Bloomberg’s running a lede that’s sure to ruffle a few feathers at Nissan’s communication and customer service organizations this morning: “Nissan Motor Co. is aggravating the customers it needs most.” How so? According to the report
Nissan, which wants to become the top seller of electric cars, repeatedly delayed deliveries to some U.S. buyers who reserved the first 20,000 Leaf plug-in hatchbacks, according to interviews with customers. They said Nissan unexpectedly dropped some from the waiting list temporarily, asking that they reapply if they couldn’t prove they’d arranged installation of home- charging units that can cost more than $2,000.
Nissan has long admitted that the Leaf rollout would be a challenge, and the recent tsunami-related chaos in Japan hasn’t helped. But Bloomberg doesn’t quantify how many customers have been dropped due to their lack of charging system installation, other than to report that 45% of the 20k customers who reserved Leafs by last September have continued the ordering process. And it turns out that the delays aren’t irritating so much because of Nissan’s intransigence or lack of transparency, but because certain buyers stand to lose their California tax credit before their Leaf arrives.
In what “could herald a new era in auto insurance” (if the Wall Street Journal is right), Progressive “introduced a new type of car insurance that offers a discount to policyholders based on real-time information about how and when they drive.”
And how will Progressive obtain all that info? Read More >
Former GM CEO Fritz Henderson may well have been a convenient punching boy in the aftermath of the Obama Administration’s firing of his predecessor, but at least the guy had a sense of obligation. Henderson was a consummate GM insider, but unlike Rick Wagoner, he realized that this status was as much a liability as an asset in the politically-fraught aftermath of the bailout. Nowhere is this more clear than in Fritz’s major contribution to GM’s public relations: in hopes of proving GM’s appreciation of its extraordinary rescue, Henderson committed GM to “open communication” and “transparency,” telling the US Senatewith the very first words of his testimony that
It’s our obligation to be open and transparent in all we do to reinvent GM, particularly with the American taxpayer as our largest investor.
Of course, The General didn’t alwaysmake goodon that pledge, but at least Fritz made the effort to say he cared. Now, GM is taking the opposite approach, threatening to liberate the benighted public from the burden of its transparency. After all, the US taxpayer is no longer the majority shareholder in GM… even if, at 33%, we are still GM’s single-largest “investor.”
Nissan Motor had delivered only 60 units of its Leaf electric vehicle in Japan as of Friday, Kyodo News reported, despite already taking 6,000 orders due by the end of March.
Nissan denied any delay in the delivery of the pre-ordered cars and company spokesman Mitsuru Yonekawa told AFP on Tuesday that the automaker was taking a cautious approach to ensure quality control.
“We have to make sure that everything is 100 percent safe and sure,” Yonekawa said. “This is the first time we have mass-produced an electric vehicle so we need to be very careful. We are not delayed or behind schedule.”
Well don’t rush it then… but it’s got to be rough to be one of the 6,000 folks who pre-ordered by the end of last March. Nissan promises these patient souls that production of the initial 6,000 units will be complete by the end of this March.
Ruh Roh! A press release from the Made In USA Foundation [via theautochannel] picks the kind of fight that GM has been assiduously avoiding for years (but especially since the bailout):
General Motors, bailed out by U.S. taxpayers and still owned in part by the federal government, is stripping country of origin labels off of its cars at auto shows around the country, says the Made in the USA Foundation. The Made in the USA Foundation has charged GM with violating the American Automobile Labeling Act (AALA) which requires all new cars that are offered for sale to include country of origin information.
The AALA requires new cars to provide information on the window sticker, including where the car was assembled, the U.S. and other country content, where the engine was made and where the transmission was made.
Joel D. Joseph, Chairman of the Made in the USA Foundation, said, “General Motors wants to hide the fact that, even after the government bailout, it has moved production of vehicles offshore. The Cadillac SRX is now made in Mexico. The Buick Regal is made in Germany.”
GM claims that the AALA only applies to cars for sale at dealers not at auto shows. Joseph stated that he worked with Senator Barbara Mikulski, who wrote the law, and that the intent of the law was to inform consumers about the country of origin of new cars. Joseph said, “Millions of consumers get their first look at cars at auto shows. The law applies to cars that are ‘for sale’ and auto show cars, except concept cars. Identical GM cars are for sale at thousands of dealers across the nation, and display vehicles should include country of origin information. The U.S. government saved GM and still owns one-third of the company. General Motors should comply with the intent of the law.”
When I was younger, I never thought I’d ever say “I don’t understand young people these days”. But sure enough, the other day I said the exact phrase when a friend’s daughter was explaining why X-Factor (American Idol) is the greatest show on TV. Maybe I won’t understand music matters (I think Golden Earring and Mike and the Mechanics is trendy) but at least I’ll know what young people find fashionable in the car world. Erm…not quite… Read More >
Dealerships are a pain in the neck. The salesman tries to convince you that they’re your friend (when you know damn well they want as much money as they can squeeze out of you), getting warranty work out of them is sometimes a nightmare and, if you’re buying used, you don’t know what the car has been through. You can write a letter of complaint, but will that really help*? You may get a discounted service as compensation, but will anything REALLY change? Well, BMW wants to shake the dealership experience up a bit. In the customers’ favor. Read More >
Born in 1977, Mr Goodwrench was a marketing brand used to sell GM parts and service at franchised dealers. Now, after 33 years in service to The General, Mr Goodwrench is passing on to join Pontiac, Oldsmobile and HUMMER in GM’s crowded brand graveyard. Automotive News [sub] reports that
GM marketing chief Joel Ewanick wants the vehicle brands, not corporate, to be the stars of GM, and that includes service and repairs
Ewanick has made it clear that he intends to continue the post-bankruptcy trend of shifting emphasis away from GM as a corporate brand and towards GM’s four vehicle brands. As an umbrella brand for service and parts for all of GM’s brands, Mr Goodwrench can be considered the latest victim of GM’s corporate restructuring. But Goodwrench was in failing health before Ewanick’s brandicide spree, and even embodying the brand as the satirist Steven Colbert didn’t convince GM’s US dealers to emphasize the Goodwrench service brand. GM won’t officially comment on Mr Goodwrench’s condition, but the brand is expected to survive in the Canadian market, where it allegedly continues to enjoy consumer cachet.
In order to honor the passing of this past-its-prime symbol of GM’s decidedly mediocre service reputation, we’ve assembled a few Mr Goodwrench ads below the fold. Read More >
A friend of mine and I were talking about my last Piston Slap question, in particular several people’s dislike of Jiffy Lube. My perspective is that unless you have cars in the shop all of the time or live in one place for a long time, it is difficult to find a trustworthy mechanic. I also believe in general that a good process is less likely to harm a vehicle than trusting to individual diligence. At Jiffy Lube they really only do one or two things and they have a system. They always go for the upsell, but unlike some mechanics they are not likely to recommend any truly expensive unnecessary work (or deliberately break something) simply because they don’t offer it.
Bloomberg reports that a lawsuit accuses Toyota of a widespread coverup of unintended acceleration in its vehicles. The suit alleges that
“Toyota technicians” confirmed that vehicles were unexpectedly accelerating and the company bought back the vehicles, had customers sign confidentiality agreements and didn’t disclose the problems to regulators… In testimony about acceleration defects before Congress, Toyota Motor Corp. didn’t disclose that the technicians had replicated instances of sudden unintended acceleration not caused by pedals or mats… The company also didn’t report the customer agreements to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration… Toyota ordered employees to remove names of executives from acceleration related e-mails and to stop using specific acceleration terms in e-mails to prevent damage to the company in litigation
Steven Curtis, a spokesman for Toyota’s U.S. sales arm in Torrance, California, said today in an e-mail that no technicians for the company or field specialists confirmed unintended acceleration in vehicles. He said the plaintiffs’ lawyers are referring to service technicians employed by dealerships, which are independent businesses… the claims are based on anecdotes and fail to identify any specific defects in the vehicles.
Plaintiffs claim that dealer techs are “agents of the company” and that vehicle repurchases and confidentiality agreements are proof positive of a coverup. Toyota admits that it investigated and repurchased two vehicles after dealer techs found “acceleration events,” but says its factory technicians were unable to replicate any problems. If this sounds like a complicated mess of he-said-she-said, consider that this suit is just one of 300 currently pending against the world’s largest automaker. The lawyers will probably be busy with this one for decades.
The Financial Times reports that Anti-trust officials in Switzerland are investigating the Bavarian car maker due to allegations made by a Swiss consumer TV show. The TV show sent undercover reporters to BMW dealerships in Germany (Swiss and Germany share a border, you know) to try and buy a car. The show claims to have found that BMW is blocking its dealerships in European countries from selling their cars to Swiss residents.
What makes this particularly egregious is that although Switzerland isn’t a member of the European Union (they like to stay neutral), it does have Bilateral trade agreements which guarantee free trade with its neighbors. Restricting trade? Under a free trade agreement? Uh oh…
When I embarked on the Volt press launch, I made a public promise to keep my impressions of the car itself separate from concerns about its overall viability. My review of the Volt is coming on Monday, but a new issue is already raising its head to confront GM’s extended-range electric car. The Volt’s home charger costs $490 on top of the Volt’s $41,000 (pre-tax credit) price, and costs another $1,500 to install. But, according to BNet’s Jim Motavelli, money isn’t the only obstacle to obtaining the home charger that’s necessary to tap the Volt’s 40 miles of electric range. EV advocate and Volt Customer Advisory Board member Chelsea Sexton, of “Who Killed The Electric Car? fame, is one of the first Americans to live with the Volt, and despite enjoying the backing of GM, she’s run into a problem that she and other EV advocates worry will blunt enthusiasm for home-charged EVs like the Volt: she needs a “time of use” meter.
Welcome to Tinfoil Time. A public service for paranoids and their enemies. When the NHTSA went after Toyota for their runaway cars, some people (me, included) saw this as a transparent attempt to undermine Toyota in order to make GM and Chrysler (A.K.A new arms of the US government) more attractive both in terms of purchasing their products and the IPO’s. But now that the circus is leaving town, is the NHTSA looking for a new victim? Whilst searching the net, I saw (part of) an article (sub) which mentions how Ford’s North American market share is on the rise. Sure, Toyota’s market share in the U.S. dropped by 1.5 percent compared to September 2009. But GM did not pick up those sales. They lost 2.8 percent. The winners were Ford (+ 1.4 percent), and Chrysler (+2.1 percent).I also remember a poll that was taken which claimed that how 54 percent of people were less likely to buy a GM car because of their bailout. Rising sales at Ford and bad will towards GM? I’ve seen this scenario before! The next stage is now the NHTSA will tell us to stop driving our Fords. Trouble is, Ford doesn’t have any recalls of recent. So what can the NHTSA do? You recycle a recall. Read More >
What do you do when a company you own (through your trusty Treasury Department) won’t help you out over the phone? Out of luck with his dealer and pissed off at the “condescending” attitude of GM’s phone support staff, one former Marine and “lifelong GM customer” drove from Virginia to Detroit in order to get The General to take responsibility for chronic power steering pump failures in his wife’s Chevy HHR. His initial reward: more condescension, and the privilege of getting escorted from the premises of GM’s Headquarters. But Marines don’t quit that easily…