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Tim Ashton's Toyota affected by the peeling paint issue

Toyota paint peel proves power in numbers

When paint started peeling off his Toyota Corolla in great chunks, Chris McInerney thought maybe he had done something wrong.

But a little digging showed that he was far from alone. A problem with primer paint on several makes and models had even resulted in Toyota Canada extending warranties by up to 14 years.

​​A Facebook group titled Toyota Australia Peeling Paint, which has amassed more than 1800 members in a short time, is full of similar stories. And of images depicting Toyotas with side panels, bonnets and/or roofs with paint stripped back.


Lyda's Toyota peeling paint on all panels

(Images from: Lynda)


Some, like Chris’s 2011 model, are already rusting from the exposure to the elements. “I can’t wash it anymore due to the fact that basically the paint comes off when anything touches it,” Chris says.

​​With Toyota giving disgruntled owners the runaround, they started to reach out to Handle My Complaint. The complaints multiplied as Chris and other owners shared their experiences with Channel 9’s A Current Affair.

Handle My Complaint CEO Jo Ucukalo says she has now received more than 200 official complaints about the peeling paint issue. And this number grows every day.

"There is real strength in these numbers. Because it shows the scale of the problem and a pattern emerges,” she says.

“Our system enables us to collect details such as the location, age and model of the vehicle. And the more people who lodge complaints, the clearer that pattern.

“This makes it harder for the manufacturer to ignore them as isolated cases. Or fob off individuals with ‘your car is too near the coast’ or ‘you bought it secondhand so we can’t do anything’.”

Shifting the blame to owners

Of the 200 complaints received, more than half bought cars from a dealership. And 20 percent of the owners bought their cars new. “This allows us to paint a clear picture of the car’s history,” Jo says.

Patricia Exten, a member of the Facebook group, complained to Toyota about the paint peeling from her 2009 Corolla. When the Toyota Guest Experience Centre replied, Patricia was told she would have to bring it in to her preferred Toyota servicing dealer so they could accurately diagnose it.

The information she was told she would have to supply included the “garaged address of vehicle” and “the vehicle exterior washing frequency”.

“What has washing frequency got to do with the paint,” she asks. “My car has always been garaged since I bought it new.”


Peeling paint of Patricia's 2009 Corolla

(Image from: Patricia Exten)


Jo says this kind of response from car manufacturers is common.

“They try to shift the blame back to the owner. Is it exposed to the elements? Do you live by the sea? How often do you wash it? As individuals, you get worn down and either start to believe it is your fault or decide it’s too much trouble,” she says.

This is where Handle My Complaint’s system empowers consumers, collecting data that tells an ever more compelling story. One that becomes harder for Toyota to ignore.

“We’ve got a large group of people all complaining about the same problem. And with the complaints we’ve collected, we know that over half of them have already complained to the dealership previously,” Jo says.

“So we’re left asking the question, ‘why is Toyota only now asking questions about washing and garaging and wanting inspections?’”

Consumer Law protects your rights

Handle My Complaint is asking owners to update those details too. So that the team can look for trends there.

“If we also have the photos to pass on to Toyota, this will save the individual owners from making yet another trip into the dealership for a visual inspection,” Jo says.

“If we look at people’s combined data, we can remove the variability of their personal situation. We can show that no matter how the car was washed or garaged, there is a problem with the paint. And this problem comes from how the paint was applied during manufacture.”

The fact that many of the cars affected by the paint issue are secondhand also makes owners wary of pushing too hard.

“They think that because it’s not new they might not have a claim. But this is a manufacturing defect, so under Australian Consumer Law, owners are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement,” Jo says.

It’s also another case of Australian consumers being treated with less respect than their counterparts overseas.

Selena Woodman, who paid $600 to have the tailgate on her 2012 Corolla Ascent Sport Auto repaired in 2018, can’t understand why Toyota Australia isn’t responding in the same way as its Canadian counterpart.


Selena Woodman's 2012 Toyota Corolla peeling paint in big chunks

(Images from: Selena Woodman)


Toyota Canada recalled 2.2 million vehicles for this issue. They are also covering the cost of repairs to affected panels or reimbursing customers who can prove they have paid to have repairs done.

“I am devastated with how I have been treated,” she says. “Everyone I talk to or show my car to thinks it’s a disgrace and unacceptable. It’s just terrible customer service.”

Selena looks after her car, with regular services at Toyota, but is now embarrassed to drive it. “This is so distressing - driving around in a car that belongs in the dump. The flakes of paint are larger than my hand and fly off in the wind all over the road!”

‘Every time I look a new area is starting to peel’

Kyrran Costar is similarly embarrassed by the 2008 Landcruiser Prado Grande she worked hard to save the money for, so that she and her daughter would have a larger, safer vehicle.

“The blizzard pearl paint code 070 paint started peeling back to bare metal within two months of buying it,” she says. “I was told because of the age of the vehicle and the kilometres done, there are no warranties offered. Every time I look, a new area is starting to peel.”

She is worried about the risk of the car rusting with all the exposed metal, only 10 months after she paid $25,000 for a vehicle she thought would go the distance.

Jessica Roberts says she used to wash her car weekly. “Now I can’t risk losing any more paint so I have not washed it properly. My roof has flakes fall off while driving,” she says.

Sharon, who bought her RAV4 new in 2006, even paid extra for the pearl paint and paint protection. The paint peeling started back in 2017. And when she took it back to the dealer, Sharon says they offered to pay half to fix it.

“But my ‘half’ was $444 more than their ‘half’,” she says. “We are not happy that they won’t pay for their mistake. The paint has deteriorated a lot since it was first assessed, as has the rust.”

Toyota reviews on ‘case-by-case basis’

Toyota Australia has acknowledged there is an issue with select Corolla and Rukus models manufactured between September 2007 and 2015.

In a statement to A Current Affair, the Japanese manufacturer said it had received reports of paint peeling, which it attributed to a “specific factory-applied white paint colour … and may occur when sunlight/ultraviolet exposure over time degrades the adhesion between the factory-applied paint primer coat layer and the base metal electrodeposition layer, causing paint to peel from the metal body panel”.

The company said no new models were involved. And that "if a vehicle was not among those listed, displays a similar condition and it's not within warranty it is reviewed on a case-by-case basis when presented to a Toyota dealer for inspection”.

Rebecca says her first few attempts to get Toyota to address the issue with her 2010 Corolla Ascent were dismissed. Encouraged to try again by another Toyota employee, her claim finally went through. But Toyota would only pay for 50 percent of the cost of repairs.

“It was approximately $7000 (for the) respray in total,” she says. “I bought the car secondhand but it was still under new car warranty.”


A white Toyota Corolla affected by the peeling paint issue

(Image from: Rebecca)


Jo says based on the data Handle My Complaint has processed so far, the problem extends well beyond the Toyota Corolla and Rukus makes and models. Others include RAV4, Landcruiser, Prado and Yaris from different years.

Consumers have power to change result

The complainants are also spread across the country. With many of their cars kept in garages, so arguments such as location and storage of vehicles simply don’t hold water.

“This is clearly a manufacturing issue. One that Toyota Canada at the very least has seen fit to address,” Jo says.

“I encourage anyone out there with a similar issue to lodge a formal complaint with us. So that we can push hard not just with Toyota, but with the authorities to ensure they are held accountable.

“I want to remind people that there really is strength in numbers, that the collective voice of consumers has the power to change the end result.”

While members of the Facebook group are pushing for a class action, Jo says they will only be entitled to a cash offer for the devaluation of their vehicle should it be successful.

“I would like to see Toyota compensate owners for what they have lost,” she says. “Everyone knows what a significant part of household expenditure a car involves. Therefore, Australian consumers shouldn’t be ignored or fobbed off when the manufacturer is at fault.”

So she urged consumers experiencing paint peeling issues to go to and make their voices heard.