Is Toyota Discriminating? A $21.9 Million Settlement Says So (Kind Of)


Right, so this happened.

So it turns out that Toyota is in a bit of legal trouble. Again. Only this time a settlement has already been worked out. Here’s what happened: Toyota’s auto-loan division, Toyota Motor Credit Corporation, has agreed to pay a $21.9 million settlement to thousands of black, Pacific Islander, and Asian customers. The reason? The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Department of Justice determined these minority groups were charge higher car loan interest rates than white borrowers, despite having similar credit.

According to those US agencies and The Atlantic, beginning in 2011 up until this year minority borrowers were charged between $100 and $200 more than white Toyota customers. Turns out this practice even has a name, "dealer markup." That’s how some Toyota dealers managed to get away with the unfair pricing. Dealer markups, as most of us know, is a way for dealers to make more money in various ways. But in this case, it worked like this: when a buyer opted to finance through a dealership’s in-house financing department, their credit score and other factors helped determine their loan rate, which is nothing unusual. But here’s where things began to stink:

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Toyota allows its dealers to increase those rates by up to 2.5 percent, which is pure profit. What the CFPB’s investigation found was when dealers decided which customers to charge more, minorities, regardless of credit, often paid a higher rate. In addition to the financial settlement, Toyota has also agreed to cap the markup to 1.25 percent for five-year loans, and 1 percent for longer term loans. However, those penalties won’t completely end the discrimination, only limit it. For its part, Toyota Motor Credit Corporation has denied any wrongdoing.

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