My Opinion Of Why Atkinson Toyota Sucks!

First off, I should tell you that I still love Toyota vehicles.  I have owned many of them throughout my life and still firmly believe that they are the best vehicles money can buy.

In 2006, I purchased a brand new Toyota Tacoma Pre-Runner Double Cab at Atkinson Toyota in Bryan, Texas.  I had almost all of my maintenance done at Toyota during the last 6 years.  The exception being about 3 times when the time arrived to have maintenance done and I was not near Bryan, so had it done elsewhere.  But I always asked for the best synthetic oil they had.   This was also before the complimentary “Toyota Care” that Toyota dealerships are now offering.  I paid over $60 for each and every visit to Atkinson Toyota to have my truck maintained there during these last 6 years.

I put a total of 165K miles on the truck.  I commute to work 44 miles one way each day.  While that seems like a lot of miles, it’s nothing to a Toyota.  These vehicles will normally last forever.

What I describe below is what happened to me now 6 years later.


February 25, 2012 – Drove truck to Atkinson Toyota for regular service check, oil change, tire rotation etc.  They recommended air filter and cabin filter to be replaced, (which I had done).  Ultimately the truck checked out fine, the only recommendation was that the tires will probably need to be replaced with next visit or certainly the one after that.


February 27, 2012 – While driving to work, my wife said she heard a funny noise “clicking” coming from the engine. I turned off the radio and didn’t hear anything and assumed it was nothing major.


March 6th, 2012 – While driving to work, right after passing Cooks Point, both my wife and I heard a loud clicking noise coming from the engine.  I thought it sounded a lot like a belt hitting something as it was spinning around and pulled over.  No unusual lights were flashing on my dash and the gauges all seemed fine.  I opened up the hood and checked the belts, but they were all fine, and I didn’t see anything else unusual, no smoke or any strange, burning smells either.  I decided to continue the trip and first drop my wife off at work and then drive to Atkinson to have them check it out.  However, about 2 miles past The Brazos River, the noise got even louder and shortly afterwards the engine died.  I coasted over to the side of the HWY (21) and again noticed no lights flashing on my dashboard and gauges all normal.  There was no smoke or any other unusual smells either. I opened up the hood again and this time decided to check the oil.  I pulled the dip stick out and noticed that there was no oil on it at all.

Thinking this is unusual, I put the dip stick back in and pulled it out again and repeated this two more times.  No oil.  I took out my cell phone and snapped a picture.

Dipstick showing no oil

Then I called Atkinson Toyota and spoke to Freddie.  He sent a tow truck.  Once the tow truck and I got to Atkinson, Freddie informed me they would take a look and call me, and arranged for a shuttle to take me to work.  It was 9:30 AM by this time.  I called Freddie at about 12 PM, and asked for an update, he said they don’t know anything yet and he would let me know when they find out the problem.


March 6th, 2012  – At 4PM, I called Freddie again, (they have now had the truck most of the day), and I asked for an update.  All Freddie could tell me is that they found an oil leak.  I said, ok and just to let you know, I noticed this morning on the side of the road, that the dip stick didn’t have any oil and that I snapped a picture of it with my phone.  He said “Ok, we will check that out, and I noticed that you had your oil changed here just last week….”  I said “Yes that’s correct”.  Freddie’s next response was “Well, if we did anything wrong, we will fix it”.


March 6th, 2012  – At 5 PM, Freddie called me back and he said, “we checked the oil first thing this morning when the truck arrived, and there is plenty of oil in there, it’s almost full and we also have pictures”.  I found this rather interesting, because an hour earlier he never mentioned that they had already checked the oil first thing in the morning, and his response that “We also have pictures” was very odd.  He also said that the oil was dirty and sludgy.  Strange since just a week earlier, the oil was changed, and it should not have been dirty at all.  Freddie then asked “What are your intentions with this truck?”  I found this to be a very odd question and not one I liked to hear.  I said “That sounds a little strange, what exactly do you mean?” he replied “Well, the engine is damaged, a rod has punctured about a 2 or 3 inch hole in the engine block, and the repairs will be more than the truck is worth”.  I said “You have to be kidding?!!, it’s a 2006 Toyota Tacoma with 165 thousand miles on it..  Toyota’s normally don’t have problems like this and will usually last until 200 to 300 thousand miles”. He agreed, but said something definitely went wrong here.  Now, I had only 1 more payment remaining (due at the end of March) on this truck and was really looking forward to not having any more payments for at least another year perhaps even 2.  I asked Freddie to get me quotes on repairs or engine replacements anyway.  He said he would be able to get them for me in the morning.


March 7, 2012 – I borrowed my mother’s truck and arrived at Atkinson Toyota at 8AM, and met with Freddie, who took me to the truck and showed me that the dip stick had oil on it. He also showed me a fair amount of oil on the left side of the engine and a piece of broken off metal and said if you look underneath, you’ll see a nice 2 to 3 inch hole in the block.   I said, “this truck has to be worth at least 12K, are you telling  me a new engine will cost more than that?”  He said, “yes, it will cost about that…  I cleaned out the truck and took all personal possessions out (IE: CD’s, paperwork etc…)  Then I went back to wait for Freddie to get me the numbers on the engines.  I waited in the waiting area about 30 minutes, when Freddie returned.  He told me that a used engine with a 6 month warranty, would be about $6,200, and rebuilt engine with a 3 year warranty would be $10,095.  Or we could trade it in on a new truck. At this time, I was very frustrated, because I believe Toyota was at fault here. They just changed the oil a week ago, and I know for a fact that yesterday there was NO OIL on the dip stick when I checked it.  But now suddenly (after they had the truck for a full day), the oil was nearly full.  While I couldn’t prove it, I firmly believe they poured oil in there during the day yesterday after I clearly mentioned to Freddie that I had a picture of the dip stick with no oil on it.  I told Freddie that I think I’ll have to go visit with my attorney at this time, because I think I’m getting screwed, and then I left.

About 30 minutes later, I received a call from Nate Lucas.  He asked if there was something that could be done?  I mentioned to him that I wanted to discuss my options and he said the person I need to speak to is Craig Fletcher.  He’s the general manager.  I said fine, let’s make an appointment with Craig, and he said Craig is off today and will be in tomorrow after 2 PM.  Again, it seems like I was getting the run around.  I told Mr. Lucas that I was prepared to meet with my attorney because I really felt like I was getting the run around and shafted on this.  I hung up the phone and then remembered that I saw Paul Atkinson (the owner) running around there earlier.  Hey I thought, if the general manager can do something, but wasn’t available, then the owner who is available, should be able to do something as well.


I called back and asked Mr. Lucas if I could meet with Mr. Atkinson?  He first said that Mr. Atkinson isn’t here, and then I mentioned that I had seen him while I was there less than an hour ago.  He said he would find him and call me back.  10 Minutes later, Mr. Lucas called me back, and stated Mr. Atkinson will meet with me between 1:30 and 2 PM.  In the meantime I decided to research the truck with Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com).  After entering all the info on my truck, I came up with 3 different numbers:  Fair value was about 8K, Good about 10K, and Excellent about 12K.  I picked the lowest rating (fair, there was no poor rating), and figured if I can get a trade-in for around $7 to $8 thousand, on a new truck, I would take that deal.  Again, I figured if the general manager (Craig Fletcher) can do that, then the owner (Paul Atkinson) should also be able to make a deal like that.


March 7th, 2012  – At 1:30 I met with Mr. Atkinson.  He stated that I was pretty adamant about meeting with him today and he didn’t really know why because there was nothing he could do to help me.   I explained the situation, and showed him the picture of the dip stick, clearly showing no oil.  His immediate response was “We did not put any oil in that truck”.  I told him I was not directly accusing him of that either, but that I still felt that either Toyota had some liability here, or there was some sort of manufacturing defect because Toyota’s do not normally die at less than 200K miles.  Many times they last up to 300K miles easily without a problem. He said “You have 165K miles on this thing.  What did you expect?”  I was a little surprised at that response, and I re-iterated, that this is nothing for a Toyota.  I told him we were a Toyota family, my mother has one, my son has one, we have recommended friends and neighbors to Atkinson and I thought since I got 99% of my services done at Atkinson, I could get a little help on this.  He stated that Craig Fletcher is the man I need to speak to, and that he (himself) can’t do anything. This is the owner of the place for crying out loud and he can’t do anything to help??  Only his general manager can help?  That makes zero sense here.  I told him I didn’t want anything for free, but I also didn’t want to be raked over the coals and it really felt like I was.  I also stated that I want to work with them, and if a trade-in is possible, I want a good fair trade-in value, not a 2 or 3 thousand dollar amount, just to be done with it.  He said if you really want to work with us, don’t mention the word “attorney” again.  All of my employees are trained to shut down when you mention “attorney” and they will not say another word if that happens.  If you do it again, I will hand you the name/number to our attorney and that will be the end.  I said fair enough, and re-iterated that I only did that because I was frustrated and felt like I was getting the run around.  He said I would need to wait until tomorrow to speak to Craig who would be here after 2PM.


March 8th, 2012 – 9:30 AM, I called Tegeler Toyota in Brenham.  I spoke to a woman named Joanne and told her the whole story, and what Atkinson told me it would cost…  She was flabbergasted as the numbers they gave me just don’t make sense (IE: $6,200 for a used engine and $10,095 for a rebuilt one).  I told her that I was willing to take a trade-in but that I also didn’t want to be taken for a ride, and she fully agreed.  She began to take down information on my truck and would talk to her used car sales manager to see what kind of offer they could give me for a trade-in on the truck.  She was certain it was going to be worth my while.


March 8th, 2012 – At 2PM, I met with Craig Fletcher.  So far, he has been the nicest person to deal with at Atkinson.  He stated that he knows I’m a loyal customer and that I have been having all my services done at Toyota, and that he is sure we can work something out.  I told him that paying for a used or rebuilt engine is pretty much out.  I would much rather do a trade-in, but as I stated yesterday, I did not want to be raked over the coals on this.  I wanted a better deal on a trade-in then I would normally get because I still felt that Toyota was at fault here.  He stated that he already briefly checked out my truck, and that there was oil in it, the plug and filter were tight.  He said if either of those were loose, there would be a splatter of oil all the way from the oil pan to the back bumper, and he did not see any such evidence.  But without pulling the engine apart and doing a complete diagnostic, he said there is no way to know what exactly happened.  He did recommend doing that, and if it turns out they are at fault, he would see to it that Toyota would fix it.  However, if not, then I would be responsible for the repairs.  He did however also state that they would be willing to “split the difference” with me.  Now that’s a strange thing to say…  If you are not responsible, why would you split the difference of the repairs??  That almost sounds like an admission of guilt to me.  I then asked about a trade-in, and he said he would go speak to a sales manager to see what kind of deal I could get.  We had discussed the Kelley Blue Book values and I told him that I thought the truck was worth about 17K (I had inadvertently said 17K instead of 10K) in excellent condition.  He pulled it up and showed me the 8K vs 10K that I had found yesterday…   I believe that if they put in a 3K engine (used), that they could sell it for between 15 to 17K, and that’s what I had meant when I said it was worth about 17K.  In any event, I told Craig that I think around 7K to 8K would be an equitable amount on a trade-in.


Craig said he would go talk to the sales manager and be right back.  He did come back about 10 minutes later and he stated that the trade-in would be about $4,500 max.  I thought this number was ridiculously low considering that I still believe that Toyota had some liability here…  That was a very disappointing thing to hear.  He recommended again, that I should consider repairs, and that a used engine would probably work for about a year and then I can trade-in the truck on a new one.  He was also still willing to pull the engine apart and find the root cause of the problem and that there was still a 50% chance that they (Toyota) did something wrong and would be required to fix the truck under their insurance.  I asked him how long it would take to determine that.  Because I have now been without a vehicle for 3 days.  He said he could have an answer for me by this time tomorrow.  I told him to begin the diagnostics and I left.


At 6:00 PM that evening, Joanne from Tegeler Toyota called me back and said their offer was $6,500 cash, plus $1000 cash back offer which I can put  towards a new truck.  In addition, they would pay off the old truck (one month payment), and would even tow the truck from Atkinson in Bryan to Tegeler in Brenham.  I told her it sounds great, and let’s do it.   I realized that I had told Craig to start dismantling my truck and needed to stop him if he hadn’t started yet.  I tried calling Craig back to tell him not to start the tear down of the truck.  But Atkinson was already closed. I left my number and asked Craig to call me back first thing in the morning.  So, what took Atkinson Toyota 4 days to do, Tegeler Toyota did in less than 8 hours.  I now have a new 2012 Toyota Tacoma (we’re still a Toyota family).


I still firmly believe that Atkinson screwed up somewhere and caused this problem.  I will never go back to Atkinson for anything and I will never recommend them to anyone else either.  If you are in the market for a Toyota, do all of your business at Tegeler Toyota instead  (Ask for Joanne).


 

UPDATE: 01/10/2016

Recently I had my oil changed on my 2012 Toyota Tacoma. The technician/mechanic that handled it, used to work for Atkinson and left there for a number of reasons (IE: having to pay for training that was supposed to be paid for, working there for 4 years and getting passed over for promotions by new employees that he had to train, etc…).

He told me that one year, there was a new guy that forgot to put oil into a Toyota Tacoma and the engine blew up.

I told him that was probably mine and he said “Well, it was silver, so yeah it probably was”.

 

How many other Toyota Tacoma’s could Atkinson have done this too?  I doubt there’s many so in my opinion, this pretty much proves that Atkinson was to blame.

 

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