Toyota has sent a letter to bZ4X owners, offering a choice between a loaner and incentive package or full repurchase of vehicles, as the company continues to struggle with (literally) keeping the wheels on their first electric car effort.
Notably, the car’s electric drive systems are not affected by the recall – the battery and drive motor are working perfectly fine.
Toyota announced the bZ4X recall in late June, citing a potential for the new EV’s wheels to fall off. Though it did apply to all bZ4Xs produced, since it happened soon after the car’s launch, it is still a relatively small recall – only 2,700 vehicles.
Now owners are getting letters from Toyota corporate detailing the specifics of what Toyota is offering in exchange for the trouble of this recall, and given the scope of the offer, it doesn’t seem like the recall is going great.
The text of the letter is below:
We recently advised you of a safety recall that involves your 2023 Toyota bZ4X and continue to ask that you not allow the vehicle to be driven until a remedy is available. We are working diligently on a remedy and will notify you in the future when it becomes available.
At Toyota, your safety is a top priority. If you have not already done so, please contact any authorized Toyota Dealer and they will arrange to pick up and store your vehicle, at no cost, until the remedy is available. We will also provide a loaner vehicle at no cost to you.
We place a high value on the guest experience and recognize the inconvenience presented by this situation. Therefore, Toyota is offering affected owners the following until the remedy is available:
• Continue to provide a loaner vehicle, and store your vehicle, at no cost
• Reimburse your fueling costs incurred while operating the provided loaner vehicle
• Provide you with a total credit of $5,000 toward payments of your loan/lease or purchase price if the vehicle was paid in full
• Provide additional time for complimentary charging at all EVgo-owned and operated public stations nationwide, through December 31, 2024
• Provide an extension to your vehicle’s New Vehicle Limited Warranty based on the period of time that your vehicle is not able to be driven due to the recall (from the recall announcement date of June 23, 2022 through a date in the future when the remedy is announced.
Alternatively, if you do not wish to proceed as described above, Toyota will offer to repurchase your vehicle. The terms for the repurchase may vary, depending on your state and particular circumstances.
A bZ4X specialist will reach out to you in the coming days to discuss these options. Should you wish to speak with someone sooner, please contact us at 1-800-331-4331 and select option three, between 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Saturday ET.
We sincerely regret any inconvenience this condition may have caused you.
-Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.
The highlights we see here are that owners should not drive these vehicles and should return them to Toyota as soon as possible if they haven’t yet, that Toyota has not yet found a remedy for the problem and has no timeline for when it will, and that Toyota is offering owners an option between several incentives (loaner with fuel reimbursement, $5,000 credit, extended free charging and warranty) or full repurchase of the vehicle.
The recall also effects the Subaru Solterra, the bZ4X’s sister car, though none of those had apparently made it into the hands of US owners yet.
Many assumed that Toyota would find a fix relatively easily, given their long history of producing about 10 million vehicles per year with wheels that don’t fall off of.
There are also reports online of some owners trying to negotiate with Toyota for additional consideration, like attempting to recoup some of the dealer markup they had to pay when purchasing the car.
This recall and repurchase offer comes at a time when new car owners don’t have a lot of options for replacement. EV demand is high and supply is low, leading to low stock and high dealer markups everywhere. Used and new gas cars are also commanding higher prices as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect world vehicle supplies.
So even for bZ4X owners who are turned off by this recall saga, they might stick with the loaner offer, at least partially due to the lack of availability of other options for replacement.
And for those with the car on order, they’re stuck in limbo wondering whether to cancel their order and try to find another car in a tight market or stick with it and hope for a rapid fix so they don’t have to dive back into the pool of possibly yearlong EV order periods for other models.
I’ve driven the bZ4X, though only a short drive around a few blocks. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, but it was a little uninspiring to this longtime EV driver. It felt like an initial effort by the company – still with many of the benefits of an EV that makes it better than a gas car but without some of the refinements that you might see from a more mature second- or third-generation effort.
But Toyota owners don’t necessarily want something inspiring. They just want a good, reliable car that will get them from point A to point B at a reasonable price… without the wheels falling off.
In the last decade and a half of electric vehicle ownership, one thing I’ve heard often goes along the lines of “yeah well, when the big automakers decide to go electric, they’ll crush start-ups easily with their superior quality and manufacturing prowess.” I’ve heard this time and time again, regardless of what the current status of the industry looked like at the time.
And here we have Toyota, the biggest automaker in the world with one of the highest reputations for quality – the company that introduced the kaizen manufacturing philosophy to the world and influenced manufacturers across industries – and they’ve completely screwed it up.
That said, thankfully the issue here does not have anything to do with the EV powertrain, which speaks to the simplicity of EV powertrains in general as electric motors are much less complex than gas engines are. But this only makes the situation more mind-boggling – why would Toyota, which has so much expertise with manufacturing, have trouble with something as basic as wheels? And how is it taking them this long to fix it?
After so many years of acting as if they knew better than the rest of the industry on EVs (while taking many steps against them), this is a major misstep by Toyota, and it only gets worse by the day. We have said time and time again that Toyota needs to get their act together on EVs, and this remains true – both for their and Japan’s sake.
This wouldn’t be so bad if it were 2,700 random vehicles, but it’s all of Toyota’s first electric car, and even without powertrain problems, this is a huge blow to their EV program, which will only leave them further behind in a race they’re already behind everyone on.
The remedy offered here does seem to be reasonable enough. They’re doing right by these customers, at least, with what they have.
But what these customers probably want the most is the car they bought, and the remedy doesn’t give them that yet, nor a timeline for when that will happen. It doesn’t even give them an electric car, because Toyota doesn’t have any other electric cars they can give out (the RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid is their closest analogue).
Are you a bZ4X owner or order holder? What do you think about this recall offer? Do you want to take the loaner or repurchase? If you’re an order holder, has this recall affected your thoughts on whether or not to go through with it? Let us know in the comments.
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