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Toyota Dealer Shares Experience

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

With so much confusion out there about Toyota, especially after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's misstatement earlier today, what is a Toyota car owner to do? We turn now to Robert Boch who is co-owner with his brother of Expressway Toyota Scion in Boston. Welcome back to the program.

Mr. ROBERT BOCH (Co-Owner, Expressway Toyota Scion, Boston): Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: I gather you were on the phone today, conference call with Toyota. What's the company telling you?

Mr. BOCH: The company is telling us that the vehicles are still okay to drive unless the customer is noticing that the accelerator pedal is becoming stiffer to depress or hardest to release. If they are experiencing any of those symptoms, they should park the car and call us. And we should pick the car up and bring it in for some diagnosis.

SIEGEL: We heard you say on Monday's program that you had about 10,000 customers and that you'll be working around the clock to fix these problems. Are the customers starting to stream in now or are they being more cautious about this?

Mr. BOCH: No, they, in response to - our phones lit up once Secretary LaHood said a statement today. At noontime, the phones lit up. And the customers we're starting to do recalls now. We received parts this morning. We received some training today. And we're starting to do the recall for the accelerator pedal.

SIEGEL: I understand that Toyota has promised compensation to its U.S. dealers for costs incurred by the recall. From what you've heard, is what they're offering likely to cover the number of hours that your service department will spend fixing recalled vehicles?

Mr. BOCH: Yes. I think it will cover that. As this recall goes on, obviously we'll spend more. That's very unprecedented, too. We've never in our history with Toyota - we've been a Toyota dealer for 18 years - they've never given us a stipend to take care of the customer to provide extra services like they have now.

SIEGEL: Seventy-five thousand dollars that they're offering now?

Mr. BOCH: Some dealers were up to - it depended on the amount of new vehicles that you sold.

SIEGEL: But did those stipends from Toyota or the one that you'll receive, do you assume that'll mean that your dealership won't really have to eat the cost of the service you'll be doing on all the recalled vehicles people bring in?

Mr. BOCH: Well, the stipend was above and beyond - when a manufacturer issues a recall, they will pay you the parts and labor that it takes to fix the car. And in addition to that, they gave us a stipend so that they know that we're going to have to add personnel, you know, even just porters to move cars around back and forth to get them to the technicians, greeters in your service area to provide car washes for the vehicles once they're done. That's the intent of using that money is for.

SIEGEL: From what you know of this particular problem, was the company really slow off the mark here? Could they have done something months ago that might've seemed less panicked, less forced by the government?

Mr. BOCH: You know, I think that they studied the problem for a little while and Toyota by nature, they're not always the first to do things. They're probably the best at researching and then studying so that when they do do them, it comes out right. So I think in Toyota's own way they probably were studying the problem maybe too long for the government's pace.

SIEGEL: And given the volume that you'll be having with the manufacturer, typically, covering the cost of it, is it effectively, you know, a plan that'll keep your service department working around the clock and actually bring in good money over the next few months?

Mr. BOCH: Well, it'll keep us working around the clock. You don't make a lot of money when you do a recall. The manufacturer is very particular in the amount of time allotted to do it and the amount of money they pay you. So, they're it's not a revenue producer, although action creates action. If you have a car in the bay and the guy needs wiper inserts, then you change the wiper inserts and you do the recall all at the same time.

SIEGEL: You might even show him a new car while he's there.

Mr. BOCH: Maybe, maybe.

SIEGEL: Maybe look at the new one.

Mr. BOCH: Yeah.

SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Boch, thanks a lot for talking with us.

Mr. BOCH: You're welcome, Robert. Thank you.

SIEGEL: Robert Boch, co-owner of Expressway Toyota Scion in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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