Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saturn Saga; an open letter to Saturn.

After having a few days to "cool off" and reevaluate things, I felt it only fair to come back and say that though I am still extremely upset with Saturn and still fully expect them to resolve this problem with my VUE, it is a bit harsh for me to say "I hate Saturn". I still expect things to be resolved a certain way, but Saturn deserves the chance to make things right before being executed in the public domain because before all of this happened, I really loved my car and being a Saturn owner- which is why this set of horrible occurrences has hurt so bad.

Saturn (especially Director of Marketing Sam Mancuso),

I've been a very happy Saturn VUE owner for the past year and 2 months. I own a 2002 VUE V6 AWD. As I've detailed here, I've had a string of very frightening and unacceptable problems with the car. Each of these occurrences have put me and/or my family in danger and yet the problem has not been resolved, even after spending a big chunk of money to get a replacement Engine Control Module (ECM). This expensive repair did nothing and left me stranded again the very same evening I picked the car up from the local dealership where the vehicle was purchased and all repairs have been completed.

Prior to the string of current issues that began on 12/22, approximately 6 months ago I took the car to the dealership for a routine oil change. While there, the service technician did his job and offered me a wheel rotation for a slight upcharge since the vehicle was already in the shop. I agreed and got the wheel rotation and oil change done. The very next day, while driving the vehicle to work, the rear passenger side wheel nearly fell off the car, but I was able to maintain control of the vehicle and pulled into a safe area off the freeway. It turns out that one of the wheel lug bolts had snapped off because the lug nuts had not been re-tightened after the rotation. One of the lug nuts came off and the excessive play in the wheel caused the bolt to snap off while I was driving. The remaining three lug nuts were on by a few threads and came off in my hand with barely more than one turn. The dealership, Saturn of Kearney Mesa, paid to have the car towed back to the shop and fixed the rear wheel. At that time it was determined that the remaining lug nuts on the other three wheels were not tightened to torque spec either- this was a potentially deadly combination. The dealership apologized and I accepted because I was happy with my car and the fact that the issue was handled immediately, though my confidence in the service capabilities was a bit "shaken".

Fast forward to the current situation where the engine shuts off and the power steering and brakes cut out. As mentioned previously, this problem has happened both with and without my family in the car with me and has endangered all of us not once or even twice, but 5 times now- 4 of those times after being inspected or serviced by the dealership. I do not think I am off the mark by feeling that this is totally unacceptable and that I should not be expected to pay for the repair that did nothing or expect to put my family back in the vehicle ever again. That particular option is not acceptable.

Currently, thanks to the involvement of Saturn corporate in Spring Hill, TN, I am driving a rental car that is being paid for by the local dealership (though I had to use my own credit card for the deposit that is supposed to be refunded when the car is returned). In defense of the people I have dealt with, I have been treated well by each person and can not say that any person has been impolite or rude or even dismissive. Jim the service consultant, Mark the service manager, Sheron with Saturn corporate customer service and Sierra the Area Manager at corporate have all been easy to deal with on a personal level. Each has done a good job of doing their job with a very upset consumer- me. As a former customer service and repair manager myself, I have a huge appreciation for good customer service. It is this good customer service, frankly, that has kept me from going straight to an attorney after the rear wheel incident 6 months ago. I think this needed to be mentioned in an attempt to be fair.

Saturn, you have a very good opportunity to do the right thing and make this situation right and turn me back into an evangelist for your brand. On a larger scale, General Motors, you too have a chance to improve your public image... which could certainly use the help these days. I have been a fan of Saturn for many years longer than I've been a Saturn driver due to Saturn's former title sponsorship of the Saturn professional cycling teams of years past. I have always tried to support those companies who support cycling and I was pretty proud of my decision to buy a Saturn. This is your chance to make me proud of that decision all over again. For the record- I really would prefer to be happy with my choice again.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter of hope.

Tim Jackson


Aki said...

Back in the day when Saturn was a multi-billion dollar startup, a friend of mine bought a Saturn.

I asked him how he liked it - and he replied in the affirmative. He pointed out one thing though - if he didn't like it, he could have simply returned it.

I don't know how that part would have worked but basically this skews the "satisfaction %" pretty nicely in Saturn's favor. "Everyone who owns a Saturn loves it". Only because those who don't simply return them.

With the cars now on the used car market, that's no longer true. Your story confirms this and it's unfortunate that it's a combination of parts (ECU or wiring or whatever) and dealer service (not tightening lugnuts??). A poor dealer is easy to handle - you go to another one. Parts, and electrical ones at that, I don't know what to do.

On a side note, I've read about "ECU failures" relating to my (non-Saturn) car. ECU's depend on signals from sensors - the ECU processes the signals and adjusts things accordingly. If a sensor is broken or malfunctioning, the ECU might mistakenly do something which has unexpected side effects - like stalling the engine.

An example is when you move your mouse but the cursor doesn't move as you expect. It might be the mouse is unplugged (wiring), the laser light in the mouse can't pick up movement because it's on a perfectly consistent surface (sensor is fooled) or the laser itself isn't working (broken sensor).

A poor dealer may not have done the research to figure out if a sensor is bad or not - there are many of them and they are a pain to check.

Anyway, I hope your Saturn thing works out. Good luck with it.


Anonymous said...

As much as I hate to give Saturn any link love; you might link a couple times to them in this Open Letter so it's easier for them to find and act upon (a lot of open letters do that to get their attention). Can't promise anything but fingers are crossed for you and your fam.

Anonymous said...

Today when I put the key in the ignition, the car would not even turn over. When I pulled the key out and started to get out of the car, the car tried to start itself without the key. The opening of the car door seem to start it strange as that sounds. Smoke than started to pour into the car from the steering column getting worse by the minute. I quickly got under the hood and disconnected the battery possibly stopping a larger fire.

The sad thing was this was just three days after it was in the shop for weird behavior like the turn indicator getting warm, the fuel gauge going from full to zero and back again on its own, the horn beeping in the middle of the night on its own and the car not starting. All of this was explained to the dealer.

Previously I had spent around $2000 to replace a water pump and timing chain at 36000 miles. (Ever have a Toyota or Honda do that?). I also had spent $1800 a month and a half before due to massive coolant and oil leaks. Saturn does not care about quality. I have always believed in buy American but not anymore.

rrjexpert said...

Nice review. I was thinking of getting a new saturn, got the perfect size for my family. But then, i have to consider some more feedbacks on new cars especially the hybrids. And i'm planning to give my car after some mods and Saturn fuel saver adjustments to my sis.