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Yesterday I took my 2005 Toyota Echo to the Ilam Toyota dealer here in Christchurch for a Warrant of Fitness inspection. After the inspection I was informed our car had failed its WOF due to two damaged rear passenger seatbelts (our dog Kuri had a go at them). I was then informed by the Toyota dealer the rear seatbelts could not be repaired because of the proprietary endings on the belts and the belts would have to be replaced with factory units. He then informed me these units were not currently in inventory in Toyota New Zealand, and, in fact, one of the rear seatbelt units had never before been in the Toyota New Zealand inventory. Consequently, I was informed these two rear seatbelt units would have to be imported from Toyota Japan. It was his next sentence that made me do a double-take. He informed me that these two rear seatbelt units would cost NZ$1530 plus GST and installation, which works out to around NZ$1700!

That’s right, NZ$1700.00! I was shocked! How can it possibly be that two rear seatbelts for a 2005 Toyota Echo (the least expensive vehicle sold by Toyota at the time of its manufacture, BTW) could amount to a full 10% of the entire purchase price of this vehicle? Even the insurance inspector was shocked by the price of these parts.

Then, to add insult to injury, the Ilam Toyota dealer informed me it would take 14 WORKING DAYS to receive the product – That’s three weeks!

Recall that this is a late model Toyota vehicle we are referring to here, not something long out of production. I don’t uderstand how it could possibly take so long to get this product? When I asked this question to the Service Manager I was told that’s how Ilam Toyota’s contract with Toyota of Japan works. Boy, if that doesn’t sound like a run-around I don’t know what is.

I find this situation more than a little annoying. Every vehicle which I have ever owned has been a Toyota. I have previously owned a 1979 Celica, a 1984 3/4 ton pickup, a 1992 FJ88 Landcruiser Wagon, and I currently own a 2005 Echo. My past experience with Toyota in the States has been very good – parts and service are available and the work has been up to Toyota quality.

I would hope Ilam Toyota would do their best at obtaining replacement parts for a valued Toyota customer.

23 March Update: The price Ilam Toyota quoted me for two replacement seatbelts was so absurdly expensive we searched for alternative sources. We eventually found a Toyota dealer in Sydney, Australia, that listed the exact same part numbers – also ordered directly from Japan – for one third the price! I ordered the replacement parts and contacted the insurance company to notify them I would like to withdraw my insurance claim. Once the parts arrived, I contacted Ilam Toyota and they installed the replacement seatbelts. The total cost including the parts and service ended up being less than half of Ilam Toyota’s original quote! So, we now have five functional seatbelts in the car and can breath easy for another year – when our Warrant Of Fitness inspection is due once again.

10 April Update: Late last week I decided to move the car a short distance down the driveway. Later, when I decided to move the car back it would not start. Actually, at first the engine started, but emitted such a terrible noise (like only one or two cylinders were firing) I quickly shut the engine off again. After that, the engine would turn over, but not start up. I called Ilam Toyota. They graciously offered to tow my car to the dealership. The next day I received a call from the dealership. They very kindly informed me the engine was flooded, nothing more. It turns out, as the mechanic informed me, these engines can rarely be subject to engine flooding if the engine is started and then stopped after a short period of time, for example, when a car is moved out of a garage and into the driveway for a wash. I was very satisfied with the mechanic’s response. I have regained my faith there are at least a few honest mechanics still around – Kudos to Ilam Toyota!