ADAMSTOWN, MARYLAND -- My car stopped working on the way to work. The gasoline engine was still running, but the car would not move. I knew it was the electrical drive system, but had no way to troubleshoot, so I called the tow truck and had it towed to the nearest dealer (not my home dealer). Two hours later: the inverter/converter of the hybrid system had failed. The car was less than 4 years old. The kicker was the price of the repair bill of $11,000! The part itself was $10,600, and since I had 110,000 miles on it, warranty was out of the question.
I called Toyota customer care, figuring that may be buying $75,000 worth of new Toyota hybrids in the past five years would count for something. I did call my local dealer and found they listed the part for $8200. In the end, Toyota got the dealer my car was at to sell the part for $8200, take 50% off the labor (half of $600) and Toyota would pay for half the part. Final total $5022 to repair the vehicle.
This was not the end of the story. Because Toyota "paid" for half the part, they considered a warranty coverage, and would not give me the old part as I had requested. I know a bit about electrical systems and how an inverter works. There isn't $500 worth of parts in the thing, but I wanted to see the inside of this thing to see what justified anyone thinking thy could charge over $10,000 for one. I'm not going to get the old part.
Bottom line is for five years I have praised the hybrid technology. I'm no environmentalist by any stretch, but I love cool technology. It is insane that any single part on a vehicle could cost $10,000, or even $5000 to repair. For me, hybrid technology is over priced and nowhere close to worth the initial costs, or the savings in gas. Which is why I now drive a 2011 Chrysler 300c. V-8's and rear-wheel drive are the best!
I purchased a 2004 Toyota Highlander with 12 miles on it on 3/20/2004. I loved the vehicle up and until 9/30/2009. I have had the vehicle serviced regularly (with all records kept), brakes replaced, tires replaced, etc. as needed. No major repairs. It has worked beautifully until 9/30/2009. I had an extended warranty on the engine until 72,000 miles. We have owned Toyotas in the past and loved them as well. One Toyota had up to 300,000 miles. Since we had not had any problems up to 72,000 miles, I wrongly assumed we were in the clear.
On 9/30/2009, I saw some fluid under the vehicle in the morning and drove it carefully watching that it did not overheat. When the gauge indicated it was getting hot, I stopped and waited for it to cool down. I did that three times before I got it to my service station. They know the vehicle and have done all of the service work on it. They called and said they recommended it be towed to the nearest Toyota dealership because they didn't want it to overheat either. I did just that. I arranged for the tow. Once at the nearest Toyota dealership their service department was very helpful.
However after they inspected the vehicle to see what the problem was, it was determined that it needed a new engine. I asked specifically if it had been anything I had done to cause the problem. They said no, I couldn't have avoided this problem. They said they had heard of this happening but had never experienced it at their dealership or service department. The problem was that there was an aluminum head attached to an aluminum block with three 18" (or so) steel bolts. The bolts were stripped and it couldn't be put back together. The leak was a coolant leak and was leaking from around the three bolts.
I asked an independent mechanic about the problem and he suggested that Toyota could check the number that is stamped on the engine to see when and where the engine had been manufactured and it sounded like there had been a manufacturing problem in that the bolts weren't treated with a chemical that would have prevented the chemical reaction of the two different metals (steel and aluminum).
The service department actually pleaded our case and even suggested Toyota provide the parts and we pay the labor. I agree that would have been fair. However the Toyota Rep. for the area said no. It was out of warranty and had too many miles. The mileage was 100,215. Remember one day it was great and the next it needed a new engine!!! I emailed other Toyota representatives at the Corporate level and to no avail. I had been told Toyota had an "After Warranty Assistance program." If this situation doesn't fit the After Warranty assistance, I can't imagine what does. Repeatedly, Toyota said in effect "Tough Luck."
One of their new TV commercials about two young people in a long distance relationship and how he travels every weekend to see her and after 200,000 miles they are married. The message is how dependable and reliable a Toyota is. I would have wholeheartedly agreed up and until 9/30/2009. I bought a Toyota expecting quality, dependability and reliability and I also expected at minimum of 200,000 miles from the vehicle. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought this would happen, let alone Toyota just shrugging their shoulders and saying "Sorry."
I tell everyone I know and especially those I have influenced to purchase Toyota, to definitely beware. If I could afford it, someone in Toyota would have a 3000 lb. paper weight sitting on their desk, but I can't afford it and have ordered a new engine. I will never purchase another Toyota as long as I live. It really is too bad, it wouldn't have cost Toyota that much to retain a very happy and content customer up to this point.
P.S. I did file a formal complaint with the Attorney General's Office. If I had to guess I imagine the complaint will fall on deaf ears at Toyota (they are just way too big to care about the little guy and what do they care about losing one customer).
EATONTOWN, NEW JERSEY -- I bought my 2004 Toyota brand new with the expectation that it would be reliable. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The vehicle has been back to the dealership for a front axle seal leak in March 2006, and now, 4 months later sits there because of a problem with the rear differential. They may have my car for a week. Both of these are major repairs. If they were not covered by warranty these would have hit me pretty hard. I estimate that each would have been a minimum of $1,000. I am not waiting for this piece of junk to come off warranty before I trade it in or sell it. Buyer beware if you are looking for a used Highlander. Reputation appears a myth to me.