When you’re in the process of buying a car, do you take into account the cost of its parts or how readily available they’ll be should your car need repairs?
Probably not. But it is worth finding out, as Wayne Myburgh’s story demonstrates.
His India-made Toyota Etios hatchback had only 4 000km “on the clock” when he was involved in an accident on a Durban freeway last month. It was towed to a panel beater in Pinetown, and Myburgh was initially told it would be a 48-hour repair job.
His insurer duly paid for a hired car for him.
Then came the news there was a delay sourcing the parts, and when Myburgh contacted Consumer Watch for help, he’d just heard he may not have the car back before the end of January.
When he asked the obvious question – why the long delay for parts on such a popular car? – Myburgh says he was given a variety of reasons, ranging from unprecedented Etios sales volumes to strike action and an international shortage of Etios parts.
“I was told that many other Etios owners had the same problem,” he said.
While acknowledging he’d been treated with courtesy and assured by Toyota he would have the use of a hire car until five days after the parts were delivered to the panel beater, Myburgh remained un-settled by the lengthy parts delay.
I approached Toyota South Africa for comment on this particular case and the apparent Etios parts shortage in general.
Product communications manager Clynton Yon said sales of the Etios – which was introduced as Toyota’s new budget offering, replacing the Tazz, earlier this year – had exceeded projections by 28 percent.
“That’s 2 001 more cars than we expected to sell between April and September this year,” he said.
To put that into perspective, 2 625 Etios cars were sold just last month, second only to South Africa’s top-selling passenger car, the VW Polo Vivo, 3 341 of which were sold last month. The Ford Figo was in a distant third place, with 1 353 cars sold.
While the Tazz was made at Toyota’s plant in Durban, the Etios is made in India, where, as Yon put it, “operating conditions are slightly different” to those in South Africa in terms of “speed, daily travel, distance, etc”.
Plus, with parts getting to South Africa via Thailand, there have been long delays, “impacting on back-order catch-up”, Yon said, as well as on the firm’s ability to adapt to the demand for parts.
So what is Toyota South Africa doing about the problem?
Parts back-orders are being air-freighted directly from India to “fill the gap”, and from mid-December, the standard import route will no longer be via Thailand – Toyota South Africa will source them directly from India.
“Meanwhile, updates on when back-ordered parts are expected will be provided to customers on a daily basis,” Yon said.
Within two days of my raising Myburgh’s case with Toyota, the parts needed to repair his Etios were delivered to the parts warehouse, and then to the dealership.
An ecstatic Myburgh told Consumer Watch: “I received a call this morning from the parts manager, who told me: ‘Miraculously all your parts have arrived’. Thanks very much.”