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Sticker shock on Toyota Matrix - after the sale

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Sticker shock on Toyota Matrix - after the sale

February 24, 2010 By TOM INCANTALUPO tom.incantalupo@newsday.com

Most car shoppers probably give little thought to the knee air bags in some vehicles, but Alexandra Bilinski made sure when she bought her 2010 Toyota Matrix in May that a knee bag was listed as a safety feature.

It's right there on the window sticker.

Unfortunately, it's not in the car. Nor is there a knee bag in any other Matrix in the world.

Bilinski, 54, of Riverhead - who has had a knee injury and surgery - learned the truth in January when Toyota quietly sent letters to her and 3,700 other owners of 2010 Matrixes nationwide telling them that the window sticker contained a misprint. With the letter was a $50 American Express gift card as a token of compensation.

But Bilinski, a teacher, and her husband, Jerry, 55, don't want a gift card; they want what they thought they had bought - a car with a knee air bag, which, while not required by law, helps to prevent lower leg injuries and helps the steering wheel air bag in restraining the passenger in a frontal crash.

"In my opinion," Alexandra Bilinski wrote in an e-mail to Newsday, "this is more than just a recall problem but rather outright fraud and a deceptive sales practice that I believe may rise to a crime in New York State."

Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons in California said the bag cannot be retrofitted because the car wasn't designed to have one and therefore lacks the required sensors and wiring. All that Toyota can do for the Bilinskis, Lyons said, is help them trade their Matrix for another model, such as a Corolla, that has a driver's knee bag.

Jerry Bilinski said he'll await details before agreeing to that. "Are they willing to let me trade it in at full price?" he asked. "I mean, I can go anywhere and trade it in."

He'd also like a vehicle not subject to a recall - as was their Matrix and the Camry he drives, for possible unintended acceleration.

Alexandra Bilinski still drives the car, but the couple has complained to state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office.

They haven't spent the $50.

"I suggested to my wife that she buy some sort of knee brace with it," Jerry Bilinski said.



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Eh, I'm not sure. I would tend to think few people buy a car particularly because of one safety feature, though an indication of one would probably help some to decide.

In my case, the sticker identified that my stereo was capable of MP3 playback. It turned out to be the non-MP3 model, so I called in and the dealer wished to provide me with a $100 cheque for my troubles. My wife and I really appreciated the thought, but we preferred to have an MP3 capable unit. A couple of calls to GM and a letter in the mail delivered to the dealer to instruct of warranty replacement of the head unit solved that issue.

In this case, I think providing them a comparably equipped car would be more than fair. I guess we'll never know what ends up happening unless an update is provided down the road.

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