By on October 5, 2011

It was Tamara’s first new car. A 2003 Saturn VUE AWD with a 4-cylinder and all the options. Out the door at $25,000.  Overjoyed to have finally afforded her very own new car, Tamara splurged and spoiled it. Saturn seat covers soon adorned the interior and a chrome grille guard was added to give her cute zonker yellow ride a bit more gravitas. The Vue would be her absolute pride and joy for the next seven years.

Until it died. Seven years, two transmissions and only 69k miles, Tamara got fed up with being one of many victims of an under-engineered CVT. Besides she couldn’t afford the $5000+ bill.

Yet she wasnt alone. Far from it. Tamara is just one of thousands of folks who have been given the stiff arm by a manufacturer. All the major manufacturers do this to a degree and no, it’s not because they are evil and uncaring. You have to draw a line somewhere.

GM offered purchasers of their new VUE’s with the defective CVT’s a $5000 rebate towards a new vehicle… or 50% of the cost of a new tranny. It was good for 5 years or 75,000 miles, and there were many occasions where GM would go beyond that warranty.

Was that enough? Most owners would say no. Even in the dog days of the 1970’s a vehicle was expected to last longer than that. GM’s profit margins on these vehicles would likely tell a different story. On a purely personal note, it seems ridiculous that any well kept transmission shouldn’t last at least 10 years and 150k miles these days.

But there are a lot of exceptions to this rule.

Honda extended their CVT warranty to 8 years and 80,000 miles on the 1st generation Honda Civic hybrid which weighs about 2700 pounds. However the 1st generation Insight (2000 – 2004 models) with the exact same C VTtransmission and 900 fewer pounds gets a 10 year / 157,000 mile warranty.

Guess which one has the stronger enthusiast community?

Nissan extended their CVT warranty to 10 years and 120,000 miles on seven different models built between 2003 and 2010. Yet Chrysler who uses the same sourced transmission has not offered any warranty extension.

Volvo provided a 10 year / 200,000 mile warranty on thousands of defective Electronic Throttle Modules that were built between1999 through 2002. However Volvo also saw fit to not offer an extended warranty on their Aisin-Warner and GM 5-speed automatic transmissions that had high failure rates on their Volvo V70’sXC70’s, and XC90’s. Those only get 5 years and 60,000 miles.

Toyota experienced engine sludge issues on ten models built between 1997 and 2002. After a long legal fight they settled on offering full compensation for new owners who had the issues occur within years and unlimited miles.

Ford developed a V platform for their Ford Windstar, Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey that used a highly unreliable 4F50N transmission. No warranty extension on them from the 3 year / 36,000 mile warranty. But Ford has recalled the Windstar for safety related rust issues as has Toyota.

In short every manufacturer has issues and deals with them in ways that reflect their core beliefs. When it comes to safety nearly everyone covers the well-being of the customer. Powertrain and electronics issues? It depends.

Whenever I see someone shift from reverse to drive on an automatic without breaking, I wince. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. As a dealer few things tick me off more than experiencing some loudmouth schmuck who ragged out a creme puff and then demands money for their abuse and neglect.

There are a lot more folks out there who fit that description than today’s media will ever admit to.

In the coming years you’re going to see an amazing array of new electronics systems and advanced powertrains. Cars should be more reliable than ever… but they also will likely become more  expensive to repair as well.  The line of expectations between what ‘should’ last and what ‘does’ last will continue to blur for customers and manufacturers.

So who should hold the mantle of responsibility? Is it sane for a manufacturer to offer only 36,000 miles of warranty coverage in an industry where cars are routinely expected to last 5 to 7 times longer? Should the free market rule? Or should the government intercede in cases when defect levels go beyond the pale?

It’s very hard to draw that line. Just ask Tamara.

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78 Comments on “Hammer Time: Abandoned Hope...”


  • avatar
    GS650G

    tamara should have gotten some advice before buying, but that’s another story. The mechanically inclined would find a way (any way) to replace the CVT setup with a regular automatic or a manual, but that’s not for the vast majority of people.Call that An Option.

    Warranty should go 5/50K on the whole car. That’s about how long payments last and represents average driving rates. Make it 60K if you feel better.

    Ultimately we have to trust the machinery.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I agree – warranty coverage in the US (certainly bumper to bumper) is less in the US than other major markets like the UK and Canada. In the UK – Ford, GM and most other major companies offer 3 years, 60K miles. Kia and Hyundai have a 7 year 100K miles warranty. In the US it is less. I would assume this is partly because cars are cheaper in the US than the UK and Canada and you get what you pay for.

    • 0 avatar
      tubacity

      “mechanically inclined would find a way (any way) to replace the CVT setup with a regular automatic or a manual, but that’s not for the vast majority of people.Call that An Option.”
      Not a real option for most. To do the swap and pass smog checks, have to do many things including replacing wiring, emission controls, main computer, other engine control and smog equipment, and transmission . And only if you could find these items in working order at the junkyard. Or suffer a permanent check engine light which prevents passing a smog check if required. Cost may exceed reasonable $$.

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        Definitely not an easy option, but I tell you you’d be surprised at what ingenuity can do.

        Depending on the state, inspections might not be an issue. I’d wager any number of GM transmissions might fit that Saturn, of course it takes research.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        The Vue’s manual transmission was a one-off: it’s ostensibly a Getrag F23 (like the Cobalt had) but had to have a bunch of parts strengthened because the Vue was a lot heavier. In the absence of a donor Vue with the 5MT, you could try swapping in the transmission from a manual Cobalt or G5 but I don’t think it would last as long as you’d expect.

      • 0 avatar
        wstarvingteacher

        I actually replaced the manual transmission on my 2002 vue. I didn’t know where it came from (aristurtle below). The salesman kept bragging about it being the same as the sports sedan Saab. He had nothing productive to say when it went out at about 60k. The mechanic told me it was a miracle because no transmissions had never broken until mine did. I’m not sure I can trust his word. He tried selling me some beachfront property in the national forest here right after that. The replacement lasted till the car was gone at 180k. Possibly they did improveme it. Independent mechanics told me the 4cyl stick became a lot better on computers etc than the original.

        Must say though that my advice is to dump it for whatever she can get. Our 2002 soured me so bad that I dumped a Honda Powered 2007 vue (glutton for punishment, had two vues) shortly after the last debacle with the 2002. I had always heard one should never buy the first year run of a vehicle. I had thought this was based on the L series platform and the bugs should be gone. I was wrong. Cannot imagine 2003 would have been much better.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I wondered about the Saturn CVT when I first rented one years ago. Since I’m well aware of GM’s philosophy of beta testing their technology on the customer, and I’m also aware that they long ago reduced the engineering to one overworked electrical/mechanical/process engineer so that they could hire an additional 10,000 useless MBAs, I just knew that the GM CVT would be a massive fail.

    GM: “We’ll cobble it together, you get to see if it actually lasts.”

  • avatar

    My stance for a few years now is not that the warranty should be extended for the whole car, but automatically extended for specific problems once they pass a certain threshold. I wrote about this for TTAC here:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/11/customer-care/

    I’m planning to write a follow-up for TTAC this week, reacting to an article in AN about GM pushing its dealers to provide out-of-warranty assistance more liberally. Still no clear guidelines, still up to the discretion of the dealer on a case-by-case basis, so still not good enough.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Michael: “Still no clear guidelines, still up to the discretion of the dealer on a case-by-case basis, so still not good enough.”

      That’s always been the modus operandi of the dealers. Many of them have the latitude to something about warranty/defects/repairs, many won’t.

      I bought a Dodge from a rack em & stack em dealership in my town, when it came to legitimate warranty claims, they were not only unwilling, but completely combative. I ended up going to another Dodge dealer, they treated me very well. They got the idea.

      I suspect as long as dealers are independent businesses franchised by the manufacturer and protected by state laws, there’s little the mfrs can do.

      I look forward to your article next week.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Geo- you touch on an important topic, namely that dealers are franchisees. If the dealers were all owned by the manufacturers (much like Apple stores are) then you would, potentially, get higher standards and not the hit and miss that occurs now. If a manufacturer screwed over customers they would lose sales which would force them to increase coverage or be more generous as the situation permits.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        With Chrysler it’s a little different story. When they were at their worst financially they were the ones indirectly denying the warranty coverage. If a dealer had too many warranty claims they were put on notice and run the risk of loosing some privileges. So if they were getting near their limit they would deny warranty coverage no matter how legitimate the concern was. So it sounds like dealer #1 had been put on notice while dealer #2 had not. For the most part dealers like the warranty work as they are getting paid and making money off the deal. Of course the technicians may not since the MFG will often pay fewer hours for warranty work than the dealer can bill for customer pays. Ford went through and cut warranty times dramatically a few years ago so much so that in a number of cases the warranty time was half that of the standard rate. In other cases warranty work can be very profitable for the tech. The Toyota accel pedal was a good example. If a tech drew enough of those tickets they could make 16-20 hours in 1 day and still go home early, since Toyota was paying 1hr for what was a 15-20 min job once you’ve done the first couple.

      • 0 avatar
        BoredOOMM

        When I moved from NH to NV in 2001, my 2000 Malibu started acting weirdly. A visit to a Stealership recommended new front brakes NOT covered under warranty for the sum of over $400. A call to the NH dealer proved rewarding. The Service Manager said to have the work done if needed, and send him the bill. He promised to FedEx me a check for the bogus repair and submit the bill himself. A trip across town found different tire pressures and that solved the issue.

        I would still to this day, fly in to Manchester, NH and have no hesitation on purchase of any vehicle for sale at that Dealer. I never was impressed with the entire “Saturn way of buying cars” anymore than the way the UAW and the bean counters never allowed improvement over 1993.

      • 0 avatar

        mike978 completely agree with you about higher quality service resulting from tighter integration. Unfortunately, more vertical integration also means more oversight and costs, something no manufacturer is willing to take up. It makes sense for certain brands and models who are trying to build a reputation and a following (the Hyundai Equus comes to mind), but overall we’ll be stuck with a franchise experience for the foreseeable future. I’m betting that technology will cut down on service and warranty pain points in the future.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @scoutdude: I’m familiar with warranty claim penalty, I worked the parts desk at a Ford dealer in the early 80’s. The dealer I purchased from may or may not have been under the penalty, I don’t know.

        The second dealer was a much larger but rural dealer, and at that time (late 80’s) was fighting to maintain their market share. In fact they increased their marketshare and bought out the first dealer some years later. I had moved away by then, though.

      • 0 avatar
        John Horner

        “Ford went through and cut warranty times dramatically a few years ago so much so that in a number of cases the warranty time was half that of the standard rate.”

        Those standard rates are a scam. Most competent techs can do better than book time on the vast majority of jobs. The shop doesn’t mind because they are billing the customer by the book, not by the real hour.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        @geo if it was that long ago then that again is another story, I was talking about recently under the mis-management of Cerebus.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @scoutdude: Yes, it was a while back. I think the same thing applies industry wide, though. But I’ve been out of the real car business for about 20 years now…

      • 0 avatar
        .

        “Those standard rates are a scam. Most competent techs can do better than book time on the vast majority of jobs.”

        They’re not a scam for the exact reason you mentioned. The times are the AVERAGE across the entire tech ladder, meaning a mid-level tech should be able to hit the time. If you carry a big stick you’ll be able to beat the book time. It’s why the best techs prefer flat-rate pay.

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    GM offered the lady a $5000 rebate toward a new car or 50% of the cost toward a new CVT. Honda extended their CVT warranty to 8 years or 80,000 miles-and a 10 year 157,000 mile warranty on the Insight transmission. Guess from which manufacturer I will not be buying a car from.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      Ford offered me a $500 rebate on my next Ford purchase due to my ‘rollover prone’ Explorer. I didn’t write off Ford because of it, I wrote off Ford because their product in the price range I am looking at is more dated than my 16 year old SUV. (Escape)

  • avatar
    ott

    Tamara should’ve popped for the V6. The 03-06 Saturn Vue came with a Honda 3.5L V6 sans CVT. We have bought and sold untold numbers of the Honda V6-powered Vues on our lot, with no issues to report with any of them. We will not even contemplate offering the 4 cyl version, at any price.

    And boy howdy, are they an easy sell here in Canada… A Honda powertrain in an all-wheel-drive vehicle that will never rust? -Sold!

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Honda had their own issues with the 5-speed auto found in the Odyssey and in the VUE – they were forced to extend the warranty on them also for premature failures.

      The VUE was a disaster top to bottom. Also, the 2003 model would have had the worst GM engine of all time, the 3.0L Elsmere V6. The only engine on the planet that makes an Iron Duke look desirable.

      If someone is having a chubby for a VUE, the Honda V6 powered one is the best choice on a list of bad decisions.

  • avatar
    sco

    “Tamara got fed up with being one of many victims of an under-engineered CVT”

    Amen to that. While there is no doubt that today’s vehicles are far more reliable than those of the past, all car manufacturer’s do seem to moving down the path paved by BMW and the like, namely building high-tech, high-content vehicles that can only be repaired by experts at great cost. There’s a place for such vehicles in enthusiast circles, but for myself and the masses, you can keep your 8-speed CVT, just give me a simple, repairable vehicle that if serviced will last as long as i want to keep it.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Newf, it’s not that simple.

    Honda also had a substantial number of transmission issues for the Accord V6’s as well as the 2nd and 3rd generation Honda Odysseys. The later vehicles were acknowledged way down the road while the Accords V6’s have yet to be rectified.

    I do think there should be stronger warranties for new technologies as a matter of fair dealing. But I also see many cases where driver abuse and neglect leads to a car’s early demise. The line is not always so simple.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    Good thing Tamara didn’t buy a M96 Porsche…..

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The internet is full of people who think emerging drivetrain technologies aren’t a risk. They’ll continue to make expensive mistakes.

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      Which is why I didn’t go Ford since they have so many new engines and transmissions I didn’t feel comfortable with them. The 3.8 and matching transmissions they sold for almost 10 years being a prime example.

      I think it’s cruel to continue to sell powertrains with problems long after they are aware, as GM, Ford and Chrysler did for many years. The stream of warranty jobs tipped them off but they still sold the problems.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    The Toyota sludging issue wasn’t really an issue with the engine actually. What really happened to cause the sludging was that Toyota asked consumers what they didn’t like about owing a car and nearly every one of them balked about having to change their oil every 3k miles. Toyota responded by telling them that they could go 10k miles before they needed an oil change!

    Much sludging ensued.

    Oil change intervals for the same engine reverted back to 3 or 5k miles and the sludging ceased to be a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      ExPatBrit

      More of J D Power “cost of ownership” thing.

      Audi did the same thing, actually if you specified good synthetic oil and a quality filter there was rarely an issue.

      Cheap oil and filters killed a lot of these cars.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      grzydj – I understand where you are coming from. However manufacturers (including Toyota) in Europe seem to be able to build engines that can go 10-20K miles between oil changes. When I lived in the UK my Peugeot, VW and SEAT vehicles all managed to have oil changes yearly and never a problem. It is standard practice in the UK for an annual oil change – hence why you don`t see Jiffy Lubes and places like that everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      Did Toyota actually sanction this, or did the dealers start doing it? If the engine was not designed for longer intervals, then it can’t be done. Plain and simple. It seems to me that the person or persons that dreamt this up could be liable for all the engine repairs Toyota suffered.
      GM has had their Oil Life Monitoring System in their vehicles since the late ’90s. Most of my clients were changing their oil as prescribed, generally after 8,000 km. GM engines were not experiencing ‘coking’ issues, so what gives?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      No, the sludging was an issue with the engine: the two engine models (the 2.2L four and 3.0L V6; don’t recall the model codes) did tend to tar up. What made it worse is that Toyota did stretch the oil-change period, and drivers stretched it a little further.

      This was a problem because, prior to this, Toyotas were exceedingly forgiving of neglect.

      It wasn’t nearly as certain as, say, the Saab B205 or the Chrysler 2.7L, but it was atypical enough that it got notice.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        My understanding is psarhjinian has it right.

        To get a ULEV rating on the 2.2L 4 and the 3.0L 6 Toyota narrowed the oil channel and coolant passages on the heads, increasing the temperature for ignition and getting a more efficient burn. Because of this design change, tar build up was encouraged, and the narrow passages were more inclined to be blocked up.

        Throw in the service interval change for “regular” service to 7K miles and well the rest, is history.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Why not just increase the tstat temp if all Toyota was looking for was higher temps? I can’t see any reason one would restrict oil delivery to achieve a higher head temp. Sure the oil removes some heat but I would imagine the coolant does the vast majority of the work.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No it was a real problem with the engines, a lack of proper oil flow to the camshaft(s). It was just Toyota’s way of denying warranty coverage. After denying that there was a problem for quite some time and faced with lawsuits they finally relented and stated that they had redesigned the engines to eliminate that problem. Many of the people who had those engines had changed their oil every 3k and had the paper work to prove it. Unfortunately on some of those engines getting adequete oil to the heads meant external oil lines, many of which have a tendency to blow and dump all the oil out of the engine.

      There are many cars that run and run and run with well more than 3K oil change intervals.

  • avatar
    jco

    “Whenever I see someone shift from reverse to drive on an automatic without breaking, I wince. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. ”

    ha, a well placed typo. i assume you meant braking.

  • avatar

    In 2002 I bought a new 2003 Toyota Matrix with a 5-speed transmission. At about 80k, the transmission failed utterly. The Matrix message boards had other stories of failed 5 speeds. Some posters said that Toyota knew about the problem, but because it wasn’t happening in enough volume (probably because most Matrixes were automatics), they chose not to recall the car. Toyota apparently decided to address the problem by making a running change to that tranny that would prevent the problem.

    So apparently I fell below the line. It cost me $3500 to replace that transmission, which I didn’t like very much. But I chose to suck it up and move on. Bad things just sometimes happen. I find that life is easier when you come to accept that.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      My fiance’s 2005 Vibe lost 3rd gear synchronization at 40,000 miles but long after the Bumper to Bumper warranty. Although her car was built one year before GM started to offer longer power train warranties, the dealer did $2200 worth of rebuild work for nothing. My lady is not aggressive in shifting, if anything she shifts like the computer would with an auto that was tuned for max efficiency.

  • avatar

    There was also another GM car that had the same CVT as the Vue, the 2004 Ion Quad Coupe, of which my wife has one. A car which my wife loves and I could really appreciate, and do, for its utility value with the four doors, but absolutely hate with a passion for its noisy and prospectively destructive CVT. This one has 66,000 kms and I am consistently waiting for it to self destruct.
    Given that if we knew it would be so bad, we would not have bought it at the time. On the Saturn Forums there are people who have replaced the CVT with a 5 speed auto from the same year ION sedan.
    If GM really did care, they would do the same for all owners of these vehicles.

  • avatar
    dmw

    The law does not require much more than “express” warranties and that a product is suitable for use as advertiaed. And defect claims bear a heavy burden. With cars, we have “lemon” laws to deal with outliers. This is the sense of responsibility that makers of things have. So this issue of what a manufacturer “should” do, as far as insuring it’s products, is really a question of price, not duty.

    As far as this CVT anecdote, if you understand that a CVT means that the mass of your car is accellerated by a steel belt/chain on a wheel, you probably would not buy one, not unless your car weighs 2500lbs and has very little torque. And why would you assume, without any particular engireering basis, that it must assuredly last 69K miles? Because they are widely offered for sale? See discussion of manufacturers’ duties above.

    A friend of mine had a CVT in a 2005 Audi A4 fail at 65K miles. He could not believe that a transmission would fail at 65K miles. I could not believe that someone would buy a used Audi with a CVT and expect it to keep trucking to six-figures. People seem to think that highly complex, highly loaded mechical systems like a car transmission, should be more reliable than a toaster oven. No matter how many modern systems are put into a car, that will never be the case.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Toaster ovens don’t:
      -Cost $30k
      -Receive routine maintenance
      -Strand or endanger the user when they stop working

      Plenty of people opt to buy CVTs with the full understanding that all the power flows through a belt/chain. I’m not one of them, and probably never will be, but I’ve had several non-technical people describe the basic operation of a CVT as being a “neat idea” or similar.

      Expressed your way, a typical 3-pedal manual means that the mass of your car is accelerated by nothing but spring pressure and friction; and a conventional automatic relies on something as insubstantial as a fluid coupling. This doesn’t mean that either one is an inherently flawed technology.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Funny that you guys mentioned toaster ovens. They are actually pretty well-known to cause house fires. I have TWO family members that lost entire houses to them, in fact. One was left plugged in by a teenage daughter, the other actually was never left plugged in when not being used but caught fire while toasting unattended. They only lost half their house.

        In other news, a coworker is looking for a new car and is considering a 50k mile ex-fleet 2010 Altima (drug rep, not rental – she works at Avis with me and knows never to buy one of those!). Well, actually, WAS considering. I advised her not to touch that CVT-saddled thing with a ten-foot pole. I simply don’t trust them. Of course, we still have 2011 Ford Fusions and Escapes coming in monthly with less than 10k miles (some, a lot less – think 2500 mile) and failed transmissions. Ford STILL can’t build a FWD automatic that can handle a V6 and not fail. We’re going on their third full decade of this nonsense.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I’ll let you know how my Altima’s CVT survives. So far, 36K of hard commuting duty. Perhaps it will last as long as my Ford’s “frail” V6/automatic….125K and still fine…

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      dmw, that goes back to what the author says about the consumer being complicit in many mechanical failures.
      I remember a ‘discussion’ with a client who had a 2 year old Intrigue that required a rather expensive brake repair. The Intrigue had 4 wheel discs, ‘drum in hat’ design for the rear emergency brakes, ABS, and so on. This client was quite upset. He figured that since the Olds was a more sophisticated, expensive car than his previous Escort, the brakes should be cheaper to repair and last longer.
      How does one argue that ‘better’ does not necessarily mean ‘longer lasting’ or ‘cheaper to maintain?’ In fact, common sense should dictate that a $50k BMW will cost more to maintain and service over it’s useful life than a Hyundai Accent, assuming neither is a lemon.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    When we were buying a Nissan Versa, the dealer tried to interest me in the CVT transmission. When I said that I was wary of the reliability over the years of the CVT compared to the regular automatic, he just lowered his head. (literally)

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      He shouldn’t have. Nissan’s CVTs, if you by Consumer Reports’ stats, are no worse than a conventional automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      My Ford Freestyle should hit 125K miles tomorrow without a peep from the CVT. While I don’t want to be the stuckee for a CVT repair bill, I’m comfortable enough with the car to spring for a new set of Michelins in the next month or so.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        The one Ford CVT failure I witnesses came from a Ford shop overfilling a Freestyle tranmission with ATF intended for a Crown Vic.

        In that sense, you need to watch what your mechanics do: sometimes, these people are often very conservative and have their own ideas about how things should work. CVTs aren’t conventional automatics, and a shop that does hundreds of F-150s and Panthers needs to understand the difference.

      • 0 avatar
        Patrickj

        @Psar
        I’ve been putting off the 120K trans service for exactly that reason. My suspicion is that even the Ford dealer shops have forgotten this transmission.

        I usually don’t do much beyond simple wrench turning, for both lack of a garage and arthritic hands. I think I’ll end up doing this service myself.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    Volvo relented to the pressure and agreed to warranty those Magneti Marelli ETM’s in the US only after a class action lawsuit was raised against them in California where they considered it to be a part of the emission system for the car. Customers everywhere else in the world had suck it up and eat the cost on that. As much as I like their cars, ’99-’02 were some really bad years for them.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      Don’t forget the GM-sourced (but apparently “cost-cut” for Ford/Volvo) automatic transmissions used in the S80 and XC90 T6.

      Didn’t Volvo also program one of their automatics, I think in early S60 models, to shift into and out of neutral by itself to meet CAFE standards? It caused problems, too, but fortunately that was fixed with a reflash, if I remember correctly.

      We had one of each problematic Volvo transmission in my extended family (the S80 transmission failed, the S60 transmission was reprogrammed under warranty).

      They were nice cars otherwise…

  • avatar
    JMII

    Warranties should last as long as the payments, these 3 year warranties are a joke, it should be 5-7 minimum. I think one of the reason Hyundai is doing so well is thier 10 year warranty. If they believe in the product so should you. Due to all the horror stories I heard about Dodge (my father included) I was very happy to have a 7 year / 75k warranty on my Dakota when I purchased it back in ’02. Now thankfully I’ve never needed it (around 85k now, 90% towing) but it allowed me to take a risk on a vehicle most people (and Consumer Reports) tells you to avoid.

    The problem is at what point does a manufacture know when a problem is so common it has no choice but to admit fault and extend the warranty?

    Prime example: the window regulators in my Passat have failed multiple times, its a very common VW problem, so much so that an aftermarket company makes replacement METAL clips because the plastic ones break constantly. VW finally owned up as the result of a law suit: http://www.stuevesiegel.com/CM/Results/35-50-Million-for-VW-Owners.asp but how many people kept all the paperwork required to be refunded the $400 VW charged to fix this flawed part outside of the original warranty? I know I sure didn’t, even after it happened for the SECOND time. Also the warranty is only 7 years but I just had another window fail 3 years beyond that. So now what? Well aftermarket parts are about $70 and 2 hours of my time fixed it all up. However this will be the LAST VeeDub I own. So VW lost two customers (the wife and I) over a plastic part that I’m sure cost them pennies to manufacture… oh well.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      VW has been sticking customers with problems like this in the US for a long time. How they have become one of the world’s largest auto makers is a mystery to me. Do people in the rest of the world just expect to be treated this way?

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        John – no, people in other parts of the world don`t expect to be treated differently. They have a longer warranty in the UK (60K miles) so if something goes wrong it is more likely to be covered by warranty. Also I believe manufacturers have more direct control over dealers in the UK than they do in the US, so they can mandate better, more uniform standards.
        They haven`t become one of the biggest auto makers through selling/making crap – I know that goes against the conventional wisdom on here but ….

    • 0 avatar
      dmw

      From my experience, VW is getting religion. There are some issues that they are fixing for free out-of-warranty, if raised. I recently had my catalytic coverter replaced for free, out of warranty. It’s not a recall. If yours is rattling, or not, go in and demand a new one. Same with the intake runner control unit on the the 2.0T. In fact, they replaced mine without request at routine maintenance. They didn’t even tell me about it afterwards, which was a little shady, but whatever. It was not a recall.

      An ex-NHTSA lawyer I know tells me the feds frown upon “secret recalls,” but companies are trying to avoid the negative press by just quickly fixing known issues if you complain at no cost. But you have to do your research and be pushy because the dealership will not offer it to you.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Whenever I see someone shift from reverse to drive on an automatic without breaking, I wince. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.

    If my father saw you do that when he was a passenger or witnessed you do that in his driveway he would kick your a$$ seven ways to Sunday. Likely why the only auto trans that I’ve ever had issues with was a 1997 Ford Escort wagon and that was a torque converter excessive slippage at 60,000 miles. But I was stupid to not be more diligent in the maintenance of said trans cause I knew that it was a potentially problematic design.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “All the major manufacturers do this to a degree and no, it’s not because they are evil and uncaring.”

    Um, yes it is. A company which produces an underdeveloped product and then foists it off on unsuspecting customers only to leave those customers holding the bag is, in fact, behaving in an evil and uncaring way.

    “When it comes to safety nearly everyone covers the well-being of the customer.”

    Because the government forces them to. Safety defects are the only category of defect which can trigger a mandatory recall.

    “Volvo provided a 10 year / 200,000 mile warranty on thousands of defective Electronic Throttle Modules that were built between1999 through 2002.”

    Thanks to the NHTSA’s department of defect investigation putting a great deal of pressure on Volvo. Volvo didn’t admit to the problem and fix it out of the goodness of their hearts.

    http://home.comcast.net/~donwillson/NHTSA%20Final%20Report.html

    “Or should the government intercede in cases when defect levels go beyond the pale?”

    Absolutely. The asymmetry of information between the supplier (car company) and the customer in these situations is massive, and works to the detriment of the customer.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      A company which produces an underdeveloped product and then foists it off on unsuspecting customers only to leave those customers holding the bag is, in fact, behaving in an evil and uncaring way.

      Define “underdeveloped”.

      • 0 avatar
        Patrickj

        Underdevelopment – Failures in any several parts of product development that cause the product not to meet the reasonable expectations of customers for quality, durability, or safety.

        Examples:
        1. Inadequate road or environmental testing
        2. Not testing common forms of misuse like shifting from R to D (anyone is likely to do it a few times in a car’s lifetime)
        3. Inconsistent manufacturing processes, or
        4. Poorly selected purchased parts/lack of incoming QA.

        Basically, using paying customers as beta testers.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Sometimes the testing process simply can’t catch what time will. The intake gasket deterioration that took out 10s of millions of GM engines would fall into that category, as those engines were highly reliable with standard coolant. So, when a case like this crops up, the manufacturer should belly up to the bar and make good on it. I don’t think many people would be too upset if the dealer said “no problem, the factory will repair the engine with an upgraded gasket”…Instead the factory said go F-yourself to millions of customers. I can’t think of a better example of evil and uncaring, and this move had to have cost GM many new car sales.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        +1 to Golden2Husky: I don’t expect a car to be flawless, when you FUBAR something as a company, own up and make it right. You’ll make me a customer for life. If the problem is really expensive maybe you’ll revise your processes to catch the error next time.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    $5,000+ for a Saturn Vue CVT replacement/rebuild? That sounds at least more than double what it should be.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Have you priced out any dealer service work lately? My sister just paid $5K to get her 1999 Odyssey transmission replaced (for the second time, the first time it was done by Honda under the extended 7-yr 100K mile warranty).

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        I guess that is par for the course at a dealer. I had a BMW transmission rebuilt at an independent transmission shop for about $1,700. That was a manual transmission in a longitudinal engine car (which makes it easier to drop the transmission), but CVTs are supposed to be cheap and simple, and I bet the independent transmission shops are getting VERY familiar with working on them.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Have you priced out any dealer service work lately? My sister just paid $5K to get the transmission rebuilt on her 1999 Odyssey (will be the third tranny in 150K miles, with the first one having been replaced by Honda under warranty).

  • avatar
    Monty

    Oh that’s rich! The Vue isn’t worth half the $5000 quoted to fix the transmission.

    Here in Canada, Saturns were available from 2005, IIRC, with the Honda 3.5 V6, and that particular model has suffered much less depreciation than any other Saturn model. It’s the rare non-disposable Saturn.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Many of the CVT’s found in the 2007+ Caliber/Compass/Patriot vehicles are covered by the lifetime powertrain warranty for the original owner. I’d say that’s pretty good. Even for vehicles bought after Chrysler eliminated that warranty, they still have coverage for 5 years or 100,000 miles.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Well as the proud owner of two Saturn SL’s I would take exception to the constant badmouthing of Saturn if it weren’t for one thing. I bought a 2002 Saturn Vue with the 4cyl/5spd manual after the two SL’s. The salesman was really pushing the cvt and I told him I doubted it would be very dependable just judging from what happened with ‘subaru. He assured me that I was wrong but I bought the stick anyway.

    When that car ran it was as good as anything I ever owned. Towed about anything I wanted. Worked out if it (AC contracting) and frequently exceeded 30mpg on the highway. Unfortunately, it was frequently broken. I have the good fortune today of finding that the least dependable car I can remember owning could have been far worse.

    Have a Nissan Cube now. I think Nissan could have sold me a cvt just because they are Nissan. Luckily, we got a deal on a 6 speed and have never looked back. I own a GM truck but it was cheap and second hand. I doubt I will ever buy another GM product new.

  • avatar
    ajla

    This is why I don’t like to buy cars with engineering newer than five years old.

  • avatar
    alan996

    Last month watched a local trans shop bill out a bit more than $7200.00 on an Audi CVT rebuild. Owner didn’t blink..

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I have a theory that many of the expensive automatic transmission problems are a direct result of manufacturers squeezing out every last mpg to meet CAFE standards through a combination of lighter parts and more speeds/gears.

    When you look back at the early days of transmissions (before all the fule efficiency standards) transmissions like Powerglides, TH400, C-4, C-6, 727 etc., these transmissions were bulletproof and easily repaired/rebuilt.

    Modern transmissions, however, have made high end luxury cars almost disposable. I don’t even want to know what a modern, 8 speed transmission costs to rebuild. The same with these new CVTs.

    I’m not saying we should scrap fuel standards, but I do have a sneaking suspicion that longevity and reliability are being compromised for fractional gains that ultimately cost the consumer a lot more than they save on fuel costs.

    • 0 avatar
      big_gms

      You might be onto something here. It’s already happened in the past. GM is just one example. Back in the early to mid Eighties, when they made the push toward smaller engines and transmissions in many of their larger cars (for example, the underpowered tiny V8s, THM 200 transmission and the like), reliability went right out the window. Lots of questionable engineering decisions were made just to wring out an additional 1-2 MPG from a car, and in real world use, often not even that much. Years ago, it was the reason I skipped that era when it came time to replace my 1979 Caprice and got a 1990 LeSabre.

      Today, I see the trend toward ever smaller engines, some of them turbocharged, and increasingly complex transmissions and I wonder if we’re going to see history repeat itself with engine and transmission failures, all in the quest for fuel economy.

  • avatar
    ghillie

    @Steve Lang – “Honda extended their CVT warranty to 8 years and 80,000 miles on the 1st generation Honda Civic hybrid which weighs about 2700 pounds. However the 1st generation Insight (2000 – 2004 models) with the exact same C VTtransmission and 900 fewer pounds gets a 10 year / 157,000 mile warranty.”

    I’m fairly sure that this is wrong. The 10 year Insight warranty applies only to the IMA battery and does not apply to the CVT (or any other part of the car).

    I don’t think you can call out Honda on this one. The Gen 1 Insight does have an active enthusiast community, but that does not necessarily lead to special warranties. In any event, I don’t believe that Insight CVT’s are a problem – probably due to the particularly light weight of the Insight.

  • avatar

    The belts in CVT’s scare me. I’ve seen too many snowmobiles toss them to trust them in a car.

    Warranty varies quite a bit. BMW covered some electronic problems when I was out of warranty, and replaced all my coils twice, the second time “just in case” when that batch was recalled. I had no problems.

    Acura, on the other hand, is not nice. I had bad coils, in three dealer trips, they replaced one, then two. Car still didn’t idle or run right, but they said “if it does not toss a check engine light it is OK”. I ended up buying and replacing all six at my own expense, and the truck runs like a sewing machine again. I was 5k out of warranty and they refused to touch it, and even in warranty refused to replace all six coils. I then get a horrible racket from a rusted muffler heat shield and they want $600 to fix it. The car is again 5k out of warranty and has been babied. Oh, and they claimed they replaced my spark plugs (and charged Acura) but didn’t.

    It is clear who would be more in the running for my replacement vehicles. A CVT….great idea, not in my driveway.


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