This isn’t a story about anyone you know. It’s about a car I had the misfortune of leasing about eight years ago before blogs were commonplace. I put the memory aside, but in thinking about my current car and that I’d consider leasing another one in a few months when it’s run is done, I thought back to the misery of dealing with Toyota Motor Corporation and my lemon experience with their Lexus SC 430.
As you can see from the photo, the SC 430 is a nice looking car. As most hard top convertibles, it comes equipped with run-flat tires. Since the hard top retracts into the trunk, there simply isn’t room for a spare tire. What allows the tire to run flat, however, is the fact that it has more rubber than air as compared to a normal tire. While this is a nice feature in regions with mild climates, it means the car takes the road hard in areas where the asphalt is eroded by salt and snow plows.
Route 4 in Bergen County is the poster road for rough patches, and it wasn’t long after I first leased the SC430 in 2002 that I encountered my first pothole at night with the car. Boom!!!! I swear I thought a bomb had exploded under the car. In short order a warning light illuminated on the instrument panel, a sign that I would learn to dread as much as the skull and crossbones on a medicine bottle.
I dutifully drove the car to my car to the dealership, Tri-County Lexus on Rt. 46 in Totowa which, not surprisingly, was taken over by different management a few years later. The service department advised me that the tire was damaged and that I would have to replace it. The bill? Around $430. I soon came to believe the car’s name was SC430 for “Sucker’s Coming – $430 Per Tire”. I was flabbergasted, but figured it was just a fluke. I really was enjoying the beauty and functionality of the car otherwise. The dealership reassured me that it was an isolated incident, and they hadn’t had any problems of this nature before. Right.
A couple of weeks later, the episode repeated itself. You just can’t see the potholes at night and Boom!!!!, the explosion was even louder this time. I limped to the dealership the next day and this time they told me that I not only blew out the tire, but had cracked the rim. Ch-ching! Another $430 for the tire, and $500 for a new rim! I was livid. The dealership claimed no responsibility and wouldn’t stand behind the tires. These were Dunlop Run-Flats, and I’d have to take the matter up with Dunlop.
Long story short: Dunlop was no help, saying I’d have to deal with Toyota Motor Corporation through which the Lexus was leased. Lexus Corporation was no help, claiming that I must have been doing something wrong. Two more tires subsequently blew and now out well over $2000 and afraid to drive the car, I went online and found out that Dunlop Run-Flats were poor quality. Several SC430 owners who had the same experience as I (Toyota Motor Corp insisted they had no complaints similar to mine) had replaced them with Michelin’s Yokohama Run-Flats. I told Toyota I’d take legal action, and was so incensed that I’d be glad to organize a class action suit unless they replaced my tires with four Yokohamas.
After several months I finally gained satisfaction, and for the second half of the lease had not a day’s trouble. You know the expression, “Little kids little problems; big kids big problems.” Let’s extend that to cars. Expensive cars, expensive problems. This was a top of the line Lexus, and hey flopped with “customer service” badly. I vowed never to lease another Lexus, and to tell anyone who would listen about how disappointed I was. In this instance, the collective wisdom of the Internet was a saving grace.