Here is a letter I sent to the Office of the President at Toyota Corporate:
Route 9 East
Framingham, MA 01702
To the Office of the President:
My name is Catharine J. I am a current customer of the Bernardi Toyota in Framingham, Massachusetts. I leased a Toyota RAV4 from another dealer in 2005. I loved the car and had an excellent financial record with the lease. When my lease was close to ending, I researched cars and decided I would like another RAV4. Since the Bernardi Toyota had reached out to me (I live very close to them) I chose their dealership as the next one to go through. I happen to work for a large retailer/consumer goods corporate headquarters. I know how important customer service is to us and understand that corporate social responsibility is held highly regarded. I have not had that experience with Toyota and wanted to share my experience in the hopes there is a lesson learned. My experience is as follows.
After being contacted by Bernardi Toyota, I visited a few times to test drive various cars. I should add that in a two week span, I was called 11 times by Toyota either dealership or financing to ask for me to remain a customer. The last phone call I recieved while I was sitting in the dealership.
Once I had determined I wasn't ready for a very large car, I went back to the dealership and met with Bob Goldman, sales associate. Bob had me test drive a new RAV4. I noted that the steering wheel was lacking the volume and channel control, something that was on my old RAV4 (base model). He said it wasn't on this car. I said I can see that. I reiterated that I wanted two things- a red car and I needed that volume/channel control. He went on about the car also having a direct link for my ipod- instead of having to play it via a tape which I was doing now on the old RAV4, I'd be able to plug my ipod directly into the new RAV4. Bob's wife worked where I did. He said he would take care of me. Once the best deal came in, he'd contact me. He noted that he looked me up and I had been in the dealership 5 times. He knew how seriously I was taking this car search and how much time and effort I was putting into it.
Bob contacted me about two weeks later and let me know that there was a great deal on the RAV4. I came in for the 6th time and met with him. We talked about what the deal had to offer. He knew what I wanted- red car with volume/channel control. He asked if I cared about the interior color- it came in gray and beige. I said no. I knew the price I could afford. We entered into an agreement. He said he would call me once the car was in. I gave him a check for $2k as a down payment. It was cashed the next day.
I got a call from him in under 2 weeks. The car was in. I went back for the 7th time. Bob and my young son started moving stuff from my car to the new car while I met with the finance person. When I came out, I commented on how spacious it was. When it was all packed, I got in the car and noticed the volume and channel control wasn't there. Bob said it's not on the car? I said no. I noted again that this is something I wanted. He said look at all the space you have. I said that's great but this control feature isn't there and I need that. He brought up that they didn't have my registration even though I was keeping my plates. He asked for the old car's manual and keys. He said he would contact me once the registration came in. I said I'd get him the keys/manual once we did a swap. I needed to call ___ to have them come out and inspect the car at Bernardi. I promised him I would (and did the next day). Also, he went to insert the ipod. It didn't fit. He was mistaken- instead of my ipod being able to fit directly in I'd need to buy something to connect them. He apologized. I drove away feeling a bit uneasy.
I called him first thing next morning and asked about the control. I said, this is something I really wanted and that now I also had a few other issues with the car:
- the car doors didn't lock once I turned on the ignition. On the old car, the doors would lock/unlock once car was turned on/off. He said that is an easy fix, I just needed to bring car into be serviced. I understood but said Bob, now I gotta bring the car back? It's just more time and an inconvenience on a car I don't want!
- my ipod issue- he said you will need to buy a connector. I told him this was an out of pocket expense that I hadn't banked on.
- registration- he said he'd call once it was in
- volume/channel control
He said he checked into the control and it's not on this model, you'd have to get the limited RAV4 to get that control. I said it was on my old base model, why not on this? He said it's on the limited and you'd get much more features like a sunroof with the limited but the limited is much more money, like a $100. more a month. I said why wasn't I told this before? This is new news to me. This would have been a deal breaker. I knew I wanted two things- red car with this control. I am now paying $80 more a month for a car that doesn't even have the feature I had on the old one??? How does that make sense? I also said I was now driving a car I didn't want and how could I return it. He said returning it isn't an option- it's mine now. I said I didn't want it. I was still under my old lease timeframe- it didn't expire until 6/6/08. He said he'd look into my options and call me back. He never called me back.
I got a call from Brian Jones, Bob's manager a week later. Brian listened and said there was a miscommunication between me and Bob. Bob said "model" on the test drive and I said "car". He said he was sticking by his employee. I said if Bob had really said "model" it would have prompted more questions from me about the model and what did each model include. Had I been made aware that the volume control was not part of the base model anymore, I would not have chosen it as the limited version is one I couldn't afford. I asked how did it make sense to take away a feature on a base model yet charge more? He said because in order for the manufacturerer to make the bigger car, it had to make up for it someplace. In this case, you had to upgrade to a limited version and in all limited versions you got the volume control and sunroof now. I was very upset- I said I was now in a car I do not want and I am feeling very misled. He said that the General Manager was going to be in that week. He'd talk to him and call me back.
I didn't hear back. I followed up and left a message for Brian 508-766-2414.
I got a call on 5/24/08 from Michael Bender, GM. He listened and he understood why I was upset yet stood by his employee. He said he was curious, why was this feature so important to me? I said while I drove, I steered with my left hand and used my thumb to pulse through the stations. He said he could see that. He said there might be options that he isn't aware of for installing something into the car which would allow me to do that. He said he couldn't rip the steering wheel out but he would see about other options and get back to me on Tuesday, 5/27/08 as it was a long holiday weekend.
I never heard from him.
I called Bob on 5/30/08 and asked for an update. I said I thought of a solution- I saw on the Bernardi website there was a special on RAV4's. $2k down, 36,000 miles, 3 year lease, $239. monthly. I said Bob, this would put me in this car for less money and would make more sense now that I do not have the feature I was looking for. I said the deal expired on 6/2/08 and I wanted to make sure it didn't expire. He said he'd look into it and get back to me.
On 5/31/08 I hadn't heard from anyone. I called Brian Jones. Brian said Bob had touched base with him. He said I was now locked into a program and that new program wouldn't be an option. He said he'd call me back about the other options being explore on the car. I said I didn't believe him- I had not had the follow up promised and now was very frustrated, misled and irritated. This was not responsible behavior. We exchanged words and it became heated. I said I'd come down and meet with him now. He said it would do me no good as Michael Bender wasn't there. I asked when he was in. He said he didn't know his schedule. I said I was still driving around in a car that had the following issues:
- I didn't have my registration. He said you don't? He said he'd check into it.
- ipod issue- he said you'll have to buy a connector. I said you realize this is an out of pocket expense that I didn't know I'd have? He said he understood.
- volume/channel control- he said has Michael Bender called you? I said yes and he said he'd follow up about options for a hand held but hadn't. Brian reiterated he didn't know his schedule.
- door locks- he said that he had told me that I could bring the car in to be serviced- that is a simple issue to resolve. I said what was the appointment you made for me? He didn't have an answer. I asked him to walk over and see about an appointment for Monday? He said he'd call me back with the appointment.
Within an hour I got a call back. There was an appointment for me on Monday, 6/2/08 at 11:30am for the car to be serviced so that the door locks would be changed. Brian said to ask for him once I got there.
On 6/2/08, I asked for Brian. He came out and said to bring the car around to the service department. He said that Michael was away until Thursday, 6/5/08 but that he would ensure Michael called me once back in the office. I went outside, brought the car around and came back in. Brian told the service people there would be no charge for me. I was to take a shuttle back to my work and the shuttle would pick me up to bring me back once the car was done. He brought me back inside and had me meet with Steve Aswad, General Sales Manager (508-879-1520).
After Steve had listened, he said:
- the doors will be taken care of today free of charge. This is a quick and easy fix.
- if you get the connector for the ipod which should be about $100., I will reimburse you, just send a receipt.
- registration- he was surprised I didn't have it. No one had called me about it. He said well it's because you changed your plates. I noted I hadn't. We walked over to place with registrations, it wasn't there. He said he'd check into it.
- volume/channel changer- he said that was only on the limited. He said I could have gotten a limited without a sunroof had I asked. I said, that was inconsistent with what I had previously heard. He picked up a phone and asked for a sales associate who had a deep knowledge of RAV4's. The sales associate came over and confirmed you could get a RAV4 without a sunroof on the limited version. I said what Brian and Bob had said about the new RAV4 not being available without a sunrood. He said I could look into the option of returning the car and getting into another one but it would cost more: preliminarily it would be $795 out of pocket and hike my monthly payment up by $72 monthly. I said this is outrageous- that exact payment was what originally was offered to me ON THE BASE MODEL. He became flustered and said there were other things to consider like that the car he had to offer me had leather interior and a sunroof. I said again, I DO NOT WANT THOSE THINGS. ALL I WANT IS THE VOUME/CHANNEL CONTROL. He said he'd run numbers and do a search to see if a car was available. He also noted about the program that expired at end of day that day, it would not be for me as he doubted he could find a car by the end of the day. I handed him my old manual and keys as I had promised. He brought me over to someone and they gave me a ride to my office.
An hour and half later I got a call from the service department. They said my car WAS NOT PROGRAMMABLE. Therefore, I did not have the option to have the car doors lock and unlock when the car was turned on/off. I asked that they let Steve know. They called back to confirm they notified him.
After an hour, I didn't hear from Steve. I called him to ensure he knew my car was not able to be programmed. He said it wasn't just my car, it was ALL new RAV4 cars. They were not able to be programmed so the doors unlocked and locked. I asked why did Brian make me this appointment wasting my time to come in for a service that couldn't be performed? He said it wasn't Brian's fault. The service department is responsible as they should have known that this was not an option on the new RAV4 models. Brian wouldn't know that. This was ridiculous. Also, isn't Steve a General Sales Manager??? Aren't General Sales Managers responsible to know about car options??? I wasted time to bring the car in for a service that was not able to be performed. I said I am the customer. I am not the expert, you all are. You should have product knowledge. I can't believe the lack of it here. I told him he should pay for a years worth of oil changes after all I'd been through and that since he said his service department should be held responsible for it, he should ask them to pay for it. He said it was him to make that call and he agreed to it. He added he would be paying for the ipod connector as well. He said that it is recommened I change my oil every 15,000 miles so that most likely I would need 4 oil changes in a year. He said someone would be picking me up from my office to bring me back to the dealership. When that happened, he would give me the certificate for the oil changes. I left a voice mail for Michael Bender and asked him to call me with his update regarding his research upon his return to the office on Thursday, June 5th.
When I took the shuttle back and was back at the dealership, Steve gave me a business card with "4 free oil changes" written on it. He said my registration was found and now in the car and the car had the needed stickers on it. I am awaiting a phone call from Michael Bender.
The Toyota Way has four components: 1) Long-term thinking as a basis for management decisions, 2) a process for problem-solving, 3) adding value to the organization by developing its people, and 4) recognizing that continuously solving root problems drives organizational learning. The Toyota Way incorporates the Toyota Production System.
My situation showcases that I am deeply dissapointed. This has been an awful experience. I've been misled on more than one occassion. Being put into a program one month early to later find out had I waited for my lease to end I would have been put into a better program shows unfair business practice, lack of training, no social responsibility and I have been taken advantage of. I was promised the doors being fixed by 3 people to find out it is not possible. I was told I'd have a car with the controls on the steering wheel which I wasn't given. I also was told I could plug my ipod into the car and I can't. Is this really how you want your company represented?
Do not go bernardi toyota in framingham, ma
U.S.A. Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Toyota Dealers and Products