confident.  Am I gonna be one of the individuals that doesn’t get what’s due to them, or will I be one of the individuals who’s taken care of?”

A lot of people are asking that same question.

What’s Next?

As far as his condemned Tundra, the dealer now tells Newcomer Toyota Corporate will be in touch to make him an offer on buying the truck back.  “I feel like I’m left flapping in the wind.  They said it could take as long as one month or even four months.  They didn’t know,” he said.

It’s bad enough being a Toyota owner these days, with all the fear and uncertainty about your car suddenly accelerating and possibly becoming a death trap.  At the very least, you’d think the company would work a little harder on creating better customer relations.

**Click here to see Dow Jones Newswire Columnist Al Lewis’ take on the Toyota crisis and his wry advise for customers.

**Click here for an editorial on how the Toyota brand is being affected by the recall crisis.