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Vehicle Shortages Create Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Dealer-Customer Misinformation

With vehicle shortages and dealer miscommunications, what does making a special order with Toyota look like today? Here is one example of a possible miscommunication between a 2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid buyer and a dealer where it may not have been the dealer's fault.


A recent hot post on Facebook’s Toyota RAV4 Hybrid group showed a particular RAV4 customer explaining her frustration with her dealer because she put down a special deposit of $1000 to get her own custom RAV4 and then the dealer called her and told her it was impossible to get that exact model. Here is what she said.

“I put down $1000 to “special order” the car but was apparently lied to because the manager just called me to tell me special ordering in the US is impossible.” Also, in her post, she said she wanted the nutmeg interior with the black exterior to avoid add-on prices.

I asked our trusted Toyota source about this claim and here’s what he said. “Customers complain about dealerships all the time and some of the times it is because it is the customer's fault, and the dealer gets blamed.”

However, he also said that this could have been the dealer's fault for not explaining the special order clauses to the customer.

Vehicle Shortages Create Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Dealer-Customer Misinformation

So it seems that there was either a misinterpretation of the special order’s clauses or maybe there was a miscommunication between the dealer and the customer. Now just a little disclaimer, I do not affiliate with any dealership therefore my opinion is based on facts and what our source told us.

Lately, dealerships have gotten a bad rap because of their ostentatious markups and stereotype of ripping you off. In fact, the dealership was established by the government to prevent the automaker from ripping you off directly. Dealerships made sure that the car was sold at the true MSRP or maybe at a small markup to avoid any sort of temptation from the automaker to base prices on your location or your financial situation.

Now with this customer’s claim, special orders are subject to change based on what the automaker can give the dealership. So let’s say I put a special order down for a RAV4 Hybrid with a red exterior and white interior. This isn’t a color scheme you see every day so I would have to wait for more for my car plus I may have to settle for a different color because Toyota only cares that you get the car. Dealers ask Toyota if they can get this specific order and if Toyota feels like they can allocate resources to get that specific trim or color, then it all works out.

However, there are instances where dealers are only allocated an X amount of money for special offers or cars in general. Therefore, Toyota may not see it fit that this customer gets his or her desired color option because of resources, time, and what’s available. Here’s what a commenter said on the post, “What happens is the dealership asks Toyota for that specific vehicle, but they only actually receive whatever Toyota sends them.”

Another member explains the allocation part of it in a more in-depth way. He said, “Toyota allows you to a preference request. Dealers are allocated the new shipment every two weeks or so. Right now, they are building what they can and shipping to a region. Every dealer gets a different amount allocated to them.”

So even if you really wanted your cherry red RAV4 Hybrid, you may not get it at all due to dealer allocations and Toyota’s choosing.

My best advice is to get what you get and spend the extra money on wrapping it or doing the mods yourself. Speaking of which, check out my recent article on customer mods and how they might affect your warranty.

Sometimes negotiating with the dealer to put things on like tint or paint might even bring a better deal to the table. My late math teacher got a brand new Camry for under MSRP plus a lot of add-ons which included tint, floor mats, and extended warranties simply because he didn’t get his special order. So don’t sweat it…your patience will be rewarded.

What do you think? Have you ever been turned down on a special order? Let us know in the comments below.

Harutiun Hareyan is reporting Toyota news at Torque News. His automotive interests and vast experience test-riding new cars give his stories a sense of authenticity and unique insights. Follow Harutiun on Twitter at @HareyanHarutiun for daily Toyota news.


MIKE w JONES (not verified)    April 26, 2022 - 9:27AM

this ties in well with your lead time article for special builds on rav 4's. i placed an order with my dealership and put down 500 to get certain rav4 xle hybrid with a cold weather package. as i initially talked to the sales person, i thought that I would have a 3 to 6 month wait and at some point he would tell me that they were going to start to build my car in June/July/Ausust etc and he could track it. i later talked to him and it sounds like your article to the T. they are building Rav 4's and allocating them out to dealers'. in reality i guess the dealer thinks that they will get a car in close to what i wanted as part of their allocation, but in reality Toyota is not shipping a car to my dealer that i custom ordered in early April. i think the dealership needs to be more honest on how the process works upfront.

Harutiun Hareyan    May 3, 2022 - 8:49AM

In reply to by MIKE w JONES (not verified)

Hi Mike,
Yeah, you're not the only person to experience this. One of our reporters was actually in the dealer business a while back and he told us that there is no such thing as, "I want this and this." you get what the dealer gives you. I mean unless it's like a Rolls Royce dealership or a Lambo one, then your everyday Toyota is going to be a 99% allocated car. Thanks for the comment.

MIKE W JONES (not verified)    May 24, 2022 - 4:00PM

In reply to by MIKE w JONES (not verified)

i got a call today that if i ad the convenience package to the winter package that i am much more likely to get delivery. it is looking like as of today a delivery of a 2022 in August or September. it is definitely going to be a 2022 and i am happy with that. I live in MN and cold weather package is important. i could take or leave a sunroof and back lift gate etc., but my educated guess is with a 2023 i will pay more, I am happy to add on the convenience stuff and in the end spend less money than what i would spend on a 2023. it sounds like in the next 30 days i will be getting a car that is assigned to my dealership. At that point will be likely getting a car in 2 to 2.5 months. sounds like April 5th to August or September for my MN dealership.

Scott Zimmerman (not verified)    May 1, 2022 - 10:14PM

I was just searching to see if you could order a Rav4 because the Dealer in Apache Junction AZ told my daughter you could not special order a vehicle,
this sounded like a lie to me and she did pay 1000.00 down for a vin'ed vehicle on transport to the dealer so based on this article I guess I won't raise the BS flag


Harutiun Hareyan    May 3, 2022 - 8:51AM

In reply to by Scott Zimmerman (not verified)

HI Scott,
Yeah it's pretty confusing and dealers don't really want you to know this but they tell you it's ok anyway. Sometimes honest dealers will have a disclaimer but your neighborhood Toyota Dealership probably won't. Thanks for the comment.

Steve Bender (not verified)    October 23, 2022 - 12:05AM

Just had my 2020 Highlander Hybrid Platinum (which was special ordered just like I wanted it--with a 9 week wait) totaled by a guy who failed to see the line of cars ahead of him at a red light and I happened to be at the back of the line. I have been talking to dealers who tell me it is an 8-12 month wait for another hybrid but only a few weeks for a gas engine--provided I am willing to a. put down $1000 and b. take what they offer on trim, color, and packages.

I understand demand far exceeds supply, but I don't understand why they refuse to fit special orders into the supply chain.

It is a little like going to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse for a dinner, paying the fixed price dinner charge, and then being served a hot dog. You don't want it? Fine, we will give it to the next customer--but there are no refunds.

Zakir Hossen (not verified)    June 1, 2023 - 6:42PM

The very notion of custom order is to wait and pay premium. If the custom order is not deliverable…it should be confirmed upfront by the dealer and agreed by both parties. This is why the wait time and premium is for. PERIOD.