Consumer SOS: Forced to buy extras or no sale, Toyota customer says

If you’re considering buying a new car, steel yourself: it’s a seller’s market.

With global supply chain shortages, strong demand and low dealer inventories, you probably won’t land any deals, depending on the kind of model you’re shopping for.

Joo-Young Kim knew that reality when he went shopping to replace his 2021 Toyota Highlander, stolen from the driveway outside his home in Vaughan on Nov. 23.

“I phoned about six Toyota dealerships around Toronto,” Kim told Global News in an interview.

Finally, he found a new 2021 Highlander for sale at Toyota on the Park, located in midtown Toronto.

During a telephone call with a salesperson, Kim says they reached a deal: $57,000, all-inclusive. He drove to the dealership and was prepared to sign the contract right away.

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But the deal took a bad turn when Kim asked the salesperson if the dealership could throw in car mats for free — a common consumer request.

He says the salesman went to check with the dealership’s business manager and returned.

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Kim says the answer wasn’t what he expected.

“He comes back with a new figure: he says it’s $60,000 and change. I looked at him and said, ‘What is this?’” Kim said.

Kim says he was told he’d have to pay for options he didn’t want.

“I have to purchase extended warranty and rust-proofing or they won’t sell me the car,” Kim said.

The new price, according to Kim: $60,000.

“I thought that was dishonest. So I told them, ‘You can’t do that to me. I don’t want to purchase this.’”

Kim says he asked the salesperson to go back to the business manager and ask a second time, which he did.

“One minute later he came back and said, ‘No, the business manager is firm: we’re not going to sell you the car unless you purchase extended warranty and rust-proofing,’” said Kim.

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Kim refused to sign the deal and wrote a negative online review about the experience. As the owner of a family-run dry-cleaning business, Kim says he previously has only written positive reviews about his consumer encounters.

The general manager of Toyota on the Park declined an on-camera interview with Global News but spoke about the issue at length by telephone.

“That policy (requiring the purchase of optional equipment) does not exist. I’ve never had an incident with a customer other than this one that suggests that it does,” said Matt Treacy.

“The reviews online — both good and bad — paint a far better picture of who we are than this one incident does,” Treacy added.

“I acknowledge that this was likely poorly-handled in some respects but I can’t speak to what specifically because I wasn’t party to conversation with the customer.

“I’ve not been able to confirm that same story at my end.”

Kim has filed a formal complaint with the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) which is now investigating.

The organization, which regulates auto sales in Ontario, would not speak specifically about Kim’s case but in an interview told Global News the rules are clear when it comes to pricing.

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“Extra charges, extra fees — that is not permitted. The only thing that is permitted on top of the advertised price is HST and licensing,” said Maureen Harquail, chief operating officer of OMVIC.

“Anything that is optional is optional and the consumer needs to be told that these things are optional and the consumer can then decide whether they wish to proceed with the deal or not,” she said.

Kim says he’s previously owned three Toyota vehicles and said he considered his family a “Toyota family.”

“They’ve lost me forever … I’m angry at Toyota for allowing their dealers to do this,” said Kim, who has since ordered a vehicle from another manufacturer.

But because of supply shortages, that vehicle may not be delivered for several weeks. He had to return his rental car and will be taking public transit in the meantime.

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Reflecting on what happened, Kim sums up his view of his dealership experience: “Dishonest business practices.”

In a statement sent to Global News, a spokesperson for Toyota Canada said they take customer complaints seriously and “will follow up with our dealer directly to better understand this particular situation.”

“We also encourage the customer to call our customer relations team directly with their concerns,” the statement continued.

“While our dealers are independently owned and operated businesses, they must adhere to all laws and regulations governing a retail sale which includes prohibiting them from any form of tied selling.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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