New Delhi: Automobile maker Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd (TKML) has admitted to replacing the brake kits in its bestselling sports utility vehicle (SUV) Fortuner, which was launched in August 2009, after some consumers complained about poor braking. TKML is replacing the kits only on a “case-by-case” basis and not approaching customers to get them changed.
The lot of cars sold from February 2010 have the new brakes. Those manufactured before this are being changed free of cost. At least 180 customers who had bought the car have complained to the company regarding the brakes.
“We did receive queries from consumers regarding the brakes and merely returned them to give a better feeling of braking to the driver. The quality of braking and the distance it takes for the car to stop, remains the same. As the returning required changing the whole kit, hence the brakes were changed. There is absolutely no compromise on the safety of the consumers,” said Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director, marketing, TKML.
Singh stressed that “there is no case of a recall in the Fortuner as the brakes are perfectly fine”.
Globally, Toyota Motor Corp. has recalled close to 8 million cars in the past year for various defects.
TKML claims that the kind of problems it is encountering with the Fortuner are common in the business. It didn’t put a number to the costs it is incurring on account of changing the braking system, but said it had a budget for warranty-related expenses.
Eight months after it was launched, the Fortuner has emerged as the country’s best selling SUV with over 8,000 units on the road—more than all other comparable SUVs put together during the period. “Within a month of its launch (August 2009), we decided to educate consumers on what to expect from a 2 tonne vehicle,” Singh added, explaining that an SUV will have a different feel than a car.
“It will not perform like any other sedan and it needs to be driven in a different way. Much of the problem is not technical but in the mindset of the customers. The car is a big success and had there been any major issue, customers would not be buying it like this,” he said.
Although India has an active consumer redressal system involving consumer courts, it has no recall laws.
“I bought the car in December and felt the braking was inadequate from first day itself,” said Yatin Jain, a Delhi-based Fortuner owner. “I decided to take action when I bumped into a biker after the car refused to stop in time despite application of brakes in January. After persistent haggling with the dealer, they fitted the brakes of the Prado (Toyota’s other SUV) in February.”