Editor’s Note: Updates to this story are available in the Toyota Transmissions Category
There is sad news to report to the thousands of owners of 2005, 2006 and 2007 Toyota Avalon models experiencing the dreaded five speed automatic transmission hesitation, bucking and binding problem: despite what your dealer has told you, Toyota is not working on any fix or reflash. I just got off the phone with Bill Kwong, media representative at Toyota, and he has confirmed that “the engineers do not see evidence that people are having problems.”
I personally own a 2006 Toyota Avalon Limited. It has been a wonderful car with the exception of the transmission, which hunts, searches, hesitates, and shifts hard. The problems (also blamed on the software controlling the torque converter) have caused me to encounter dozens of near collisions while entering traffic. Like most people, I went to the dealer service manager who told me “we get multiple questions per week on this…they’re working on a fix.”
No they’re not.
Since every dealer thinks a fix is in motion, few are even trying to report it the district managers. More disturbing is that there are plenty of documented cases where the district service managers are refusing to intervene, because they’ve pre-determined the transmission issues are “normal operation” — meaning the district managers are going out of their way to prevent the data from getting to Toyota engineers! Since none of the district managers are reporting it to Toyota, nothing is being done. The fact that Googling the issue brings up lemon law suits and discussions about it mean nothing to Toyota, because they don’t take third-party data into consideration.
Even Consumer Reports and Autoweek have reported on the widespread tranny issues. Bill gave me the same line he used in an article in Pittsburgh’s newspaper: “We’re up in the JD Power quality ratings.” Sure, Avalon has fewer reported problems versus the competition, and the rest of the car is pretty good, but that doesn’t solve the one very large, dangerous, annoying issue that is causing owners, dealers and journalists to scream “what the hell is going on?”
So what to do? If you have the issue, you must call 1-800-331-4331, which is Toyota’s national Consumer Hotline. This creates a national problem ticket that gains entry into their system. If you go directly to a dealer rather than call the hotline, you must demand the issue be brought to the attention of the district manager and sent to the national office.
We’d also like to hear about your experiences with this issue. Tell us about your car, where you’re located, the dealer (and what the dealer or district service manager) has told you.
When I asked Bill how many complaints it would take for Toyota to acknowledge the problem (percentage of the 100,000 per year made,) he didn’t have an answer.
It didn’t matter that I mentioned I have evidence dealers are even telling customers not to buy V6 Camrys until the issue is solved. Nor has it mattered that dealers have faced numerous lemon law suits.
Would you like to know why none of this matters to Toyota? Fixing the transmission software will result in lower reported fuel economy, which is something Toyota simply does not want to do. Toyota has made its surge on producing the most fuel efficient cars in class…and a software reflash would most likely reduce EPA mileage estimate on the Avalon, Camry and ES350 by 4mpg.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep through that day in Advanced Marketing Strategy class at Boston University School of Management when we discussed which was worse — lower mpg or mass owner complaints due to a severe safety issue with the product….I believe the answer was: “screw the mileage rating, and protect your customers — make them happy, so they’ll live to buy another $35,000 product from you again in the near future.”
It’s great to see that GM and Ford aren’t alone…getting big means ignoring customers, even if you don’t mean to do it! Like Ford and GM, Toyota will probably wind up with a high-profile recall after too many people die — in this case when the transmission hesitates as drivers try to enter traffic or make left-hand turns.
Editor’s Note: Please see other Four Wheel Drift posts in the “Toyota Transmissions” Category for updated information regarding this issue.