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 new made-in-India Toyota Etios hatchback had only 4000km on the clock when he was involved in an accident on a Durban freeway last month, which left the car with front-end damage.
It was towed to a panel beater in Pinetown, and Myburgh was initially told that it would be a 48-hour repair job.
WAIT UNTIL JANUARY
His insurer duly paid for a hired car for him. Then came the news that there was a delay sourcing the required parts, and when Myburgh contacted Consumer Watch for help, he’d just heard that he might 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 that he’d been treated with courtesy and assured by Toyota that he would have the use of a hire car until five days after the parts were delivered to the panel beater, Myburgh remained unsettled by the lengthy parts delay, and was anxious about being left without transport should the repair take longer than five days.
I approached Toyota SA 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, this year – had exceeded projections by 28 percent.
“That’s 2001 more cars than we expected to sell between April and September this year,” he said.
To put that into perspective, 2625 Etios cars were sold just last month, second only to South Africa’s top-selling passenger car, the VW Polo Vivo, 3341 of which were sold last month. The Ford Figo was in a distant third place, with 1353 cars sold.
While the Tazz was made in Toyota’s local 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”.
“The part-by-part production capacity in India was initially insufficient in supporting both the increase in vehicle sales demand, together with the consequential service and crash-part requirements globally, including South Africa,” Yon said.
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 company’s ability to adapt to the unexpected demand for parts.
So what is Toyota SA doing about the problem, given the rate at which Etios models are being sold?
TOYOTA’S MADE A PLAN
Parts back-orders are being air-freighted directly from India to “fill the gap” in the parts supply, and from mid-December, the standard import route will no longer be via Thailand – Toyota SA will source them directly from India, to cut down on the time they take to get here.
“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 [have] received a call from the parts manager, who told me: ‘Miraculously all your parts have arrived.’