“Gates gets it !!” is the motto of Gates GMC Buick Nissan in North Windham.
For the 10 years that Donna Johnston has been a customer of one of Gates auto franchises she has agreed with that motto.
But that faith ended after the dealership turned down her request that they take responsibility for a faulty steering column on her 2009 Nissan Maxima that she purchased a year and a half ago.
Johnston of Plainfield, first noticed the problem when she parked her car at work last month and the telescoping tilt steering column malfunctioned, locking in the low position. Her warranty had run out by that time.
She was able to unlock the column and force it into a higher position so it was drivable and was able to have it driven to the dealership.
When she was told it would cost about $1,000 to repair the vehicle she started doing serious research on the Internet.
She discovered that there were scores of others who had similar problems with their 2009 Nissan Maximas.
She checked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s complaint site and found that out of 68 complaints from Nissan Maxima 2009 owners, 40 dealt with the steering column.
She also discovered that Nissan had issued a service bulletin in September 2009 providing instructions on how to repair the steering column.
However, there has been no recalls for any steering issues.
Johnston’s position is that she purchased her Nissan as a certified used car after Nissan and the dealership were aware there were at least some issues with the steering column. Therefor either Nissan or the dealership should take responsibility for the problem.
She filed complaints with the Connecticut Attorney General’s office, Nissan, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Nissan Motor Co. is aware that the telescopic steering column in the 2009 Nissan Maxima is faulty and poses a serious safety hazard to anyone driving the 2009 Nissan Maxima,” she wrote to the Attorney General’s office.
The Attorney General’s office is looking into her complaint and had sent an inquiry to the dealership.
“The Office of the Attorney General has received the complaint and is trying to resolve the issue,” said spokeswoman Susan Kinsman.
Denny Gates, general manager of the dealership, said he sympathizes with Johnson but her car is out of warranty and there is no recall from Nissan.
“I have to follow regulations,” he said.
The service bulletin, he said, is simply an advisory on how to repair the steering problem, not an admission that it is a common issue with the car.
The dealership cut her bill by 10 per cent and provided her with a free rental for a week.
“I think that was pretty nice of us,” Gates said.
Nissan spokesman Steven Oldham said in an email late Friday that Nissan “places top priority on the quality of our vehicles and the satisfaction of our customers.”
However, “With further investigation of Ms. Johnston’s case, we determined that because the basic warranty expired 15 months ago, we are unable to provide assistance with the repair at no cost.”
Johnston says she loves her Maxima.
“It is a great car in terms of driving well,” she said.
Johnston also said she had been a faithful customer of Gates dealerships having purchased three cars since 2003.
But after this experience “I am so disappointed with the dealership I will never go back.”
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