Loyal Customers Witness Implosion of Toyota/Lexus Brand

January 29, 2010

KaboomBy Angie Moreschi:

As part of a family of loyal, long-time Toyota/Lexus drivers, I’m downright angry.  Angry that Toyota screwed up a good thing.

Toyota could have used me in an ad a year ago ( I used to hail my previous Lexus for saving my daughter’s life in a bad accident we had).  But now, I’m left worrying about whether my reflexes will be fast enough to save my children’s lives if I become one of the unfortunate victims of a sticking gas pedal.

Talk about the sudden implosion of an iconic brand… but maybe it wasn’t so sudden. Read on to find out about my unfortunate year as the owner of a brand new Lexus.

Our 2009 Lexus RX 350 is, so far, not part of the recall list for sticking gas pedals, but before all of this recall hullabaloo, we had a year of strange and unexplained mechanical issues with the vehicle. First, the navigation system went out. Replaced under warranty by the dealership with not much fanfare. Thank you very much.

Then, a few months later, steam began pouring out from under the hood. We immediately called the dealership. It had to be towed. Another warranty issue, right? Well now, let the games begin. Lexus claimed the damage was not covered under warranty. They said road debris must have gotten through the tiny, openings on the front grate, up into the engine, pinged around, and somehow caused a pin-sized puncture in the condenser, too small for the naked eye to see.

Yeah, riiiiiiight. It must have been a “magic pebble.” That’s all I can figure, or perhaps, “road debris” was an excuse the Lexus dealership conjured up to help cover growing servicing costs to fix vehicles with mysterious problems still under warranty. The dealer refused to cover this obvious manufacturer’s defect. So, we called our insurance, which would only cover $150. That’s when I decided the whole thing was a ridiculous sham and put up quite a stink. In the end, the dealership took the $150 insurance check and covered the rest of the cost of the repair, but that was after a lot of aggravation and having my insurance pinged.

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. Several months later. Now the third problem, in just about a year with my lovely new Lexus. The dashboard clock went out. Here we go again. This time, we made it clear up front that we were upset. They had the car for two weeks, finally replacing the entire navigation system. While they agreed to fix this under warranty, let me just say this is NOT why I bought a Lexus. Words like dependable, quality, good engineering… used to come to mind when I thought of the Toyota/Lexus brand. Now, it’s frustration, poor customer service and, yes, downright fear that my car might turn into a death trap while driving my children to school.  It’s not fair to the millions of customers who put their faith in these vehicles.

And why? I ask. Why would all this be happening? This unprecedented decimation of a long-time, venerable brand? Well, you know the answer. MONEY. Like everything else these days. All the recalls… all the problems with engineering… the feeble customer service. Self inflicted. The likely result of over-zealous cost cutting. Yes, the President of Toyota even admitted as much in a speech last year, saying that maybe they went a little too far in cutting costs. Ya think? I guess Toyota won’t be saving so much, after all.

This will go down in the books, to be studied for years to come in crisis communications classes ’round the country. When you’ve got quality and the number one brand, trying to sqeeeeeeze out just a little bit more… just a little bit more… profit… could be a mistake. A BIG ONE.

Okay, all together now—  slam the brake.. then place in neutral.