Having spent as lifetime as a technology
reporter, I am one of those buyers that enjoys automobiles loaded with
the latest and greatest electronic features. I have to admit that I'm
not the typical buyer as I truly do my homework prior to entering a
dealership. Many times I find myself knowing more about an individual
automobile than the person selling it as I enjoy spending countless
hours performing research on new purchases.
Avalon: Diamond or Lemon?
Recently, I thought I found a diamond in the rough in Toyota's flagship
Avalon. From information gathered from Toyota's website, I
was able to configure this car with the exact features and functions I
desired. While I put more "seat time" in my golf cart than my automobile
these days, and drive fewer than 5,000 miles per year, all I was looking for was a
smooth, comfortable ride and a lot of technology for a very competitive
price. This car seemed to fit this bill. Available in four
configurations, I decided to go with its top of the line Limited model
and loaded it up with technology. The offerings that I consider
necessities for myself are GPS Navigation, Bluetooth (for safety
purposes, this should be a requirement, not an option, on every vehicle
sold as it allows for hands free, cell phone usage), Adaptive Cruise
Control, Rain Sensing Wipers, Heated/Ventilated Seats, Satellite Radio,
Park Assist and a Smart Keyless Entry System. Yes, many of these items
are frivolous, but having spent more than 20 years as a leading
technology reporter, these creature comforts are necessities for my
lifestyle. After all, I'm not a hypocrite as I practice what I preach.
Another aspect that captured my attention after test driving the Avalon
was that it delivered a smooth ride with very comfortable seating and
carried a price tag, even loaded with all the aforementioned technology,
around half the price of a comparable Lexus. (Lexus is owned by Toyota).
All would have been perfect and I would have felt that I truly found the
diamond in the rough, if only these features would have operated as
promised. This is where my perfect "diamond in the rough" automobile
purchase turned into the most sour of lemons.
Sales Personnel Receive Limited Training On New
Since the dealership, Palm Beach Toyota (owned by auto giant United
Auto), did not have a test vehicle with many of these
items available prior to purchase, nor did any other Toyota dealership
in the South Florida area, I asked numerous questions about the
performance of the tech items and was assured that all worked as
promised. I can tell you upfront, this was not the case and from
countless conversations with both dealer and Toyota factory personnel
after the problems were identified, I was led to believe that less than
5% of purchasers of Toyota's flagship Avalon opted for its top of the
line Limited model delivered fully loaded. Was this just an excuse?
Based on information from
Toyota's website as well as information derived from the sales staff, I
made the plunge and ordered the aforementioned vehicle. Although it was evident that the sales
staff at Palm Beach Toyota had received little if any training
whatsoever, as long as the "gadgets" worked as promised, I would have
been a happy customer. While I was initially promised delivery
in about two weeks, it was closer to five weeks when it arrived. It
appears that while Avalon is a good seller for Toyota, the vast majority
of its buyers opted for the base model and my selection had to come from
the factory in Kentucky and make a stop in the privately-owned S.E.T.
(South East Toyota) in Jacksonville for further
While initially the car looked perfect, other than a few blemishes that
were missed in the "preparation detailing" process (that's what those
exorbitant "dealer fees" are supposed to cover), it was on my 45 minute
drive home that I quickly realized all was not perfect when its GPS and
Satellite Radio systems failed to operate properly. While I entered the
information to route me to my home from the dealership using the
quickest method (which should have been the Florida Turnpike), it wanted
to guide me home via 441. I can only estimate the true time difference
between these two routes to be around a half an hour. When you look at a
map and see the road it wanted to send me (441) ran parallel to my
desired road (the Florida Turnpike), it was a 45 mph route that had
numerous stop lights. My desired routing would have me traveling at
70mph with no slowdowns until I reached my exit.
Sales Personnel Should Be Required To Read
Upon arriving home, I removed the instruction book from the glove
compartment and read it cover to
cover. Written in translated Japan/English (with numerous typographical
errors), I tried other input methods for the GPS and quickly realized
that for some strange reason, it consistently wanted to send me down
those slower, scenic routes even when numerous other faster, shorter
routes were available.
Within hours of delivery and realizing this problem, I contacted the
dealer and they said they would look into it. When they realized there
was a potential problem and that I was serious about having it
followed-up, they said they would hold my old car until
everything was resolved.
Manufacturer Customer Support Nightmare
I was given a number to call for Toyota Customer Service. It took
numerous calls and countless hours to properly explain and have the
operator understand the issues. As with most customer support
situations, it took a few calls to get it escalated.
As I awaited a phone call from a higher-level Toyota Customer Support
took the time to further explore the GPS software. It didn't take long
to find yet another fluke that was a victim of poor software design.
This one was centered around it's POI (Points of Interest) feature. POI
is a highly promoted and desirable feature of GPS as it allows you to
find just about anything (restaurants, gas stations, recreational
destinations, etc.,) with the press of a few buttons. Allow me to note
that the Avalon did not feature the desirable Touch Screen and used a
flimsy rocker switch that many times jumped more steps than desired,
making data entry a bit frustrating and very time consuming. While I
knew prior to purchase of the lack of a "touch screen," due to the low
price, the "joystick" seemed to be a fair trade off. Here's an example of how the
Avalon GPS POI function would operate:
I was searching for a Sushi restaurant, so I navigated through a series
of menus starting with Destinations and then to the POI screen. Then I
scrolled to Restaurants then to Japanese. I then had to enter my city
(didn't this GPS system already know where I was located?) and saw there
were 18 Sushi restaurants in the search area. Per the book's
instructions, I was to press "List" and be able to view the listings
either by "closest" or "alphabetically." This List button failed to
appear and was dimmed - meaning it was inoperable. My only option was to
press the letters of the alphabet to view the list. Please note that
only a few letters were available for entry and each one only contained
the names of the restaurants that started with that letter. The first
active letter was B and when pressed, only a few restaurants were
displayed. So, I pressed the back button to go back to the keyboard to
select the next letter in the alphabet. The software wouldn't let me do
this and made me start all over. This is the ultimate in software
glitches and was so profound that this malfunction was tantamount to some of
the faults found from the great minds of Microsoft. However, unlike the
numerous faults found in Microsoft's software, there was no way to
download a fix, nor did the manufacturer offer a method to correct these
problems. Although the book described the proper operation, and I
followed the steps exactly as published, I was given
the option from Toyota personnel best described as "like it, or lump it."
It was at that point where my request for support was escalated and
after reviewing the entire process with yet another Toyota Tech and waiting a few
days for answers, then asked the same questions repeatedly, days later I was
escalated to yet another Toyota Tech. This was supposedly the guy who
knew everything there was to know about this GPS system. Of course,
although this tech had a full report of my findings, I had to start all
over from the beginning. This was a very time consuming process and each conversation took
around 90 minutes. It was quickly confirmed that my GPS unit was not
defective, every GPS included in an Avalon would behave in the same
manner. Although its instruction book confirmed my findings that it was
not operating properly, after three weeks of daily interviews by
Toyota's technical representatives and the exhaustive repeating of the
problems, there was no fix for the apparent bugs. Much to my surprise,
even the product managers of this device weren't aware of these issues. I
found this very difficult to believe. The only offer was to send me a
free DVD upgrade when it was available.
No Viable Solution Offered For Defective
Allow me to note, that the DVD upgrade would not have fixed these
problems as all it would have done was provide an update to new roads
that were not included in the current version.
It's also important to note that Toyota does not manufacturer GPS units, and the
one in the Avalon was made by Nippon's Denso. I was never given the
opportunity to discuss this with a Nippon representative and not granted
the ability to gain correct answers. Here's where the quality image of
Toyota has been tarnished in my mind: It was confirmed to my by the
Senior Toyota Tech that the 2007 Avalon will offer the exact same Nippon
Denso GPS unit. Even knowing that it was defective and that it could be
fixed with a software patch, I was told that it would not be changed or
altered for the new model. I don't know about you, but I find this a
serious violation of our trust.
The more I studied the instruction book, the more I learned that the
unit delivered in the vehicle was not operating as promised. Here's
Anyone who has ever owned a GPS Navigation system knows there is both a
day and night mode. This is a safety feature as the day mode typically has a
very bright white background that is necessary for easy daytime viewing. The night mode is typically
triggered when the headlights are activated and either automatically
dims the screen or changes to a black background. The purpose of this is
safety as when the bright background screen is displayed in a night time
driving environment, it is bright...very bright. The best way I can
compare this is trying to drive at night with the interior lights on.
With this bright light source, it can be difficult to see the road in
front of you. This is a safety issue and was not working properly. Even
worse, this GPS system had a manual override setting that lets you set
the color of the screen for day or night viewing. Needless to say, no
matter which setting I selected, not one of them altered the screen to
anything but the default selection.
It's important to understand that just
the GPS system is a $1,900 option. Units with similar (and often
enhanced) features sell in electronics stores for nearly half this
price. The difference is that this was built in, and I had no option
other than to go with this unit. Also, allow me to add that the
dealership presented a document to me upon purchase that if I modify the
audio system in any way (and the GPS is incorporated into the audio
system), that it would violate and immediately terminate the warranty.
So, I couldn't even attempt to have it replaced...even if it was
possible. I couldn't have ordered it without the GPS system and
purchased an aftermarket device. Just think, all they had to do was
deliver a model that operated properly and I wouldn't have wasted this
much time on this issue.
Satellite Radio...XM or Sirius?
Another problem with this vehicle was the Satellite radio system. As we
have learned, there are basically two options for those wanting to
explore the the new world of satellite radio: XM and Sirius. The
automakers have alliances with specific satellite providers. In this
case, Toyota's alliance is with XM. Common sense tells you that since
the satellite radio uses the same screen as the GPS (as well as the Air
Conditioning and other features), and since it was designed for XM
compatibility, when I was offered the option of having Sirius (which I
personally prefer), I opted for this addition. Of course, I asked if by
going with Sirius, since the radio was designed for XM, would I be
sacrificing any features. You can already guess the salesperson told me
it would work perfectly.
Who is at fault, Dealership or Manufacturer?
I realized I was mislead on my drive home from the dealership. While I
noticed something very strange when I picked up the vehicle and
addressed it with the salesperson, I was told it would not be a problem.
What I noticed was that the noticeably oversized satellite antenna was located
front windshield as opposed to on the roof or on the rear trunk lid.
Even worse, the placement was on the passenger side, behind the rear view mirror. Not only was this an eyesore for the passenger, it was
placed in a position that was behind the built-in sunscreen. This
sunscreen is a black-dotted area that is incorporated in the upper
portion of the front window. Locating the antenna in this location is
problematic because for proper satellite reception, an unobstructed view
of the skies are required. The obstruction of the glass and the
sunscreen weakened the signal (two signals are required for proper
reception) and on my initial drive home, while driving the unobstructed
Florida Turnpike, the radio was suffering constant dropouts. This is why
most manufacturers place the antenna outside the vehicle.
While obstructions such as overpasses and bridges can cause dropouts,
satellite radios feature a "buffer" that delays the content by four
seconds. This way, if you're driving under an overpass and the signal is
temporarily interrupted, you will most likely not notice as the buffer
kicks in and delivers uninterrupted programming. Because this antenna
was located inside the vehicle and already delivered a weakened signal,
even driving under an occasional tree limb would interrupt the signal.
When compared with vehicles equipped with an exterior antenna, you will
most likely not hear an interruption in a similar situation. This was
very annoying as satellite radio is supposed to deliver CD quality and
an uninterrupted signal coast-to-coast. This setup couldn't make it through the same county without the
After numerous conversations with both Toyota Techs, the dealer's
service manager and a tech rep from Sirius, I quickly learned there was
a reason this antenna was placed in this location: It was less expensive
to install as less wiring had to be performed. I also learned that the
reason this interior antenna was initially designed was to give a method
of installing an antenna in a convertible as a roof installation was
impossible. But the true problem was even deeper than this.
As stated, Toyota has an alliance with XM radio. However, the dealership
I purchased this vehicle from is owned by (what I learned) a Roger
Penske (yes, the racing legend) and I was told he is a major
stockholder in Sirius. While they offered both XM and Sirius as options,
it made sense that his dealerships were pushing Sirius were offering it for free (although the monthly service charges
were not included). As stated, I asked if the Sirius tuner would operate with full
functionality on a system that was designed for XM and was given an affirmative, albeit wrong answer.
Jumping forward, after returning the Avalon and later test driving a Lexus that included a Sirius radio
(Lexus, like its parent Toyota, has an alliance with XM), I learned from
the salesperson that other than its existing inventory, they were to no
longer offer Sirius as an option. I can only assume that XM was
enforcing its agreement with Toyota and Lexus. As we already know, with
all the hoopla surrounding the arrival of Howard Stern to the satellite
airwaves, Sirius has become synonymous and the preferred choice for
those seeking satellite radio. To be perfectly honest, I would consider
a purchase of a Lexus LS, but after my experience from its parent
Toyota, it would have to be one of those offers I couldn't refuse. Now,
back to the story of the satellite radio.
Those who already own a satellite radio know that one of the features is
the deliver of text. For example, if you are listening to a talk show,
the name of the hosts is displayed along with a toll free number to call
if you care to participate. Another application is the display of a song
title and artist. However, the Sirius interface included on the Avalon
only delivered up to ten characters of text per line. If you do the
math, you'll realize that it was not capable of delivering all of the
text information. This is what happens when a product is retrofitted and
does not meet factory specifications.
One factor you have to understand is that
my 2004 Lincoln Navigator was purchased with both the factory installed
GPS and Sirius satellite radio and operated flawlessly. Because
technology is supposed to get better and less expensive year after year,
you can see that although the Avalon's electronic systems were two years
advanced, they were light years behind. Maybe the simple answers is that
American car manufacturers understand electronic interfaces and the
American consumer better than the foreign automakers. I guess this means
that all those dollars (or yen) spent on marketing research were a
With More Tech Options Available Than Ever
Before, A Higher Level Of Training Should Be A Requirement
These problems could have been avoided if the salespeople were properly
trained. Since today's vehicles are loaded with new technologies, a new
breed of automotive salespeople are needed to insure a high level of
after the sale customer satisfaction. After my experience, I decided to
visit other dealers of various automakers to ask numerous questions about these high priced,
high-tech offerings and it should be no surprise that I could not find a
single salesperson who could properly explain these features.
Why is this important? The automotive industry is currently under
scrutiny as sales of all but the lower priced gas sippers are rapidly
falling. While the manufacturers have been blamed for these losses, I'm
starting to believe that they are not totally at fault and the blame can be
more accurately directed to the management of local dealerships.
My question is, whose responsibility is it to properly train automotive
salespeople? Is it the responsibility of the manufacturer or the
individual dealer? This problem falls even deeper and it is based on the
vast availability of product information to consumers via the Internet.
When I was asking all these questions
prior to purchase and it became evident that the salesperson at Palm
Beach Toyota did not know the answers and I was not accepting her
condescending answers, she handed me a binder that had all the answers
that I was seeking. Why was it not a requirement for any salesperson to
do their homework and learn about the products they were selling?
Instead of just criticizing them, I have a solution.
Since it's evident that the salespeople
are not taking the time to read the provided materials, as an
alternative, why don't the manufacturers take the time to produce
training DVDs that can provide demonstrations not only focusing on the
various options, but showing the salespeople how to properly demonstrate
and explain the various add-on features? Sounds simple for these
multi-billion dollar corporations, huh?
Educated Consumers Are A Seller's Worst
A smart consumer is a retailers worst nightmare. Whether we're trying to
buy a flat screen TV from Best Buy or an automobile from a dealership, a
smart consumer can quickly become frustrated in the purchasing process
when they take the time to research a potential purchase prior to
entering a retail establishment. How many times have you had a
salesperson spend more time trying to sell you an extended warranty than
he/she does trying to explain the features of the desired product?
Today, whether it's an HDTV or an automobile, it seems the salesperson
seems to spend more time attempting to sell you these add-ons than they
do the product itself. The answer is simpler than you may think. The
reason they focus on selling you the extended warranties, under coatings
and the like, is that they carry a higher profit margin than the product
themselves. Like anything else, if you want to get to the root of a
problem, "Follow the Money."
In the early 1990s, I purchased a Jeep Cherokee from a very
knowledgeable dealer and was given probably the best advice I have ever
received from a car salesman.
Upon the final walkthrough, prior to driving off the lot, the salesperson
reached in the glove compartment and handed me the operators manual. He
told me to take the book home and read it cover to cover as it was the
best way to understand the capabilities of the vehicle. In his words,
"You just paid $25,000 for this book...now read it!"
Today, with all the high-tech offerings found in cars, this advise is
even more important as you may never know the capabilities of all it can
do unless you read the manual. One of my pet peeves is a well written
instruction booklet as it can minimize returns to the service
department. Why electronics companies don't spend more time creating a
well written instruction book is well beyond my comprehension. If you
think about it, the cost to re-write a booklet such as those found in
the glove compartment is probably less than the price of a single
network commercial. And we all know, they don't hesitate when spending
money on advertising.
Things are different today as a smart consumer may opt to start a quest
for a new vehicle online as opposed to kicking tires in a dealership.
Typically, the information delivered from a manufacturer's website will
contain all the specifications needed to make an educated purchase. The
only information a website cannot deliver is the feeling of the test
drive. But, herein lies the big problem.
After visiting a number of dealerships armed with information from the
Internet, when I was given poor information, or blatantly incorrect
information, the common answer received was that the salesperson had a
full line of cars to sell and it's virtually impossible to know all the
features of a specific vehicle. This is a lame, but common answer.
I can only remember when I worked for Panasonic early in my career. The
sales staff had literally hundreds of products with various
specifications to learn. These products were constantly rotating, making
education an ongoing process. Panasonic provided product specialists to
educate the sales staff who in turn educated the buyers. Better
decisions were made and product returns were reduced.
When I hear a car salesperson that has a
mere six to eight...maybe even as many as a dozen models to sell, delivering an answer such as this, I
can only wonder why the dealership does not take the time to properly
educate it's personnel. After all, while base vehicles carry smaller
profit margins, the big profits are made by up selling the purchaser
with numerous options. Purchasing a new car is a major decision and
financial commitment for most of us. Training a salesperson to deliver
honest information should be a priority by a dealership's management.
Needless to say, I have little empathy with the manufacturer's and
dealership's falling profits when today's automobiles are typically a
much higher quality and more reliable than anytime in our history. Yes,
the car salesperson has been the brunt of many poor jokes. With my
recent experience in numerous dealerships, I have to say that these
jokes are understated.
My major problem is, prior to entering a dealership, I'll go to the
manufacturer's website and take a half an hour reading all the available
information. If I can do this, why can't a car salesperson do the same
and deliver to the customer good, honest information?
While I truly liked the ride and feel of the Avalon, I had to return it
to the dealership as they could not and would not even attempt to fix
the failing electronics. The worse part was, they wasted three weeks of
my time with daily, lengthy phone calls attempting to break my soul and
force me to simply live with the fact that the car was defective...and
be happy with it. Like
it or lump it.
Not all people have the experience I have in the world of electronics. I
will quickly admit that I know basically nothing about transmissions,
but I know when a consumer electronic product is poorly designed or
blatantly defective. What really bothers me is that a company as large
and profitable as Toyota will knowingly allow these defective components
to leave their factory. Even worse, when I was able to properly explain
to various customer support representatives the exact problems, they had
little desire to help or compensate for the problems. It appeared to me
very quickly all they wanted was to wear me down so that I would walk
away. All they wanted was to avoid the publicity and expense of a
recall. I still cannot believe that with Toyota knowing of these
deficiencies, they will not be providing a fix in their soon to be
released 2007 models.
After the three frustrating weeks, I was able to return the car. But,
being The Gadget Guru, I would be doing a disservice to simply walk
Car Surveys Are Our Only Weapon
The only way to make a change is to let your feelings be known. While
every car salesperson will tell you the importance of filling out the
soon to come customer surveys with all "excellents" (good is not good
enough), I will never have this opportunity because since my car was
returned and my sale negated, my survey will not be tabulated.
The movie Network said it best, "I am mad as hell and I'm not going to
take it anymore." Neither should you. An educated consumer is any
retailers worst enemy. No matter what you are purchasing, do you
homework. Go to the Internet and read about the products you are
considering purchasing before you hand over your credit card. Be a smart
consumer and let's force the manufacturers and retailers to do its part
by simply educating its salespeople.
I don't know about you, but I get excited when make a major purchase. It
should be an exciting time and a pleasant experience. Working together,
if we demand more by being prepared, not only will we make smarter
purchases, we will let the sellers know that if they don't take the time
to learn the products they are selling, they cannot and will not earn
our business. If a manufacturer cannot and will not fix a defective
item, don't live with it, return it. I read the Florida Lemon Law
pamphlet that by law, had to be included at delivery of the vehicle.
There is a simple sentence in there that states that if a defect
adversely affects the "Value" of the vehicle, it could be considered a
lemon. In my mind, non working electronics do affect the value of a
If I would have kept this car and later
sold or traded it, would I have a moral or legal obligation to disclose
the defects when they weren't disclosed to me prior to purchase? If the
answer is "yes," then does the dealer have the obligation to advise
purchasers of an Avalon with the factory installed GPS or Satellite
Radio that it will not operate as promoted?
Food for thought.
If you would like to send a comment to
the author of this review, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy Pargh, The Gadget Guru spent his
professional years as
America's Leading New Products Reporter for nearly two decades and
appeared for ten years on NBC's Today Show, nearly 20 years a syndicated
columnist, a featured columnist for USA Today, published three books and
his own magazine: The Gadget Guru's Best Stuff. He has appeared on
numerous talk shows including Oprah, Late Night with Conan O'Brien and
Donahue. Pargh is currently retired in South Florida and stays active
in charitable organizations and is constantly working to lower his
golf handicap. For more about The Gadget Guru, Click
(c) 2006, The Gadget Guru, LLC
other Avalon Owners
Ken from Texas
I just finished your column on your 2006 Avalon
Limited. We purchased the same car last fall for my
wife. While we are happy with the ride and the gas
mileage, the GPS is a joke as your mentioned. I live in
Houston and this system cannot find the straight shot
home when I am ten miles away.
I have tested it by asking it to find the quickest route
home when I am on loop 610 close to downtown Houston. I
live about 20 miles northwest. The route is very
simple. Stay on the loop to highway 290, exit onto 290
and go nearly all the way to my house without an exit.
No turns or exits.
This system cannot figure that out. It has me exit at
every off ramp, go to the light, turn left under the
freeway, catch the next street north, take it north
until it intersects the next street that crosses the
highway, then go right and back under the freeway. I
then am instructed to get on the freeway and then it
wants me to exit at the next off ramp and go through the
entire convoluted process again.
We just finished a trip to Utah and on the way back I
decided to have the car tell me the quickest route. We
take this route yearly so have tried every route there
is and know which is the fastest. It gave me the choice
of three routes and none of them were the preferred one
that I actually took.
It would be nice if you could tell it the roads to map
I have been frustrated with the points of interest that
you mentioned also.
I do feel lucky in that the screen color change to night
time does work on my unit.
Other than that I have been happy with the car. Got 32
miles to the gallon for every tank on the trip. But it
is very irritating that
they have a useless GPS and still installs it.
Shelly from New York
Just wanted to thank you for your article on the GPS.
This is my 3rd Avalon and
while satisfied with the car, the GPS is a source of
frustration. The greatest frustration is their
unwillingness to fix the problem.
While driving from Maine
to a hotel in Boston it instructed me to make a series
of turns about 10 miles north of Boston. These
instructions turned out to be a loop taking me back to
where I started. Coming to my home in upstate NY from
the Bronx it kept wanting to take me off the straight,
no turn highway to a route that was 40 miles longer.
My salesperson also was
unfamiliar with the finer aspects of operation. Too bad,
this means if I buy another Avalon it will be a basic
one to which, if possible, I'll add my after market
Eliot from Long Island
I just wanted you to know that I found your article when
I was searching the net for a roof mounted antenna for
my factory installed Sirius radio system in the 2007
Camry I just picked up. The reception is even worse than
you say it is, and I must find an antenna I can have
installed on the rear roof (like most other cars). Do
you know of any?
I haven't even begun to
screw around with the GPS nav system yet....I'm a
very experienced computer guy, but these navigation
menus are a nightmare.
A call to the Toyota
"Customer Experience Center" was a total waste of
time. You have far more patience than I'll ever
have. Great job on the article & keep plugging. I'll
Tom from Connecticut
Great article on the
I have just test driven a 2006 Limited
and was equally impressed with the overall comfort,
handling and features,
although this particular unit was devoid of the GPS
option. One would wonder
how a reputable manufacturer like
even consider not rectifying
the present problem, but would dare attempt to install
that problematic unit
in the 2007 models, especially when that unit tops out
at a stiff $1900
I am an XM subscriber so I apparently have no hardware
issue but I am amazed when I saw the antenna imbedded
with in the window. Anyone who has satellite radio
surely knows how critical placement is to reception. I
am in a tizz over my new car purchase as I have also
looked at the Hyundai Azera and was also impressed at
the fit , finish and also the dollar value and
Thank for the thorough heads up on the
GPS.................. If I do the
Avalon it will be without the GPS.
Brian from Virginia
I thought you did an
excellent job of outlining the problems with the
own an 05 Limited and have been frustrated with the lack
of friendliness of the Nav system. Iím glad to see Iím
not nuts and that the Screen color changes do absolutely
nothing for someone else
other than me! I also have been frustrated by the Text
not working on the audio system when listening to a CD,
i.e. no artist or title
comes up on the screen. They told me at the dealership
that not all CDs have this information encoded but my PC
displays it when I put it in the CD tray.
John from Florida
Although John is not an Avalon owner, he did submit some
good food for thought:
I guess when it comes to
electronics most car dealers just pull-out the bad
component and plug-in a new one. This would normally
work -- but when the product has a basic design
deficiency, installing a replacement unit doesn't
manufactured/sold in Japan use the same electronic
Interesting that Denso's
website claims: "The first J.D. Power and
Associates Navigation Usage and Satisfaction Study
ranked DENSO's factory-installed navigation system
for vehicles highest in customer satisfaction."
By the way Denso is
owned 23% by Toyota -- see below:
Denso's First-Quarter Profit Gains 63% on Parts
July 27 (Bloomberg) -- Denso Corp., Japan's
largest auto parts maker, posted a 63 percent gain
in first-quarter profit as Toyota Motor Corp. raised
orders and a weaker yen helped boost overseas sales.
Net income rose to 58.5 billion yen ($503
million) in the three months ended June 30, from 36
billion yen a year earlier, the company, based in
central Japan's Aichi prefecture, said in a
statement. Sales at Denso, 23 percent owned
by Toyota, gained 14 percent to 856 billion
yen in the quarter.
Denso has benefited from increased demand for
cars made by Toyota, its biggest customer. Toyota
and its affiliates Hino Motors Ltd. and Daihatsu
Motor Co. plan to boost production this year by 10
percent to 9.06 million units. The expansion plan
will boost sales and profit at Denso, Aisin Seiki
Co. and other parts suppliers.
Denso reiterated its full-year forecast for
the year ending March 2007. In April, Denso said
profit will rise 2 percent to 173 billion yen, while
sales will gain 6 percent to 3.38 trillion yen.
Denso President Koichi Fukaya is building a factory
in Japan to make injectors, as well as expanding
plants in Tennessee, Poland and China.
Under a new five-year plan, Denso said it
expects sales of more than 4 trillion yen in the
year ending March 2011, up from 3.19 trillion yen in
the last fiscal year. It expects to boost its return
on equity to 10 percent in fiscal year 2011, up from
9.4 percent in the year ended March 2006.
Shares of Denso rose 2.8 percent to 3,680 yen
at the end of the morning session in Tokyo.
Thank you John
The following comment was sent by a
person I will only identify as TBone (that is only a
partial identification of his email address). Since he
or she did not provide a name, phone number or business
email address, it is impossible for me to verify if it
was truly composed by an employee of a Toyota
Dealership. I have not edited the comments in any way.
I'm curious as to what you think about it. Feel free to
send your comments to
I know you are the gadget guru , because you know
alot about gadgets
but what a shame that you know nothing about dealers
if you did your so called home work you would know
that before any dealer institutes
anything there is trainng from the maker of the
product and we are instructed how to install the
product so if it is cost cutting your problem is
with the gadget maker which you are a pro at. not
the individual dealer -it looks like the dealer
went above and beyond for you
sounds like you should apologize and put the blame
were it belongs
as you probably figured out i work for a dealer and
i am quite upset that someone who knows
nothing about how a dealership is run can comment on
how things should be done.
If i lived near Palm Beach Toyota i would buy my
next car from them sounds to me they try to make
their customers happy and direct them inm the right
direction when they have a concern that is out of
If you were a real man or so called investigator ?
I know this will never go with the other comments
but you should not take things personal
and take your frustration out on a dealer --- YOU
ARE THE GADGET GURU NOT DEALER GENERAL MANAGER
Here's my email response:
After reading your comments, I am not surprised that
you failed to supply your name or position with a
dealership. I don't know if you are in sales or
service, but I can tell you that my findings are
accurate. As you can also see, I'm not the only one
that experienced these difficulties.
You also need to understand that the GSM of Palm
Beach Toyota, while a gentleman, knew little if
anything about the electronic components of this
vehicle. Nor was the Service Manager able to answer
even the most basic inquiries. Their solution was to
give me the Toyota toll free number and as I
learned, was a total waste of time. They duplicated
the problems and recognized them, yet failed to
provide a solution. I still can't believe that
knowing the components from Nippon Denso are sub
par, they are including the exact same components in
the 2007 Avalon. It's a shame, as the electronic
components aside, it's a great car value.
As we both know the job of the sales department is
to move quantity. I don't know about your
dealership, but the sales staff at this dealer
provided little if any useful information. Prior to
purchase, when I asked specific questions about
these components, my salesperson's response was
simply: We have so many models to sell, we can't
know about all of the features in each model...but I
know they work.
Now, is this the problem of the dealer, or it is the
responsibility of the manufacturer to make sure
their representatives are properly trained? I think
the answer is, a little of both, and with my
experience, both are failing in this endeavor.
Now Mr. TBone, what does that tell you? It tells me
that quantity is more important than quality to
today's assortment of car dealerships. It states
that meeting sales quotas are more important than
learning about the few products they have to sell. I
don't know about you, but I have to pose this
question: When you go into a store and receive
information that you later learn was incorrect, what
would you do about it? Would you do as I did and
give them every opportunity to correct the
situation, or would you just accept the fact that
you made a bad decision based on poor information?
Whose fault would that be? Would it be yours, the
retailers' or the manufacturer's?
I welcome the opportunity for Toyota to respond to
this and have properly notified numerous corporate
departments of my findings. They evidently don't
care enough to attempt to provide a valid
Allow me to add that TBone sent a follow up email
and revealed his relationship. This is an exact
quote and it was sent in ALL CAPS.
"BY THE WAY MY NAME IS STEVE AND I AM A CHIEF
OERATING OFFICER OF A 5 CAR DEALSHIP IN ATLANTA
I must add, that due to the poorly written
letter, I truly doubt that he is who he says he is.
Click Here To Read Follow Up Story On Car Buying Experiences and
Suggestions To Manufacturers and Dealers