Man has trouble proving Prius problem to get reimbursed

May 27, 2013 7:03:39 PM PDT
There are hundreds of recalls involving cars every year, but sometimes owners repair a defect before the part has actually been recalled. So should the automaker reimburse you? An Oakland man came to 7 On Your Side with exactly that issue.

This all began when Toyota agreed to reimburse owners who had repaired a faulty display panel. Our viewer spent hundreds of dollars to make that repair, but then he had trouble proving it. He was so frustrated, he came to 7 On Your Side for help.

Hybrid cars were just rolling out onto the nation's roadways when Mark Felicio decided he wanted one.

"The Prius allured me because of its sleek design and fuel efficiency," said Felicio.

Felicio showed us his first hybrid -- a 2005 Prius he absolutely loved -- until the electronic instrument panel suddenly went blank.

"It's very unnerving not knowing how fast you're going, not knowing how much fuel is actually in the tank," said Felicio.

The car had been driven 171,000 miles when the problem occurred. The panel stopped showing his speed and fuel levels. At first, Felicio tried to gauge everything himself.

"I would make sure I had a full tank and just made sure I was going somewhat slower than the rest of the traffic," said Felicio.

Finally, he took the car in to be repaired at Luscious Garage in San Francisco. The owner fixed the problem for $300 and the display worked perfectly.

"Everything lit up as it did when I first drove off the lot at the Toyota dealership," said Felicio.

He has since sold that Prius, but he recently received a notice from Toyota. It says the instrument panel was not lighting up on some older cars. Toyota was offering a free repair and it would reimburse owners who already fixed it, like Felicio.

"I initially mailed in a copy of the receipt," said Felicio.

He sent all these documents to show he paid for the repair. However, Toyota denied his claim saying he needed more paperwork, including proof of payment, an itemized repair order with all part numbers, a detailed statement by the repair shop giving the car's symptoms the car was experiencing, and the root cause.

"She initially gave me a letter that was inadequate," said Felicio.

In response, Luscious Garage gave Felicio a letter with two sentences. He said it didn't have any of the details requested by Toyota.

"I needed more documentation," said Felicio.

He says he kept asking for more documents, but got nowhere. Finally, he contacted 7 On Your Side and we contacted Luscious Garage.

Owner Carolyn Coquilette tells us her letter contained all the information Toyota needed. She said: "Mark finds this documentation inadequate, although he has yet to submit it to Toyota. In light of his dissatisfaction, we chose to refund the original repair bill of $300. Mark's Prius remains fixed, and at no cost to him."

And sure enough Luscious Garage sent Felicio a check for $300.

"I was excited and felt relieved," said Felicio.

We also contacted Toyota which tells us that letter contained almost enough information to get Felicio's refund. After gathering a few more facts, Toyota agreed to reimburse Luscious Garage that $300 for doing the job. Felicio says in spite of their dispute over documents, the work done by Luscious Garage was excellent.


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