KANEOHE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some owners of Toyota Camrys in Hawaii and on the mainland are dealing with an annoying problem: sticky, melting dashboards that also smell. A Kahuku woman received what she considered unfair treatment from her Kaneohe car dealer about the problem until Hawaii News Now got involved Monday.
Kit Whyte, 84, said she first noticed a problem on the dashboard of her 2007 Camry six months ago.
"Lo and behold, it became stickier and stickier and stickier until we started doing something about it," Whyte said.
Camry owners who park their cars outside in the sun have noticed the problem a smelly, seemingly melting dashboard that's very sticky. It's easy to find some mainland residents' complaints on You Tube.
"And if you stick your finger deep down it's gouging the top. I don't know what's happening. Disappointing," said a woman in one video, as her husband demonstrated the stickiness of her Camry dashboard.
In another YouTube video, a man said, "Dashboard ... it peels right off. That's pathetic."
Whyte, who lives in townhouses at Turtle Bay, took her Camry in to her dealer, Servco Auto Windward in Kaneohe, five months ago.
The service department took photos and documented the problem, then asked her to return and took more photos, Whyte said.
Servco eventually said the car was out of warranty and the dealership would replace the dashboard for a 20 percent discount, but she would still have to pay $1,600 for the repairs, she said.
"I was angry. I was angry at that because I felt it was nothing I did and I felt it was something in the factory that they had to do something about it," Whyte added.
"So that was a little shocking to me and at that point, I got involved. And I made a few phone calls. And then I what I did was I sent them a few certified letters," said Derrick Sher, her son-in-law who works in the automotive industry. "That's why I felt really strongly that it was a Toyota problem and not Kit's problem. That she didn't put anything on it to actually create it. And it was a problem in the actual product material."
Sher contacted Hawaii News Now about the problem late last week and a Hawaii News Now reporter emailed Servco with their complaint just before 1 p.m. Monday.
About 7:30 p.m. Monday, Servco Auto Windward's general manager called Whyte and told her they'd replace the dashboard at no cost, Whyte and Sher said. Tuesday morning before 9 a.m., the dealership drove a loaner Corolla to her Turtle Bay townhouse on the North Shore and picked up her car, she said.
Toyota crews were already working on her car in the service shop by early Tuesday afternoon.
Servco Automotive's president Rick Ching released a statement that said,
"Servco sincerely apologizes for the discomfort and inconvenience this issue has caused Ms. Whyte."
Whyte was happy with the final outcome.
"I think it's wonderful. I think it's wonderful and I think it's going to help a lot of other people, I hope, if they have the same problem," Whyte said.
Servco says other Hawaii Camry customers have made similar complaints but the company did not provide an exact number, and said it did not know the cause of the sticky dashboards.
"We will continue to work with customers who have experienced similar problems with their vehicles on a case-by-case basis," Servco's Ching said.
"Our goal is to have satisfied customers and we are pleased to learn from your reporting that she is very satisfied with the outcome," Ching said. "And as always, we encourage our customers to contact their preferred dealership or the Toyota Hawaii Customer Care line at 808-839-2273 (CARE) or 1-888-272-5515, toll-free, with any questions."
Mainland Camry owners have experienced similar problems.
"The dashboard is melting and cracking," reported one Camry owner to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to an NHTSA web site.
Another Camry owner reported, "Dashboard of the car is starting to melt. Surface is very sticky, shiny and when touched with finger is coming off like a glue."
Online car owner chat sites have similar stories.
A Camry owner in Houston wrote, "A representative told me that Toyota's stance is the original warranty and since that's expired and there's no recall or programs, we're out of luck. I am going to send them a letter to express my disappointment and this '07 XLE will more than likely be the last Toyota I ever own."
The Camry was Toyota's third-highest selling model in Hawaii during 2012, following the Tacoma and the Corolla, a Servco spokesman said.
Servco owns four Toyota dealerships in Hawaii, three on Oahu and one on Kauai.