A recent complaint in the Toronto Star  called  When a new car does not come as advertised about Toyota not meeting its advertised specifications for its Lexus CT200 demonstrates that Toyota still has not understood its customer expectations.  When the car specifications in the websites, down-loadable brochures and owners manual do not match the delivered product, customers will get really angry.

Lexus botches consumer response.

The response from Lexus (published in the same newspaper article) is unacceptable, in my view. It quotes that Lexus (owned by Toyota)  tries to keep its specifications and brochures up to date but that errors do occur. Lexus Canada  maintains it has the right to make changes without ‘notice or obligation’.

Lexus loses ‘trust’ with customers and prospects.

While the response may be ‘legal’, it destroys any customer satisfaction and customer retention efforts. If Lexus does not live up to its advertised features, how can it be trusted to provide anything it promises (eg warranty, service satisfaction, etc).  Who would buy from a manufacturer that cannot be trusted?

Governmental agencies designed to protect the public from fraudulent business practices may step in. There are laws in many jurisdictions related to ‘Truth in Advertising’. In Ontario, Canada, the consumer may take their problem to the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council.  In the worse case, Lexus could find itself under investigation with one of the federal or provincial regulatory bodies. An investigation of that type could create excessive legal and administrative costs, not originally factored into their budget.

I recently purchased a new car and I looked at the CT200 as a possible alternative. They had one at the local Lexus dealership for test driving.  I didn’t buy it because I was told  there was a big order backlog at Lexus Canada, due to manufacturing delays caused by the tsunami that hit Japan in Mar, 2011. I didn’t want to wait.  I imagine this article in the Toronto Star may cause a few (or many) customers who have Lexus CT200’s on order to cancel their order and request their money back.

Lexus decimates their Business Partners

This press item just decimated the Lexus dealers in Canada, both from a sales and service perspective. Web brochures, web information and user manuals need to match the delivered product. They create expectations in the customer’s mind.

As a result of this press item, the sales people cannot say with confidence what features their products have.  The sales people are made to appear as if they are lying to customers to get the sale and then ‘bait and switch’..giving the customer an inferior product from what the customer anticipated and then relying on legalese to get them off the hook. Would you want to be selling Lexus products today when you don’t exactly know what you are selling?

The service organization at Lexus will be inundated by customers asking where the ‘feature’ is that they expected to receive. Customers who did not read the press article, will expect the features to be available and will think there is a defect in the car. They will take it in for warranty repair. Imagine being a service representative having to explain to the customer that their car really didn’t come with the features as documented.

I expect a huge dealer backlash within Lexus Canada.

Is Lexus misleading prospects worldwide?

I wonder if this error will get publicized outside of Canada. Lexus has much to lose from taking this position. Toyota doesn’t need another public relations problem.

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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