Thanks, Toyota!

Toyota has gotten a lot of bad press lately surrounding the unintended acceleration issue. I’m sure that plenty of case studies will be written on the subject. On the other hand, one recent Toyota issue has remained quiet, and I am a little surprised.

It’s no secret that manufacturers and dealers make a hefty profit on replacement parts. We all go about taking this as the normal state of things. So, when we received a letter from Toyota last month announcing a price change for one type of part, I was surprised.

When translated from PR-speak into English, the letter states that Toyota has been screwing over their customers on the cost of replacement HID headlight bulbs, to the tune of $300 per bulb. (A quick survey of the web shows aftermarket bulbs run around $100.)

Further, this gouging is more egregious than other OEMs (car manufacturers). So much so, in fact, that they are responding to customer complaints by lowering the price from $300 to $150 in order to be more “competitive” with other OEMs. Cutting the price by half brings their price more in line with other OEMs — the same OEMs that everyone assumes are charging too much in the first place.

Not only are they reducing the price, they are going to retroactively reimburse customers who paid those crazy dealer prices to replace HID bulbs.

But wait! There’s more! Act now and Toyota will also reimburse customers who paid crazy dealer prices to replace the headlight control modules. Naturally, any control module replacements were almost certainly in error, as they are unlikely to have been faulty. Simply replacing the bulb would have been sufficient, but this is another example of the status quo, where dealers happily replace module after module at someone else’s expense, rather than actually doing any troubleshooting.

I cry to think that some people paid so much for a burned-out light bulb. A control module retails for $250. The bulbs used to be $300. Labor and tax probably brought the total to nearly $600. Insanity!

I suppose that if I were taken to the cleaners like that I would complain pretty loudly too. I’m glad that Toyota is fixing the wrong they’ve done, but even I am amazed that it was that bad.