January 7, 2012

A Possible New Strategy: Small Claims Court

I may have a new legal strategy if Power Nissan fails to fix my car on the 18th time.  Small claims court.  A Honda Civic Owner took Honda to small claims court in CA, suing for $10,000 when a design defect prevented her car from getting the 50mpg that was advertised.  I’m awaiting to hear the outcome of the January 3 trial.  The great thing is, Honda could not bring a lawyer to trial, only a representative of the company.

Check out the Los Angeles Times article (or download it below) and her website:

http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-autos-honda-smallclaims-20111227,0,959031.story
http://www.wix.com/civichybrid/dontsettle#!

LA Times small claims court 122711

January 7, 2012

Why I’m fighting Nissan & Hitachi Automotive so hard – is it worth it?

So you may be asking at this point, why am I fighting Nissan so hard after my Nissan Sentra broke down for the 18th time? Why not just sell the car and get rid of the problems?

When I came to Los Angeles from New York City where I resided for seven years without having a car, I invested most of my savings in my Nissan Sentra. I looked at several cars and really liked the Sentra, and thought at the time Nissan was just as good as say Honda or Toyota (wow, look how much has changed since 2007, only one of the three retains their namesake). So I was investing in the name, in Nissan. I bought my Sentra from a private owner in 2007 with only 52,000 miles on it and no major problems – he was a family man who was just upgrading to a larger car with a new kid on the way. And I got it for several hundred dollars under Kelly Blue Book. Sounded like a great deal at the time. Boy was I wrong, but never in my lifetime would I have expected the 4 year nightmare I got.

I’m in the film business, and I went into a great amount of debt in New York. So during this whole ordeal and even now, I could not afford a car payment or the rise in insurance of a new car. I invested all my savings in this car with only 52,000 miles on it and I was expecting it to last me at least to 100,000, if not 150,000. In the four years I’ve owned it, I’ve only put on an average of 6,500 miles a year, way below average. This car should last me at least another 4 years.

So each time after the Nissan dealership fixed my car, I wanted to believe that they fixed it once and for all. I have no problem paying for regular maintenance of the car. But I should not have repeated replacements of the ETB (Electronic Throttle Body) and ECU (Electronic Control Unit, the computer), both made by Hitachi Automotive, and repeated software updates of the computer. This is clearly a design flaw that Nissan needs to step up and admit to and either fix it once and for all, or make good on their product and offer me a replacement car.

If you know me, then you know I’m a stubborn SOB. I won’t back down until I win. I took a $465 red-light ticket to court, preempted the commissioner to get a judge, researched like crazy, and went to court and presented my case, and the judge dismissed the fine. I refused to pay for something that I didn’t believe was right or just, and I didn’t believe in some camera that I cannot question giving me a fine more than half my rent. I fought it and I won.

On top of that, unlike most of Nissan and so far Hitachi Automotive, I have a conscience. Jiminy Cricket sits on my shoulder and tells me not to sell my car on the private market because I don’t want to hand my problems onto someone else. I would have to disclose all the problems I’ve been having, probably sell it for a couple thousand below KBB value, and even then, I wouldn’t want to pass on these electrical problems to another buyer, when it’s a design flaw that’s the fault of Nissan. By Nissan failing to do their job properly on 17 prior occasions and failing to fix my car, they have devalued my car.

18 times my car has broken down and they have been unable to fix it. How can I pass that off to someone else? And even if I try to trade it in at a dealer, even a different car dealer, they’re just going to fix up the car and sell it to some unsuspecting buyer, and half the time, the car runs fine with no SESL light on, and the problems don’t show up until it breaks down weeks or months later. And as explained above, due to financial reasons, I am unable to just junk the car at a junkyard and take a complete loss.

Basically due to financial reasons, the fact that Nissan has devalued my car due to their complete incompetence and failure to admit to a design flaw, and the simple fact that I have a conscience, I am forced to spend my time fighting Nissan and now Hitachi Automotive in order to get them to do what is right and just. Honestly I would much rather spend my time doing more productive things, like writing and focusing on my freelance business. But instead, I’m writing on this blog, due to Nissan’s complete incompetence up to this point.

January 7, 2012  (January 26, 2012 – Mel info updated)

Helpful Representatives of Nissan

Since most of this blog is focused on my negative experience at Nissan and in my prior post “Trust & Accountability” I point out all the Nissan reps who have lied to me, I thought I would take the time to give a shout out to those who have been helpful during this ordeal.

  • Mel Lemus of Universal City Nissan: Mel was always on my side and a few times he fought to get parts replaced under warranty.  As of December 2011, Mel is the Service Manager of Universal City Nissan, so if you must go there, see him (I will recommend avoiding this dealership at all costs though, check out the Yelp reviews on it: 1, 2).
  • Stacey Steven: Universal City Nissan has changed Service Managers many times over the 4 years of my ordeal.  When Stacey took over, I wrote in my Yelp review that “there’s a new Sheriff in town.”  Stacey was great, she totally took care of me, picked up rental cars, and fought to get parts replaced under warranty.
  • Mike Garcia:  Mike is the Assistant Service Manager of Power Nissan of South Bay who’s been helping me so far during the 17th and 18th breakdowns of my car.  He gave me a loaner which I’ve now had for a week and is letting me keep it while we wait for the DTS to come out and diagnose my car.  The loaner has been a big help.  Mike also just has a great attitude and seems to really want to help.
  • Melody Benedict: Melody’s with Nissan Consumer Affairs and works under Mary Baumgartner, Senior  Manager.  Melody helped schedule the DTS to look at my car this time, and returns phone calls.

While Mel and Stacey were great, at the end of the day, they never actually fixed my car or got a DTS to take a look at it; all they really did was throw parts at it and never found the root cause of the problem.  I’m truly hoping Mike and Melody will do everything in their power to either fix my car this time once and for all or offer me a replacement, because if Nissan cannot fix my Sentra after the 18th time of breaking down for the same or similar electrical problem, it MUST be a design flaw, which means they need to make good on that problem, and the only remedy would be to provide a car that works properly and was designed properly.

January 6, 2012

Trust & Accountability: A Plea to Make the Situation Right

One of my biggest complaints with Nissan as a company, and now Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas, Inc., is trust and accountability.  Mike Garcia of Power Nissan; Melody Benedict of Nissan Consumer Affairs (in the office of Mary Baumgartner, Senior Manager, Consumer Affairs); and Kelly Ochoa, Project Engineering, Technician; and Kunihiko Ohnumaat, CEO, of Hitachi Automotive, all have the power to change that by stepping up and doing the right thing this time, the 18th time I’ve had my Sentra into a Nissan dealership when I’ve already had 3 ETB’s and 2 ECU’s (made by Hitachi Automotive) replaced, and either fix my car properly or offer me a replacement car (or the value I paid for the car, plus all my expenses during this four year ordeal).

I’ve been lied to many times by representatives of Nissan and although I keep detailed records of everyone I speak to, no one seems to be held accountable for anything they say or do.  Nissan just doesn’t care.  The biggest lie of course being “this will fix your car” which I’ve been told on 17 previous occasions and they have yet to fix the electrical problems with my car.  As are documented in my Yelp reviews and the “DETAILED NOTES WITH NISSAN” section in the document in the research section, here are the blatant lies I’ve been told:

  • The first time the ETB (Electronic Throttle Body) supposedly needed replacement, Eric Diaz of Universal City Nissan quoted me $100 more for the part than their own parts department.  Eric Diaz lied.
  • David Larush, Regional Specialist told me, “We are prepared to offer you an extended warranty on the mechanical components for 7 years / 100,000 miles –whichever comes first.”   I asked if this covered the ECM and ETB and wires – the parts that have been continually being fixed and replaced – and he answered no, he’d have to look into getting the warranty to cover “electrical” as well.   I then asked 7 years from when, and he answered the original purchase date of the car – which was 2002 – therefore since it was now 2010, 7 years has already expired, therefore this warranty is no good.  Therefore he reneged his offer of an extended warranty and refused to extend the warranty to 100,000 miles.  David Larush lied.  A Nissan Consumer Affairs rep even told me, “that was incompetent of him” to offer the warranty.
  • Chris Weir, Service Manager, at Santa Monica Nissan through the request of David Larush agreed to provide a rental should my car break down again.  When it did break down again, there was a new Service Manager at Santa Monica Nissan, and he refused to honor Chris’s promise of a rental.  [Now Santa Monica Nissan is closed… I wonder why with this great service and honor].
  • During one of the many files I opened with corporate, I was told by Kate x41573 that I would get a call by the end of the next business day.  A day later  Maryanne Grundle x41461 tells me  “the file was closed and this was due to Kate using a template that said at the bottom that she couldn’t give me her info or file # therefore the file is closed” – whatever that means.  Maryanne corrected this and assured me I would get a phone call by 5pm that day.  No phone call came.  The next day  the file now says I will receive a call by 5:00pm today, although she confirms that yesterday it said 5pm for yesterday.  Complete disorganization, incompetence, and lies.
  • Shanell Russell, Regional Specialist, told me she didn’t get any of my voicemails because of their new voicemail system (OK, I can’t prove this one, but seriously that’s a lame excuse and just shows incompetence on the part of Nissan for not having a reliable voicemail system in this day and age).
  • During a discussion with Juan Beccera, Service Manager at Universal City Nissan, where I was requesting that he pay for the rental car since they were replacing the ECU for the second time, they took five days to do this, and no one called me the day before when my car was ready, he said, “We’re done. We can no longer fix your car for free.”  The problem with this statement is: NISSAN HAS NEVER FIXED MY CAR.  It has now broken down for the 18th time.  Juan Becerra lied and made me go through corporate to be reimbursed for the car rental.  Hey Juan, I still got reimbursed.  You could have made it easier on me if you would have just not charged me in the first place, and not hijacked my car until I paid for the rental.

I truly hope that once and for all Nissan will step up to the plate, that Mike, Melody, Mary, Kelly and  Kunihiko will do everything in their power to fix my car once and for all, or make this situation right.  In all good conscience there is just no way these representatives of their companies could come to me now, after this four year trauma, after hundreds of dollars spent not only to the Nissan dealerships, but in round trip gas money, time off from work, pain and suffering from all the fear, anxiety and depression I’ve experienced during this entire ordeal including not knowing when and if my car will break down on me again – there is just no way they can come to me now in everything that is right and just in this world and fail to correct the situation.  I am making a plea to all of them to do the right thing here, correct this situation once and for all, try to reinstate the dignity and good name that Nissan once held by at least making one customer happy – be trustworthy and accountable for your company, please.

I hope they will.  I should know more Tuesday, January 10th after the DTS examines my car.

January 5, 2012

A DTS is scheduled to look at my car January 10th / New Research

Got a call from Nissan Consumer Affairs and my contact there set up a Dealer Technician Specialist or DTS to look at my car at Power Nissan next Tuesday, January 10th.  I am both excited and thankful for this, and also stricken with anxiety as to what they will diagnose as the problem: will it be the same thing that’s been diagnosed one of the previous 17 times, will I have to vigorously argue with Nissan Corporate and/or the dealership like I have in the past in order to get them to fix it?

I am having sleepless nights OCDing over this.  The Assistant Service Manager at Power Nissan seems genuine in wanting to help, and he did provide me with a loaner, which helps me out immensely and buys a lot of good will.  Previously the Service Manager of Santa Monica Nissan promised to provide a loaner, then when my car broke down, that Service Manager was no longer there and the new one reneged on the offer, and Nissan Consumer Affairs did nothing about it, they would not uphold what a representative of Nissan told me.

Here is a file I made up today and sent to the DTS.  I think it contains some useful information about the history of my car and research I’ve found on others experiencing the same problems (latest up to date research in this file).

Nissan Sentra DTS letter & file 010512

Remember, if you have a similar Nissan story specifically with the Sentras or Altimas and the ETB, ECU, Idle Air Relearn or similar electrical problems causing your car to shut down on you, please email me with a detailed report  (if possible, please include dates your car was into dealership, names of those who helped you like the Service Advisor, copies of the invoices,  the file number if you’ve opened a file with Nissan Corporate, the info to the Regional Specialist if one was assigned to you, anyone in Consumer Affairs you’ve spoken with and any email correspondence, and any other useful information).

Email to:  dontbuynissansentra at gmail.com (replace _at_ with @).

1/2/2012 – UPDATED 7:30am

New Research Posted, UPDATED

Here’s some new research I just found on two 2002 Nissan Sentra SE-R’s who both had ECU’s (also called ECM) replaced and then still had problems after that, and a report of a a 2007 Sentra where the dealership says the motor needs to be replaced that described the same stalling problems as mine:

Other Nissan Complaints 2012 new research updated 010212 730am

So this may not be limited to just 2002 Sentras since the 2007 is  experiencing the same problem, and Nissan may be using the same ECU’s and ETB’s built by Hitachi in their 2007 Sentras, and/or 2002 through 2007 Sentras.

Check out the “Research / Others’ Complaints” page to see previous research from 2010.

If you have a similar complaint with your Nissan Sentra, please email me at: dontbuynissansentra at gmail.com (replace _at_ with @).

12/31/11

My car breaks down for the 18th time due to same/similar electrical problems

My 2002 Nissan Sentra SE-R has been into the dealership 17 times since 2005 for the same or similar electrical problems.

I’ve had 3 ETB’s (Electronic Throttle Body in which the TP Sensor is a part of) replaced on 7/12/09, 12/07/09, and 5/12/10 and 2 ECU’s (Electronic Control Unit – the computer) replaced 1/9/09 and 11/19/10.

I’ve had the Idle Air Control Volume reset 4 times on 8/23/08, 7/28/09, 4/24/10 and 12/21/11 – this was explained to me as a software update for the ECU.

Both the ETB and the ECU is made by Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas, Inc. for Nissan.  And according to an article on The Truth About Cars website, “Hitachi supplies some 90 percent of its engine control units to Nissan.”

On 12/21/11, after taking my car into the dealership for the 17th time after the Service Engine Soon light came on and the code pulled was for the “TP sensor,” I was assured by the Assistant Service Manager of Power Nissan of South Bay–the third dealership I have had my car into (including Universal City Nissan and Santa Monica Nissan-before they closed)–that according to a DTS Technician (which is a special Nissan technician) that the only thing wrong with my car was that the Idle Air Control Volume needed to be reset again, that “someone” previously set it wrong. 

CORRECTION: I was led to believe a DTS technician looked at my car on this date, but after a conversation with the Assistant Service Manager of Power Nissan, the DTS was only out there that day, it was a Master Technician at Power Nissan that looked at my car and improperly diagnosed it, this Master Technician is new there, as his Tech code wasn’t even listed in the Manager’s binder, and apparently the Master Tech discussed my car and his solution with the DTS and he OK’ed it, but never actually looked at my car.

Little more than a week later, on 12/30/11, my car shut off on me 4 times, once in traffic at a red light with the RPM fluctuating between 600-800, just as it has in the past.

I believe there are major electrical and/or mechanical and/or engineering problems with my Nissan Sentra SE-R which may be the result of the ECU and/or the ETB being faulty,  which then leads me to believe both Nissan the maker of the car and Hitachi the maker of the parts are at fault.  This problem first occurred in 2005 when the car was still under warranty, but the dealership failed to fix it properly then, and 16 tries later, it still doesn’t work, breaking down on me for an 18th time yesterday.

Due to research I have found at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other Nissan and car forums, I believe many other Nissan Sentras, as well as possibly Nissan Altimas, which have the same ETB (Nissan Part #: 1611K-AE01BRE) and ECU as my car are experiencing similar problems to mine.  Yet Nissan and Hitachi fail to recognize there is a problem, fail to issue a recall, and fail to diagnose a fix for the problem.  And now I am spending New Year’s Eve creating this blog to spread the word.

If you own a Nissan Sentra or other and have had multiple ETB’s and/or ECU’s replaced (or even just 1) and/or had the Idle Air Control Volume reset, please contact me, and tell your story with as many details as possible, (if possible, please include dates your car was into dealership, names of those who helped you like the Service Advisor, copies of the invoices,  the file number if you’ve opened a file with Nissan Corporate, the info to the Regional Specialist if one was assigned to you, anyone in Consumer Affairs you’ve spoken with and any email correspondence, and any other useful information).

Please contact me at dontbuynissansentra at gmail.com (replace _at_ with @).