I have been a fan of Toyota, especially after reading what they have done to auto manufacturing. Toyota is a big brand in automobiles and in spite of all the problems they have been facing, especially in the recent past, I was confident - in terms of quality - no one can beat a Toyota. My experience with Suzuki in the past has been very good. I have moved up the value chain with Suzuki, starting with Maruti 800. The first time I drove the Zen, I had the ‘wow’ feeling. The last Suzuki we had was the Swift, and before that Wagon R. It is such a big brand in the entry level segments but unfortunately they could never upgrade to the luxury segment. But that’s another story.
When we wanted to replace our Swift, with another Swift, unfortunately we were rudely told that the waiting time was 18 months. Impressed with media coverage of the Etios platform and the fact that it has been designed keeping Indian conditions in mind, we shortlisted the small car from Toyota stable - the Liva.
After the mandatory wait time, our electric blue Liva arrived and our blues began. Start the car and put it on reverse gear, it makes a grinding noise. The noise is similar to the one you hear when you try to change gears on half clutch or when you get caught between two gears and the car shakes. When I first talked about the gear problem, my wife openly (and my driver under his breath) passed comments on my driving skills. Incidentally, my wife is a better driver than me. Both of them thought it was ‘my problem’ and advised me to press the clutch fully. Over the next few days, both of them had their time with the car and they finally admitted that there was a problem.
We went back to the showroom and were told that the gear box will become smoother after the first service. We waited patiently for the first service. The Toyota service person refused to admit the problem and instead gave the same pitch of pressing the clutch. On top, he added the standard disclaimer of Toyota being world famous for its quality. They just wouldn’t agree to even drive the car and check for themselves. We refused to give up and had a few heated arguments with the service person as well as the Branch Manager of the Worli service center.
Reluctantly, he agreed to come and take our car for a drive. He heard the noise. Then he now politely told us that all cars on the Etios platform have this noise when you go on reverse gear. He went on to add that the gear box is faulty and syncro gear is not working properly. The gear box technology is quite standard and if there was a problem, then Toyota would have solved it and not released cars in the market. If this was a design bug, then this issue should have been resolved before the cars left the manufacturing unit. No wonder Toyota is being forced to recall cars.
When you choose to buy a small car, besides some advantage in parking space, the bigger attraction is the mileage. Believe me, for the Toyota Liva, even the mileage is pathetic. They claim that the mileage will improve after the first servicing. With my car the mileage has fallen from 8.1 km/ltr to 7.3 km/ltr which is worse than what my Honda Civic gives. Effectively, what we have done is that we bought a small car with the petrol guzzling capability of a larger car.
Clearly, it is no longer the Toyota way. I remember the famous joke about Laloo and the Japanese PM. The Japanese PM told Laloo that given in a chance, he would make Patna like Tokyo in 10 years, to which Laloo retorted, given 10 months, he would make Tokyo like Patna.
Like Toyota’s jingle, I too will sing - Come on Liva, come on Liva, - do something. The Q class which stands for Quality Revolution is now actually a big Question mark on quality.