De­lays plague Toy­ota own­ers with de­fect

Ma­jor re­call leaves frus­trated driv­ers wait­ing for fixes

Toronto Star - - SMART MONEY - Ellen Rose­man

Robert Sarner owns a 2008 Toy­ota RAV4 sport util­ity ve­hi­cle, which he bought used in 2012. The car has a me­chan­i­cal prob­lem that makes him feel burned.

Last fall, he went to a garage for ba­sic ser­vice and learned that his en­gine con­sumed an ex­ces­sive amount of oil. It was a known de­fect with the RAV4, he was told.

The garage con­tacted Toy­ota Canada, which said the prob­lem was un­der warranty and would be ad­dressed once the parts ar­rived. But al­most a year later, noth­ing has hap­pened.

“I had to bring in the car to have the oil con­sump­tion of­fi­cially an­a­lyzed by an au­tho­rized Toy­ota dealer. They con­firmed the prob­lem, but so far there is no so­lu­tion in sight,” Sarner said.

Frus­trated to own a car that re­quires fre­quent ad­di­tions of oil at his own ex­pense, he keeps con­tact­ing Toy­ota to find out when the parts will ar­rive.

He’s had no re­sponse, other than a re­quest by Toy­ota to go back to the au­tho­rized dealer for an­other oil con­sump­tion anal­y­sis.

Spokes­woman Alice Young Jeon said Toy­ota Canada has a warranty en­hance­ment pro­gram (WEP) that extends cov­er­age for ve­hi­cles with ex­ces­sive en­gine oil con­sump­tion, as ver­i­fied by a Toy­ota dealer.

“The cur­rent ex­pec­ta­tion is for this WEP to re­sume in early fall,” she added.

“All af­fected cus­tomers will be con­tact- ed as soon as re­place­ment parts be­come avail­able.”

It’s not clear why Toy­ota Canada’s ex­tended warranty pro­gram has been delayed. But the com­pany is not of­fer­ing to re­im­burse own­ers for their ex­penses while wait­ing for re­pairs.

Phil Ed­mon­ston, au­thor of the Le­monAid car guide pub­lished each year, sug­gests go­ing to small claims court to ask for re­pairs and ex­penses if your car burns ex­cess oil and is not cov­ered by Toy­ota’s warranty en­hance­ment pro­gram.

In March 2014, a U.S. law firm filed a class-ac­tion suit in Cal­i­for­nia on be­half of Toy­ota and Scion own­ers ex­pe­ri­enc­ing prob­lems with ex­cess oil con­sump­tion due to de­fec­tive 2AZ-FE en­gines.

Wait­ing for re­pairs is up­set­ting. But it’s even worse if your car has a safety prob­lem and there is a short­age of parts to fix it un­der a safety re­call.

For in­stance, sev­eral mil­lion Canadian ve­hi­cles are in­cluded in a world­wide re­call of airbags made by Takata Corp. in Ja­pan. It’s one of the largest recalls for a safety prob­lem in au­to­mo­tive his­tory.

You can find out if your make and model of ve­hi­cle is af­fected at Trans­port Canada’s mo­tor ve­hi­cle safety recalls data­base.

“The de­fect is more likely to oc­cur if your ve­hi­cle has been ex­posed to sus­tained high hu­mid­ity and tem­per­a­tures for long pe­ri­ods of time,” says Trans­port Canada, which con­sid­ers the risk to be low and has not re­ceived any com­plaints about ab­nor­mal de­ploy­ment of Takata airbags in Canada.

Pamela Green­wood has been wait­ing one year for re­pairs to her Toy­ota Corolla’s airbag. She wants the man­u­fac­turer to pin down a re­pair date or — as some man­u­fac­tur­ers have done — to of­fer a loaner ve­hi­cle to use as an al­ter­na­tive.

“I won­der how they ex­pect a fam­ily of four to man­age with­out us­ing the pas­sen­ger seat,” she said. “I am ready to trade in my ve­hi­cle be­cause of this is­sue. My car is cur­rently run­ning well, so I would not be con­sid­er­ing this if it weren’t for the safety prob­lem.”

Green­wood wrote to me af­ter hearing a re­port by Erica John­son of CBC about a Toy­ota cus­tomer in Ab­bots­ford, B.C., who has also waited a year for re­pairs.

“I feel like I’m driv­ing Miss Daisy,” said 85-year-old Barb Flem­ing, who tells pas­sen­gers to sit in the back seat to avoid possible in­jury or death from metal shrap­nel shoot­ing from a rup­tured airbag.

Toy­ota Canada has not sup­plied an es­ti­mated time for re­pairs un­der the airbag re­call. The gov­ern­ment can’t force au­tomak­ers to give cus­tomers this in­for­ma­tion.

The for­mer Harper gov­ern­ment tabled a bill to strengthen Trans­port Canada’s re­call pow­ers be­fore the elec­tion was called last Au­gust. The Trudeau gov­ern­ment plans to go ahead with the leg­is­la­tion.

The Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Safety Act is a “zom­bie law, nei­ther dead nor alive, hol­lowed out with no en­force­ment pow­ers,” says Ed­mon­ston, a con­sumer ad­vo­cate who helped ease the pas­sage of the act in 1971.

“But Takata de­lays and Trans­port Canada weak­ness have forced gov­ern­ment to put this at the head of their agenda.” Ellen Rose­man writes every Tues­day for Smart Money. She can be reached at erose­man@thes­tar.ca

MAN­DEL NGAN/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Safety reg­u­la­tors or­dered Takata to re­call mil­lions of airbags.

SHIZUO KAMBAYASHI/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Prob­lems with Takata’s airbag in­fla­tors have led to one of the largest recalls for a safety prob­lem in au­to­mo­tive his­tory.

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