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Owner meltdown over Toyota’s dud dashboards

Meltdown: Shiny plastic dashboards on some Toyota and Lexus models have apparently melted due to heat and humidity.

Toyota and Lexus owners ask why sticky, shiny dashboards are not replaced in Oz too

Toyota logo25 May 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

MELTING plastic dashboards and door trims are causing a rift between Toyota Australia and some of its customers, who have accused the company of shirking its responsibilities by not universally fixing the fault that looks unsightly and can pose a safety hazard.

More than 90 Australian owners of affected cars have formed a Facebook group to share their grievances about the issue, with many asking why the Australian branch of Toyota has not followed the lead of Toyota in the United States, where warranties have been extended to cover the dashboard replacement on up to 4.5 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

The dashboards on some models – including Australian-made Camrys and Aurions and imported Lexus sedans dating from about 2006-08 – appear to spontaneously “melt”, going soft, sticky and shiny. In some cases, the plastic surfaces also crack.

Owners say sunlight reflected from the melted dashboards projects glare on to the windscreen, making driving hazardous.

As well, many of the owners have complained of fumes from the deteriorating plastics, blaming them for both respiratory symptoms and headaches, as well as accelerated “bloom” on the inside of glass surfaces that need to be cleaned as often as weekly.

Because the cars are out of warranty, Toyota is not legally bound to fix the fault. However, some dealers are at least offering to supply replacement dashboards if the owners pay the labour costs.

The repairs can cost up to $2000, which many owners say they cannot afford. And they ask why American Toyota and Lexus owners get the full repair for free, but Australians do not.

Unconfirmed reports suggest some Mazda and Nissan models are also afflicted, in both Australia and the US.

The problem, which has been brewing for months, comes on top of the massive Takata airbag recall that has affected most Japanese car manufacturers.

According to class-action lawyers acting for US owners, Toyota is sending letters to customers of affected cars this month to offering to replace the dashboards.

Toyota owners who had already paid to have the dashboard repair done will be reimbursed $US1600 ($A2048) for out-of-pocket expenses.

When GoAuto contacted Toyota Australia about the issue, the company said it would get its technical experts to contact a particular complainant, Sydney Lexus driver Gerry Manderson, whose wife’s 2006 Lexus IS260 is one of the affected vehicles.

However, there was no word on whether the company would do something broader and more co-ordinated for other owners.

Mr Manderson, whose family has owned about eight Lexus cars over the years, said a growing band of Toyota and Lexus owners were “finding it hard yards” to get the affected dashboards and door trims replaced.

He said the manufacturing fault had been recognised in the US, but was “unknown” to Lexus and Toyota dealers in Australia.

“Owners who take their cars for assessment to their local dealer are belatedly told that since their car is out of warranty, the best TMCA (Toyota Motor Company Australia) can do is a goodwill gesture of part payment or nothing,” he said.

“Complaints to the ACCC (Australian Consumer and Competition Commission) and NSW Department of Fair Trading are received but not acted upon.”

Some of the owners say they have been accused of using after-market cleaning and polish substances on the dashboards, causing the deterioration.

Incensed owners say they have only ever used water to clean the surfaces.

Others say their cars have been regularly garaged.

According to a Toyota Motor Sales USA dealer bulletin outlining the “warranty enhancement program”, the problem is caused by high humidity and high temperatures.

It promises to replace the dashboards on five affected Toyota models and seven Lexus models within certain model-year ranges at no charge to the customer.

The earliest affected model dates from 2003, with the latest – the Camry – until 2011.

The US company says it still needs to acquire the necessary parts for the work, and these parts will be forwarded when available.

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