Following our story last week about RAV4 Hybrid waiting lists, insiders explain why Toyota’s ordering system does not treat buyers on a first come, first served basis. 
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The wait for a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is now longer than the queue for some Ferraris – and frustrated buyers are starting to cancel orders because promises keep getting broken and delivery dates are repeatedly pushed back.

CarAdvice has learned some arrivals have been delayed by 10 months or more, some dealers are now quoting delivery times of more than a year – and yet a number of buyers are jumping the queue because of flaws in Toyota’s ordering system.

When Toyota launched its Supra sports-car last year, the vehicles were initially only available to buy online after customers placed a deposit. Those at the front of the queue received their Supras first. If any customers backed out of the deal, their deposit was refunded and the next person in the queue would get that production slot.

However, such a logical ordering system does not apply to the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. Frustrated buyers have united on online forums to unearth the hidden reasons behind the wildly inaccurate delivery times and the contradictions between Toyota dealers and Toyota management, which most recently said the waiting time should be no more than four to six months.

David Higgins, the founder of the Facebook group “Australians waiting for 2020 RAV4s”, says: “Most people understand and accept that the car is popular and there will be a wait time. What people are upset about is the unfairness of the distribution system and the lack of communication and transparency from Toyota.”

Mr Higgins says numerous online forums show “some people are getting their cars a few months after ordering, while others who placed orders as far back as June 2019 have not even had their order accepted by the factory in Japan”.

“Consumers are entitled to think that when they place their order, it goes into a queue with everyone else in Australia and it gets delivered in chronological order,” he says. “However, that’s clearly not the case.”

With the help of the Facebook Group “Australians waiting for 2020 RAV4s”, we have compiled a list of 10 things you need to know if you plan on buying – or are in the queue for – a new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

And why, incredibly, some dealers are happy for customers to cancel their orders (hint: so they make more money off the next person in the queue).

We have contacted Toyota Australia for clarification and comment and will update this story as soon as we receive their responses. In the meantime, following an overwhelming response to this story, here's what we know so far.

1. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is hot property

The demand for the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid caught the Japanese car giant by surprise. It forecast up to 30 per cent of the sales mix would be of the petrol-electric version but at last count the order rate for RAV4 Hybrid was closer to 55 per cent of demand.

2. Some versions are able to be delivered faster than others

The longest queue is for the top of the range Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Cruiser AWD. Cheaper model grades may have slightly shorter wait times. The reason certain model grades can take longer than others is because of the unique parts for that vehicle (not necessarily restrictions in availability of the hybrid system).

Car factories plan up to 12 months in advance (or more). So when a flood of orders come in for a certain model grade or colour combination that was expected to only make up 10 per cent of the sales mix, the factory needs to contact its suppliers and get them to ramp up production and delivery of the relevant parts. That process alone can take six to 12 months, sometimes more.

It’s the same reason Ford couldn’t suddenly triple the number of Mustangs built (it forecast 1000 sales a year but took orders for close to 10,000) a few years ago. Ford needed time to go back to each of its suppliers that make the 105 unique parts for right-hand-drive versions and get them to ramp up production. It took Ford about 12 to 18 months to clear the backlog.

3. The biggest Toyota dealers get the most cars

The more new Toyotas a showroom sells, the larger allocation of Toyota RAV4 Hybrids they will likely receive. However, the consumer has no way of knowing who are the biggest dealers without getting some help from an industry insider.

“We have also heard that some dealers get extra cars if they have a good customer satisfaction score,” says Mr Higgins. “We have heard some dealers get more cars based on previous sales rates. We have also heard Toyota can use their discretion to give extra cars to certain dealers for other reasons.”

Mr Higgins adds: “And so you get this situation where buyers at one dealer get their cars months before buyers who ordered much earlier through another dealer. It’s this unfairness and lack of transparency that has people angry.”

4. An order slot doesn’t mean your order has been accepted

According to dealers, when a customer places an order they are given a “COSI date” (Customer Order Sales Information).

At that point in time the order is at “A00” status, in Toyota-speak. That means the order has been requested by the dealer but not yet accepted by the factory.

Toyota’s computer system them gives the dealer (and by default the customer) a “build prediction month”.

“The dealer will often tell this month to the customer. However that month is meaningless, because the factory has not yet accepted the order,” says Mr Higgins. “This is often not explained to buyers. You see customers in forums saying ‘my car is due to be made in May’. That is not the case – all it means is you have a ticket in the May lottery.”

When a factory order gets ‘rejected’ the customer moves into the next month’s “lottery” for a production slot. This process can continue for months, which is why so many customers have had their delivery dates pushed back numerous times.

“For example,” says Mr Higgins, “my RAV4 Hybrid order, placed in September 2019, is still in A00 status – the same status its had since I ordered it six months ago. It doesn’t yet have a production slot.”

5. First come is not first served

Unlike the Toyota Supra launch, where every car was allocated one-by-one in the same order the deposits were received, there seems to be no single queue for the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid in Australia.

“From what we understand, each dealer has a separate queue, and your dealer queue seems to be the biggest influence on when you get your car,” says Mr Higgins.

“Whether you get your car sooner or later is decided effectively by a lottery based on which dealer you ordered with,” he added. “It seems that dealers are competing against each other to get their orders accepted by the factory in Japan.”

6. Toyota and its dealers are over-promising when they can deliver

Dealers place factory orders for Toyota RAV4 Hybrids each month. They then find usually in the middle of the following month how many cars in the previous month’s order have been accepted.

“If your dealer has 200 cars on order, and they are only getting 20 a month, it’s going to take a long time to get your car,” says Mr Higgins.

“On the other hand we’ve heard from some rural dealers who only have a handful of orders – and they get that order accepted each month. So those buyers get their cars a long time before others who may have ordered six months earlier at a different dealer.”

7. Threatening to cancel your order won’t give you leverage

Some buyers are so genuinely frustrated they tell the dealer they are about to back out of the deal. But in most cases the dealer doesn’t mind. The showroom can sell that car – whenever it eventually comes in – to the next person. A dealer will likely keep the order alive so they too don’t slip down the queue.

8. Some buyers skip the queue by paying more for the car

According to industry sources spoken to by CarAdvice, some customers have had their Toyota RAV4 Hybrid sold from under them because another buyer – who ordered the car after them – paid more for it as they didn’t haggle as hard.

Toyota dealers are not alone in doing this with in-demand cars – and it is next to impossible to police unless the car company distributes each vehicle on a first come, first served basis.

Several industry insiders say buyers are sometimes moved up the queue if the dealer stands to make more profit. It means some buyers may be waiting longer if they have negotiated a sharper price.

9. Your choice of colour and options could slow you down

“We hear trims and models determine wait times too,” says Mr Higgins. “We have heard the biggest delays, in order, are caused by: Cruiser model grade, all-wheel-drive, hybrid, nutmeg interior.”

10: What to ask the dealer when you order a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

To get an idea of how long a dealer may take to deliver a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, buyers should ask:

— How many RAV4 Hybrids in total do you currently have on back order?

— How many RAV4 Hybrids in total have you been receiving each month?

— How many RAV4 Hybrids in my particular model grade and options do you currently have on back order?

— How many RAV4 Hybrids in my particular model grade and options have you been receiving each month?

— What would be my place in the dealer's queue for a car in my particular model grade and options?

— What is the dealer’s average waiting time to have a production slot confirmed on any RAV4 Hybrid? That is, moved beyond ‘A00’ status.

Where to from here?

Frustrated Toyota RAV4 Hybrid buyers stuck in a lengthening queue have made the following recommendations:

“In my opinion, Toyota should move to a transparent, chronological delivery system that gets cars to individuals across the country based on when they ordered,” says Mr Higgins.

“Otherwise, how is a consumer supposed to know that Dealer A will get them their car in three months while Dealer B may take 12 months?

“The current system seems to be failing because it focuses on allocating cars to dealerships via an arcane ordering system instead of putting customers first.”