Corrosion is primarily caused by road conditions. As of 2019, the position of the connector between the cable and the rear wheel motor promotes the accumulation of debris and moisture.
"It is a circuit that must be completely isolated from the rest of the vehicle for it to work properly," explains Sacha Leroux, owner of the Arleco Génération III garage to Radio Canada.
Starting in mid-2021, Toyota redesigned the part to allow water and dirt to drain away. However, after inspecting several vehicles, Sacha Leroux believes that the new design does not give the expected results.
"In my experience, it's still not enough, because it still traps dirt and calcium. There is still corrosion," he confirms.
As early as October 2020, Toyota's US division suspected corrosion issues with the high voltage cable.
In Canada, it was last March that Toyota Canada sent a procedure to its dealers: detect corrosion, replace defective cables and, if out of warranty, invoice customers.
If you are under warranty, hurry up.
When the dealer diagnoses a corrosion problem, Toyota replaces the cable at no charge. But only if the vehicle is less than three years old or 60,000 km (37,200 miles). Nonsense for other drivers, according to the Association for the Protection of Motorists (APA).
“We are talking about a part that is supposed to last the normal life of the vehicle. If Toyota didn't design it to withstand our road conditions, now's the time to take responsibility," says George Iny, Director, APA. Out of warranty, the cost of the part is $4,500 plus labor. In some cases, the total bill exceeds $6,000.
APA received several complaints. The price is grossly exaggerated, that's clear. For that price, you can buy an entire engine from certain manufacturers, argues George Iny.
Added to this are the problems of supplying the part. Several testimonials report delays of several weeks, even several months, before receiving a new cable.
Jean-Thomas Landry owns a 2019 RAV4 Hybrid. He took the plunge when his dealer estimated the cost of replacing his cable at nearly $6,000. Dissatisfied, he contacted Toyota Canada to complain.
The automaker offered to pay two-thirds of the bill, on the condition of closing the file for good and not disclosing the content of the agreement. Jean-Thomas declined the confidential offer and opted instead to alert the public by creating a Facebook group.
“By signing the agreement, I couldn't sue them. It's nonsense that Toyota leaves people like that. I just wait for there to be a call back and then they change the room for everyone," Radio Canada quotes Jean-Thomas Landry.
Today, more than 3,200 people have joined the Facebook group. Jean-Thomas can count on the help of a former RAV4 hybrid owner to administer the page, Hugo-Sébastien Aubert.
"People don't understand that Toyota is not able to solve the problem. The product is acclaimed all over the world. Now the "management" should be at the same level," says Hugo-Sebastien Aubert.
Jean-Thomas and Hugo-Sébastien combined media interventions. Newspapers, radio, specialized broadcasts; the cable problem even has a name, #CableGate.
The scale of the mobilization impresses George Iny, of the APA. He told Radio Canada that the owners of Toyota RAV4 vehicles are very keen people. Many of them have the part checked before the end of their warranty and they try, as much as possible, to protect their rights .
For months, members of the Facebook group have been hoping for an important announcement from the automaker, a solution applicable to all. The announcement is still pending.
For many RAV4 Hybrid and Prime owners, a simple warranty extension would save them a lot of angst.
The components of the hybrid system are already guaranteed for eight years or 160,000 km, which is much more than the basic guarantee of three years or 60,000 km.
Against all logic, according to the APA, the high voltage cable is not included in the hybrid system components. George Iny feels that Toyota Canada should revise its fine print and include the cable in this warranty. It also asks the manufacturer to reimburse customers who have already changed their high voltage cable and who were no longer under warranty.
Additionally, APA recommends that Toyota Canada install a sleeve or apply grease to cables that are still in good condition. Whatever the means, the objective is to delay corrosion as much as possible.
What path does Toyota Canada plan to take to overcome #CableGate? It is impossible to know. The company refused Radio Canada's request for an interview, as this case is currently before the courts, writes a spokesperson.
While waiting for a permanent fix, RAV4 Hybrid and Prime owners should replace their damaged cables, or risk having to do it again in a few years.
A class action against Toyota
A request for authorization of class action was filed in Montreal last May against Toyota Canada. Among the demands: reimburse the cost of replacing the cable, pay punitive damages and extend the warranty, just like the other components of the hybrid system, writes Jean-Luc Bouchard of Radio Canada.
Armen Hareyan is the founder and the Editor in Chief of Torque News. He founded TorqueNews.com in 2010, which since then has been publishing expert news and analysis about the automotive industry. He can be reached at Torque News Twitter, Facebok, Linkedin and Youtube.