New car dealership Toyota Trinidad and Tobago Limited is defending itself against claims that it sold a customer a defective vehicle that it has declined to replace.
Penal resident Deopersad Latoo said he purchased a Toyota Corolla GLI 2017 sedan at Toyota's South Park, San Fernando branch on September 29, but began experiencing problems with the vehicle the very next day.
“My son and I observed that the car began vibrating when placed in reverse gear so I contacted the company and indicated that the vehicle had a defect, whereby we were instructed to bring the vehicle in.
“We returned the vehicle on October 2 and it was placed on a ramp and checked, after which we were told there's nothing wrong with it, but not being satisfied with that assurance, I asked to have it replaced.”
Latoo said he was informed that his request for a replacement would have to be dealt with by Service Manager Rawl Jones.
“The next day (Oct 3) I received a call from Mr Jones asking if it was possible for me to meet him at the South Park branch, so I agreed. The vehicle was test driven and the vibration was detected.”
Jones, he said, told him in order for the vibration to stop he needed to engage the accelerator all the way, and that as far as he was concerned there's nothing wrong with the vehicle since all the GLIs performed the same way.
“I told him that after spending $245,000 I'm not willing to accept a defective vehicle and asked for the vehicle to be replaced, failing which, I would like to have my money refunded. Both those requests were denied,” Latoo said.
He said he then sought legal representation and a pre-action protocol letter was sent to Toyota on October 16. The company responded via their attorneys seeking an extension, which was granted to November 3.
“Strangely enough, on November 3 I got a call from my lawyer telling me I need to go and collect the vehicle as Toyota has sent a letter indicating I would be billed a storage fee of $200 daily for each day the vehicle remained on their compound.
“What Toyota did was they literally forced me to take the vehicle back, so I had to hire a wrecker to go and collect it.”
Latoo said despite his lawyer informing him that Toyota had supplied the results of tests indicating the vehicle was not defective, he still was not satisfied because he was not present when those tests were conducted, nor could he verify the authenticity of the test results.
Toyota, however, refuted some of Latoo's allegations while standing by the veracity of the tests results.
In a meeting on Wednesday with president Shigeru Ito, vice president Ryan Latchu, Jones and Service Team Leader Sheldon Thompson, Express was told that no one at Toyota ever informed Latoo that the vibration was consistent with the 2017 Corollas, or for that matter, with any vehicle manufactured by Corolla.
“We are distributors and therefore are not 100% professionals in declaring a vehicle defective. To define a vehicle as being defective is the call of the manufacturers,” Ito said.
When asked if Toyota receives requests to have vehicles replaced and how do they treat with such requests, Ito responded: “Normally we don't receive such requests, however, we have a warranty manual endorsed by the manufacturers that outlines the conditions under which a vehicle will be repaired or replaced.
“We will not replace an entire vehicle if one component is not functioning as it should, we'll just replace the specific component.”
Ito also said Toyota has done everything possible, even paying for tests to be done by independent third party, Cariclaims, to maintain its policy of good customer service and relations.
In shedding some light on the tests conducted, Thompson said, “We took a decision to have Latoo's vehicle properly checked by our people at the Panama Representative Office in Panama, who provides us with technical support. So we had one of their senior engineer flown down to perform a PicoScope Test, which measures vibrations.
“The tests were conducted on his, as well as a comparison vehicle, a new Toyota Corolla of the same model. The results from the tests done on both vehicles indicated that the vibration occurs when both the accelerator and the brake pedals were engaged when the vehicles are in reverse gear.
“There's something called first force vibration, which is normal for any mechanical component in motion. When the brake and accelerator of a vehicle is engaged at the same time you have two opposing forces at play and this increased the level of first force vibration. Under normal circumstances the rubber mounts that support the engine will absorb the first force vibration, but in scenarios like this, the vibration will be exaggerated.
Thompson said the PicoScope tests showed that cause of the vibration is as a result of driver's error, from trying to reverse while the brake is engaged, which is what Mr Latoo is said to have been doing.
Toyota also produced the results from the tests done by Cariclaims which stated that a noticeable vibration emanated from the engine, particularly at low RPM when a full load was applied in reverse gear while the hand brake was fully engaged to the point where the vehicle could not mover. According to the test report, the vibration subsided when the RPM was increased above 1800.
The report stated that test done on a Corolla not yet registered provided the same results and since engine tolerances are tighter in new vehicles, while engine and transmission mounts are expected to be stiffer when new but will soften with use. It also stated that the vibration does not represent a defect and there are no known recalls for that model.
“We are still willing to meet with Mr Latoo and see how best this issue can be resolved,” Ito said.
To Toyota's claim, Latoo said: “I've been driving for over 30 years so I would be foolish to engage the brake pedal and the accelerator at the same time”.