The One Where San Marcos Toyota Screws Me

I haven’t been writing much here of late. Been focusing on other things. But today I want to tell you a story.

Back in mid June my parents came for a visit, giving my wife and I a chance to get away for a weekend, baby free. This would be our first real length of time together without baby duty since he had been born more than a year before and we were really looking forward to it. Oh life, you cruel bitch.

We rented a cabin in the Texas hill country and set out for a weekend away. Just prior to arriving at the rental office to pick up our keys, a warning light came on in my 2006 Toyota Prius. This same light had come on just a few weeks prior due to a problem with the auxiliary battery, ie the one every car has rather than the hybrid battery. This proved a simple fix, just replace the auxiliary battery. Similar to that event, the car continued to drive just fine so we decided to continue the last few miles to our destination since the office would be closing soon.

Upon arrival, we got the keys to our cabin and went back to the car. And it wouldn’t start. Push the power button and nothing happens.  We go back to the rental office to ask them what’s around and as this is a small little town, there isn’t much of anything to help us at 6pm on a Friday. Fortunately, the people at Hill Country Premier Lodging, were amazing.  Liz. who wasn’t even supposed to be working that night, offered to drive us up to our cabin and then take us into San Marcos the next morning after we got our car towed to the Toyota dealership.

After getting the car to Toyota and it inspected we were informed that it needed a new transaxle, which would cost $4900. The car was seven years old and we debated just selling it and getting a new one. But, since $4900 is less than a new car would cost, we bit the bullet and got the work done, hoping for another 7 years out of her.

The repair work took a week which required a week of rental car and me driving the three hours back to San Marcos the following weekend. I picked up the car, paid the heavy price, and began my journey home. That’s when things got worse.

Part way into the 3hr drive home, the same warning light came on. Knowing what happened last time, I opted not to stop and continued driving for home. I made it to the Toyota dealership nearest my house and, as expected, the car failed to restart after stopping. I dropped the keys off there and my wife came to pick me up (10min away rather than 2hrs).

When the new dealership took a look at the car, they informed me that the hybrid battery needed to be replaced. This bit of really expensive work was still under warranty so fortunately cost me nothing. They also informed me that it seemed likely the transaxle hadn’t needed to be replaced, given how the car experienced the same problem, thought they couldn’t confirm without seeing the old part. But the error codes they received and the ones San Marcos had gotten were the same (Error Code 526, see San Marcos sheet and Star sheet)

I then called San Marcos Toyota to inform them of this. The gentleman I had worked with before told me he would look into it and call me back. A few days later, the general manager, whose name I unfortunately can’t remember, called me. I told him what had happened. He told me they did nothing wrong and there was nothing he could do for me. He then hung up on me.

Understandably pissed, I wrote Toyota corporate, explaining the situation. They told me they had a procedure for handling these kinds of disputes and would I mind trying to talk to the customer relations person at San Marcos first to resolve this. I agreed and they said she would contact me in a few days.

After the deadline passed, I contact Toyota again informing them she had failed to contact me. They apologized and said she needed more time. As this was near the Fourth of July, I accepted it as a timing error and waited again for a reply. None came.

This time when I emailed Toyota again, they informed me that their records showed that San Marcos had contacted me and informed me that there was nothing they could do. They had gotten a different error code indicating a transaxle replacement was necessary. As this contradicted the paper work I had been given and didn’t account for the fact that they had failed to fix my car, I was at a loss for what to do next. Both Toyota corporate and San Marcos had given me the brush off.

Then, in early August, I thought my prayers had been answered. I get a call from Chuck Jones, the new Operations Manager at San Marcos Toyota. He informs me that there has been a change in management and he is investigating my case. I tell him what happened. He then says he will contact me in about a week after talking to the technicians and the general manager (who may or may not have been new as well, can’t remember definitively).

A month goes by and I hear nothing from him. I call a few times leaving messages. He never returns my call. Finally, in early September, I manage to get him on the phone after skipping his direct line and calling the dealerships main line. He tells me he got my messages but is still investigating. He assures me he will have a result by the end of the month (September).

September ends, he fails again to contact me. October ends, still no reply or response to my voice mail messages. Finally, today, November 11, I manage to get him on the phone.

I proceed to ask him what happened and he tells me there is nothing he can do for me. I ask why not, he says this happened before his time there and he doesn’t have the authority to give me any kind of refund. I ask why he never contacted me or returned any of my phone calls. He says nothing. He just sits there silently refusing to even treat me like a human being and give me a straight answer.

The sad thing is, I almost sympathize with him. It feels like his hands are tied and he’s been ordered to not return my phone calls. So that’s where we’re at. My car broke, I took it to San Marcos Toyota, paid $4900 and when I picked it up, it was still broken.

They’ve refused to apologize, sympathize or admit any kind of fault. While getting at least some money back was the initial goal, that’s taken a backseat to the fact that I feel cheated. Even if the transaxle did need to be replaced, which I doubt, they still failed to fix the original problem. They missed that the battery needed to be replaced. And they can’t admit it. Or even perform the basics of civility and return a phone call.

The only thing left for me to do is turn it over to the internet so that others can avoid my mistake. Don’t go to San Marcos Toyota. How will this affect me in the future with Toyota as a whole? I’m not sure. The local dealership was helpful. I’ve always liked the cars. But I’m not sure i could ever justify another Toyota if the corporation supports dealers like this.

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5 Responses to The One Where San Marcos Toyota Screws Me

  1. Tom Serno says:

    Question:

    you said this
    “This light had come on just a few weeks prior due to a problem with the auxiliary battery”

    You then proceeded to take a long trip with said vehicle. Why ?

    You also then allowed a repairer to replace something other than the battery without contesting it. Surely you’d simply get it towed to your local dealer before shelling out $5k to a stranger.

    Toyota may have poor customer service but there were several occasion you could have prevented the whole mess.

    Just an observation.

    • Wayne says:

      When we left home, there was no trouble with the car. The light came on about 5miles from our final destination. A few weeks before, that same light had come on, which required the replacement of the auxiliary battery, which fixed that particular problem.

  2. Charles says:

    Being a Texas native, I can safely say that car dealerships are where true Texan hospitality ends.

    Finding a trustworthy dealer can be a like a needle in a haystack here in the state. Most seem to thrive on ripping off their customer base. Not to mention an exceptionally negative image of hybrid vehicles in the rural parts of the state.

  3. Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics (I.C.E.) says:

    That’s just awful! Those bastards! It’s just ridiculous that how companies get away with this. Pretty much the only thing we can do is let others know about it through blogs, social media, and yelp in hopes that it scares away other potential business from them. TOYOTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    P.S. Glad to be back at the blog after quite a bit of time unplugged and at least you can tell yourself that you wrote a freaking awesome and epic sci-fi series. Don’t let the corporate bastards get ya too down!

  4. Kristen May says:

    Wayne,
    Keep after them! Call the Better Business Bureau up in San Marcos and tell them what happened, including the paperwork indicating that they DID get the same error code! Most of these companies assume you will eventually give up. I’m mad about this on your behalf. And Tom Serno, 1) towing that far would have cost a small fortune, and 2) I think most people would understandably trust the dealerships for large car dealers. I can see having a second opinion from Joe Bob car repair… but I know I’d definitely trust what a licensed dealer said!