I am writing to clarify a couple of points in your March 18 article on Access Toyota, the selling concept Toyota is introducing in stages across Canada. In the article, I am quoted as saying Toyota sets the prices. Actually, the salespeople at the dealerships we shopped said Toyota controls the prices - we just reported it.
The Office of Consumer Affairs referred to as having funded the mystery shopper investigation by our association is a federal department within Industry Canada, not one of several provincial consumer affairs offices.
As for Toyota's notion that cartel pricing is ultimately self-limiting, the answer is yes, but at a distorted point on the price curve. A result of Access Toyota is to deliver consistently higher margins without pricing yourself out of the market. Toyota dealers understand that. As a consequence, some of them are considering caps on their commission structures, presumably because sales force compensation is too generous with the new margins.
In Montreal, the dealer who offers the highest trade-in allowance agrees to buy the vehicle at the high price, even if the customer buys a Toyota somewhere else - a form of bidder's cartel.
And by the way, the Automobile Protection Association's mystery shoppers are not the only people visiting Toyota dealerships these days. Toyota auditors and trainers have been very much in evidence.
Access Toyota is a brilliant program, executed with the planning of a military operation.
Toyota has chosen to make retail pricing the cornerstone of the program. The consequence is significantly higher real-world selling prices, from about $125 (Canadian) on a base Echo to $2,000 on a Highlander.