Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Readers- Thanks for your support. Saturn- I wish it was better...

First, I absolutely have to thank all the readers here for their support. Masiwife snuck in a post in the early hours of Monday morning, updating everybody on our Saturn VUE issues. That post generated a lot of traffic here and the comments of support have been very heartwarming. Masiwife commented later in the day;
masiwife said...

Thank you all for your words of support and understanding. I know to some it sounds like pointless whining about an every day occurrence that happens to all of us. Please don't think we don't know the difference between inconvenient and unfair. We live with a teenager - we define the terms DAILY. When you pay more for repairs in the first year of ownership than you pay on your car loan, you have bought a lemon. Masiguy LOVED his Saturn Vue and that enjoyment has been destroyed. To all of us out there in the world of consumerism, let this be a learning experience: Be gentle with your customer. They may just be your last.

She's right; thanks.

Masiwife sort of out jumped me and posted this before I could get my thoughts together and come up with my own post. So now I want to clarify, make corrections, set the record straight and apologize. (This might be long...)

1) I feel the need to apologize, in a sense, for getting as "emotional" and upset about this as I have. I don't apologize for being mad, but I apologize for not acting like the smart, savvy marketer some people graciously give me credit for being. I know that sounding intelligent and articulate make a far better impact than flying off the handle and attacking somebody. I got a little carried away and didn't think clearly before posting some of my thoughts and feelings. However, that said, since my family was placed in jeopardy by the incidents, I don't think many folks would disagree with how I acted.

2) Here are the final facts of what happened:
As Masiwife mentioned, after the expensive repair, the car died again the very same night. It died because it turned out that the dealership plugged the new computer wiring in the wrong way/ incorrectly and the bad connection caused a short that blew a fuse. Once that was fixed, the problem was gone (I really, really hope).
Saturn paid for me to have a rental car while my car was being serviced, after I insisted that I expected to have a car to drive.
Once the final repair was completed, the dealership didn't charge me for the final "fix"/ correction of their mistake.
Saturn Corporate offered me 4 oil change coupons or one $100 service voucher as their apology for the inconvenience. The service voucher/ oil change coupons would be good at any Saturn dealership and I would not have to visit the same dealership, since I have no faith in their service department anymore (I think with good reason).
3) I picked up my car and turned down the coupons and voucher. I did this because I no longer wish to support Saturn and their retailers. If I need to have the car serviced, I will go to the independent repair center that my wife has taken all of her cars to in the past. He's always been cheaper than anybody else and his service has always been perfect. He gets my business again- he worked on my Volvo in the past as well.

Now, after the last failure of the car, I swore to Saturn and the dealership that there was no way I was ever getting back in the car and that I expected to be driving something different- but not the same car. I also demanded that my repair cost be refunded since the car failed again right away (before it was found to be a simple "mistake"). After dealing with the Area Manager from corporate in Tennessee, I found that was not going to happen. I misunderstood the fact that they were not going to charge me to fix the mistake as they were going to refund the cost of the repair- this was in no means true and was my misunderstanding. It also became clear that there was no way that they were going to get me into a different car (new or used). The cars only come with a 3 year/ 30,000 mile warranty and my car is an used 2002 with a bit over 90,000 miles on it now and no extended warranty was purchased. So, Saturn was adamant that they had fulfilled their end of the deal and that any further repairs (including the faulty fuel gauge system) would be my sole responsibility.

I am torn on this actually. It is a used car and it doesn't have any warranty. That is all very true. However, my sticking point continues to be the string of bad service I have gotten from the dealership and then the apparent willingness of Saturn Corporate to support them.

Remember, before this string of incidents I was a big supporter of Saturn and my car; nearly all of my Daily Drive posts have taken place in that car. I bought in to the cult of personality that Saturn has developed and was very happy with my purchase. I confess that part of my "hurt" over this has been the shattering of a dream and an ideal. Even as a smart and savvy marketer, I am still just a regular person who can be just as emotional and even irrational as anybody else. I know that I handled this poorly initially and for that I do apologize because I should serve as a better example to others. My behavior has not exactly been "exemplary"- it just proves that even somebody who makes a living as a Marketer and with a past deep in Customer Service can succumb to passion (and a dose of fear).

If you feel that I have been wronged and want to offer your support, then send an email to Saturn Customer Service at e-mail@saturncars.com (this is the only Customer Service email address I was able to find and is the one that I received replies from). If you want to reference my claim, the number to use is- SR: 1-22516385. Ask them to forward your email to Sam Mancuso, the Director of Marketing for Saturn. I doubt it will happen, since I asked them to forward my previous emails as well, but maybe they will... who knows.
If you prefer to call, you can call the 800 # I called: (800) 553-6000 (prompt #3 for customer service issues).
A very special thanks to my great friend in Sydney, Gavin Heaton, for his post on this topic as well. Thanks mate- I am very touched. Gavin has great suggestions as well- figures, since he's freakin' brilliant.

I don't know if this will do anything, but since a bunch of people have asked me how they can help, this is all I could think of. Outside of that, just consider my tale before you buy a car.

Now, I am done talking about this unless something else dramatic happens. I am going to return to great pictures of the kids, talking about my bikes and my lunch rides, posting pictures of my socks and generally getting back to better topics of discussion.

Again, thank you all very much for the support. This community of friends is one of the greatest "possessions" in my life.

(PS- Sorry this was so freakin' long.)


Anonymous said...

Re your Saturn, you are taking it way too seriously. All cars, without exception, are crap. They are designed to last only during the warranty period.

I have not owned a car since 1990, and unless you live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, or have a disabled family member, there is no reason to own one.

Tim Jackson said...


Were it not for my 80 mile drive each day and the fact that I have two kids and drive to races etc with a bunch of bikes in the back, I'd agree.

For many years(6), I didn't have a car either. I loved the freedom... but I was either single or didn't have kids and a killer amount of miles between myself and my destinations each day.

Believe me, if I only had to travel 10-15 miles either way, I'd be on my bike. 80 miles each day, carrying my laptop in my bag, etc, just isn't very practical. As is, I get to see my family too little already. 4-5 hours of commute each day would really, really get me in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Just completed my MASI 'Alare' rebuild featuring a 'FULL' SHIMANO group, PANARACER tires and CANE CREEK ST Suspension Seatpost.
GREAT improvement, reviewing a 'Steel' road-cross frame with 2007 CAMPY components.
Learning more during my 15-20 MPD rides.
'The Major' is about to forever damage their praiseworthy SATURN brand. (Can't BUY this!)
EXPECT more upset clientele going forward!

Anonymous said...

The way I see it, manufacturers of cars (and bikes for that matter), market and sell to us by building an emotional link that they sell down the river when a problem arises ... or when the warranty expires.

No matter whether you buy a new or used car, you are still buying into the BRAND PROMISE (with or without warranty). And when you travel 80 miles a day, there is going to be some level of attachment built between the car and driver ... I have friends who are "FORD MEN" -- and it is clear that Tim, you WERE a "SATURN guy". It is a shame that this emotional bond has been shattered.

And as Paul McEnany asks, how much did it cost for Saturn to acquire you as a customer -- and what do they lose by turning a lifetime advocate against their brand? There are some rock hard dollars underlying this story that the GM marketers should be looking at.

BTW ... I am digging this post - and it would be great if you all did too:

Anonymous said...

I respect choices we have to make.

I have been thinking recently about leaving the city, where no car is needed and moving up north in NY State.

But my decision will have to be made based on how close I am to the Metro North Railroad.

I understand this is not an option in most of the country, where public transportation is very primitive at best, or more likely nonexistent

But driving 80 miles a day, that would be hard work, I would move, but I know that is not always easy to do. Again I live in a vertical city where everything is in walking distance (to the subway).

There is however a downside to not owning a car, I am scared to death every time I am forced to be a passenger in one. All I can see is shards of glass and sheet-metal embedded in my flesh. From the point of view of a cyclist it is like riding inside a bicycle serial killer!

By the by -- Saturns are a hype, buy a Toyota (I am 61 and have owed a lot of cars).

(an interesting note, blogger is not recognising the new Google password I have, after moving my blog as blogger requested)

Tim Jackson said...

WRW- Thank you friend. Glad you like the Alare- it really is a great riding bike (even at standard spec) for what you pay. During the MS150 in Houston this past April, I saw lots of them on the road and people were very happy with them. Sure makes a product guy proud.

Gavin- Thank you again so very much for your post and your comment here. Sean's post at Craphammer is great too. Thanks for the link info. I do owe you friend...

Fred- I totally understand. Man, if I could ride each day, I would. I live where it just isn't possible for me. Our rail and transit systems here need a lot of growing. I understand the whole car nightmare thing too- it took me a long time to get used to driving once I got another car. I didn't like it and still don't really.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record I sold Masi during the Rene Moser era (the general manager of Masi in the late '70s), right after Breaking Away came out.

I have a renewed interest, since I have been thinking of replacing my Specialized Langster with a Masi steel track bike. The Langster is just too harsh, and ugly.

While I have an Orbea, seldom ride it, no need for gears in NYC, no hills, just lots of cars.

Josh Boggs said...

Saturn will hear from me. I used to drive a Saturn, as well. Mine was fine until the head-on collision with the drunk driver, but customer service situations like this always inspire me to take action. I believe it's about taking care of the customer and they clearly didn't handle the situation correctly. I hope your vehicle situation is resolved soon.

I enjoy reading your blog. It's cool to read about marketing, etc. in this industry. Keep it up!

Edu&Nano said...

I´m a European and the things are the same in here, the customer service in automotive is poor and claims, warranties, after sales, etc, dealers, etc.. are poor copies of the brand-new-dealers and sales people smile. I´ve a similar problem on my 2-year-old peugeot (22.000 miles).

Just a point during the mid 80´s and the begining of 90´s, BMW and Mercedes engineers received "durability training courses" to design with durability in mind. This means project with life-cycle-define. So there was "Best before date" in these goods too.


Gilby said...

Tim, I think you handled it a lot more rationally than a lot of people might have. If I had a family to take care of, and had experienced these issues, I'd be furious. Because of your background, I think you know what's fair to expect when it comes to service. You weren't asking too much.

Aki said...

Re: cars as necessary evil - one thing that struck me about CA is that it appears impossible to live there without a car. Even with the good weather and all that, it seems like one huge, new development with everything miles and miles apart. Just crossing the street where I visit in Carlsbad/Vista area would equal walking down a block here at home. Going from one parking lot to the next means going a quarter mile down the road. The scale of land use there is totally different from here.

As someone from the East Coast (NY/CT) the sprawling nature of the area is really incredible. We have it pretty lucky here to have only a few developments per town and maybe one big one for a half county. Not developments literally creating whole towns from a hillside and regular new office/retail construction popping up everywhere.

However... back to the bike. 4-5 hours a day on the bike. We'd be reading about how you went to the front at the beginning of the "race du jour", monstered the big gear, and hammered everyone right off your wheel.

Masiwife would probably not be a fan though as you don't make your living riding the bike.

Ah well. That's why pros are pros.

Anonymous said...

i was going to stay out of this little saturn saga, as i am a mega brand guy, when i get hooked on something [product] i am their best salesman [and if you know me, i am not salesman type material]. but related to this saga, i really miss the volkswagen of years gone by, as stated over and over again here, all car companies now are basicly the same when it comes to what you pay for and service. but as the volkswagen story goes, before vw introduced the beetle to america, all dealers had to be trained, have ALL spare parts in stock, and so on and so on. vw hit a homerun with service and product. i really miss that attention to detail, service and product that simply just works. [maybe that is why i love macs...]

p.s. Edu, dude... you bought a french car... [sorry TVJ, i couldn't help myself]

Edu&Nano said...

masibestfriend: I´d like a Renault, but my wife chooses the Peugeot. You know man!

Anonymous said...

I know I'm a little late on this, but I'm having similar problems with my 2003 Saturn Ion3.

My first car was a 1991 Saturn SL2. I loved that car. I was 150% a Saturn girl. I'd tell everyone how much I loved that car.

It still runs, 17 years later. Hell, to this day it runs more reliably than my Ion.

Because of my experiences with the Ion, I now officially hate Saturn. I hope bad things happen to everyone affiliated with Saturn corporate.

You're not overreacting. You're right. They suck.