Over the next few months I am going to be writing articles focusing on some of the scams, poor customer service, and competence issues we face in Jamaica.
These are situations that we all deal with and many times we accept rubbish service and scams simply because we can’t be bothered. We grumble, cut our losses and try to keep it moving. That attitude actually hurts all of us and it allows businesses and governments to continue to get away with poor and unethical behaviour. I believe that information is power and hopefully some of these pieces can help people to become more aware of the questionable practices of some businesses and demand better.

Toyota motor cars are definitely the most popular vehicles in Jamaica. Historically they have had a great reputation for reliability and are among the most moderate in terms of repair costs. However, like most mass produced goods, sometimes there are faults and quality issues.
It appears that the during the 2000s several models of Toyotas had an issue with cracking and melting dashboards. In Jamaica the vehicle that seemed to have been most hit by the defect was the Prado 120 which was made from around 2003 to 2009. It’s still one of the most popular SUVs here and were also sold in the US as the Lexus GX470.
70% of all of the Prados falling within these years that I have personally seen, have cracks in the dashboard. This is an issue that also exists with a significant amount of the Lexus 470s in the States and by my subsequent investigation, in Prados sold all over the world.
For a high end SUV, the cracking and melting dashboards greatly reduces resale value, destroys the appearance of a good vehicle and even possibly compromises safety if the cracks occur near the airbags.
Mistakes happen. Quality issues can sometimes slip though.
However, what is telling is how a national official dealership for a brand with such a widespread problem has chosen to deal with the issue.
Prados are not cheap vehicles, and one would expect that if Toyota Jamaica knew of the cracked dashboard problem, they would have made some attempt to provide fair recourse for owners of the problem vehicles. Especially if airbags and safety may be compromised.
This has not been the case.
From as early as 2005 when the cracks started appearing, Toyota Jamaica denied that the vehicles had a fault. People were told that they had parked in the sun too long. Some were told that they must have used an improper cleaning agent. The cracks and dashboard melting continue to show up on these models even now.

 

Toyota Jamaica has had a standard routine where whenever someone complains, they act as if  it was the first time they were seeing or hearing of the problem.

Scam.

Customers with cars barely older than 3 years, just out of warranty, were charged upwards of $130,000 for new dashboards and labour to install them. Some gave up and were forced to live with the problem and just believed that they had bad luck.
In some cases, when the customers complained aggressively, Toyota Jamaica said that they would “accommodate” customers and sell them the dashboards at cost, cost being basically a 15% discount.

Scam.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me state that I currently have a 06 Prado. I know of this first hand. This is not something I have heard or read about. I have experienced it personally.
I have also had family members and close friends who had  the same problem and who thought that maybe the issue was unique to them based on what Toyota Jamaica told them.
However, thank God for the Internet and Google.
I searched, and sure enough the problem was widespread and in several countries.

In this one Australian online forum alone, over 120 pages of posts all relating to the dashboard fault.

http://www.pradopoint.com.au/showthread.php?12073-Cracked-dashboard&highlight=Barry 

Also here is a local online forum with the same discussion.

http://www.wheelsjamaica.com/wheels_forum/index.php?topic=124530.0

Similar searches will reveal the issue occurred in New Zealand, other Caribbean countries and the United States.

Because of the pressure placed on Toyota from Australian Prado customers and Lexus customers in the US, they have had to start replacing many of the dashboards. Grudgingly so, but they had to.

https://www.carbuyingtips.com/articles/blog/lexus-to-pay-for-cracked-dashboard-repairs.htm

http://www.carcomplaints.com/news/2017/toyota-lexus-melting-dashboard-lawsuit.shtml

Lexus 470s from 2003-2009 are being covered by a special extended warranty because of how widespread the problem has been and because they took so long to address it. American consumers have sued and continue to sue Toyota to ensure that they get justice.

These are 1st world countries. Toyota had tried to get over, but the customers persisted and because of the outcry and lawsuits, the dealers have had to start to do the right thing.
Not so in Jamaica.
Perhaps because we are a black 3rd world country, many companies believe that we are not entitled to a similar treatment as customers in their other markets. They assume that because we don’t have proper consumer protection agencies, they can do as they like and we will accept whatever they tell us.

Some dashboard replacements have apparently been done here free of cost, but Toyota Jamaica has been very secretive and did not and have not informed most of their customers.
I can only deduce that they can get the replacement dashes from Japan at no charge since it is now an acknowledged factory defect. But then it appears that they pick and choose who they give the dashboards to as part of the extended warranty.
They continue to sell them to most customers.
It’s a scam. It’s unfair. It’s unethical.
Strong words, but recently we have seen VW taken to court for cooking the figures of their carbon emissions. It is not wise to assume honesty and fairness anymore from many of the brands that we had grown to love and trust. Consumers must be diligent and proactive and the sharing of information is our most important tool to keep them honest.
I am disappointed with Toyota Jamaica, and this merely brings an obvious fact to light.
If a dealership does not provide proper warranty support or customer service, it does not make sense to purchase a new car from them. There are enough used car dealers here that bring in Toyotas at a fraction of their cost. People pay a premium to purchase new cars from the authorized dealer because they expect a certain standard.
If you are not going to get that standard or service, you are better off saving a significant amount of your money and buying elsewhere.
Buyer beware and be aware.

 

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