Tuesday, February 9, 2010

MAZDA... really???

So my better half is going through a hard time with the folks at Mazda. Upon returning from our one-week trip to Cuba, we were informed by my stepdaughter that our van (a 2004 MPV with about 84,000kms on the clock) had 'acted up' when they picked it up at our house. They were to use it to pick us up at the airport that afternoon. Apparently it shuddered and hesitated when they applied gas to it. They circled straight back to our place and parked it, opting to walk back home and pick us up in their diminutive KIA Rio.

This occured on a Sunday. The very next morning, bright and early, we took the van down to the Mazda dealership (Performance Mazda on Youville Drive), where she had bought the 2004 MPV last year. The female Service Manager informed us that she thought it might be ignition coils. We left the van there and walked to Cora's for a nice breakfast. Following our meal, we walked the length of St.Joseph to Place D'Orleans, in the bitter cold. I called them back around 1300hrs to get an update. I was informed that they had replaced a front coil and may have to replace on of the rear ones as well. I asked him to let us know when it was done.

It took most of the day to hear back from them. I actually had to call them at 1645hrs and ask for an update. I was advised at that point that the vehicle was ready to be picked up. They had replaced 2 ignition coils to the tune of $394.00. Apparently the stock coils are not designed to shed moisture well. As the vehicle lay dormant for a week with us in Cuba, and because of large fluctuations in the weather conditions (it was colder than the heart of a Belgian whore for a few days...), the coils "naturally died". Turns out this is a common condition for this vehicle. And yet they sell them in CANADA, the land that invented wildly fluctuating temperatures??? That's absolutely fascinating.

Little did we know that this was but the first incredible story that we would hear about these vehicles. A little online research would turn up many, many more. That Thursday as my wife was returning from work, the CEL (Check Engine Light) came on yet again. The following Friday morning, she again took the van back to the same Mazda dealership. The service rep ran a diagnostic on the van (another $111.00 spent there...) and advised her of the results. It now seemed as though the van's catalytic converter had gone South. For them to replace this unit (available online from American parts stores for the sum of $135.00 USD), it would cost her a further $1,900.00.

Not happy? Ummm, no. That would not even begin to describe the mood. They also cautioned her against driving the vehicle any appreciable distance (highway speeds), before having it replaced. She informed them we would need a little time to digest this and figure out her next move. She rented a Dodge SUV in the meantime from the local Budget outlet. Returning home and doing some research online, we discovered (strictly through our own research) that Mazda had an 8 year/132,000km (80,000 miles) warranty on this particular part. Funny that nobody in the service department would have volunteered that information, don't you think? Admittedly, such figures look very impressive on paper, don't they? That's what I thought as well...

We returned to the dealer and pointed out this fact to one of their reps, Dimitri, a car salesman who had been left holding the keys (literally) to the van, as it was late when I got off work and all their service reps had conveniently gone home for the day. Dimitri informed us that normally it would be, however the service department was thinking that the catalytic converter had been destroyed because we had driven 'for such a distance' with faulty ignition coils. The car had been driven literally around the block by my stepdaughter, then from our driveway to the dealer, a distance of some 4 to 5 klicks. They were actually suggesting that the faulty ignition coils had been responsible for killing the catalytic converter and that we had precipitated this event.

Being an actual motorcycle mechanic, along with several other highly technical qualifications, such as radar technician, custom bike builder, etc..., I can assure anyone reading this particular entry, that making such a statement, is tantamount to advising your client that their engine exploded because they had overinflated their tires. It makes as much sense. True, the coils exist to ignite the fuel/air mixture which is introduced into your engine's combustion chamber, by your fuel injectors/intake valves. Any unburnt fuel will be expelled along with the exhaust gasses and evaporated by the intense heat of both the gasses and the header pipe, well before reaching the catalytic converter which is located some way back along the bottom of the van.

The suggestion that any unburnt fuel would form cascading rivers of gasoline, flooding the catalytic converter and thereby causing it to dissolve, is the stuff of goddamn fairy tales. Not only would the odor be extremely distinguishable from outside the vehicle (you can smell when a motor is running rich, to say nothing of pumping out torrents of gasoline), but if there was that much unburnt gas in that hot, constricted conduit, it would ignite. You would have a fire.

So, pushing this fairy tale to one side, I told Dimitri my take on this. That the suggestion from their service department was ridiculous, to say the very least. They were going to hold us responsible for a flaw in the vehicles's design and construction? Dimitri suggested that I could always take it up with Mazda Canada. Clearly there was nothing left to discuss with Performance Mazda. We took the keys to the van and I drove it back home, where it still sits.

Taking Dimitri at his word, I sent a rocket off to Mazda Canada, CC-ing a copy to the Service Department at Performance Mazda. I described blow by blow, the chain of events which had led me to contact them. I ended the e-mail by simply asking them for their version of their warranty. Was this item covered or not under the Mazda warranty. These guys were corporate headquarters for all of Canada. Surely to God they could give me a straight answer...

I received their answer yesterday:
"Mrs. *****,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us in this regards.

The emissions warranty is 8 years or 128 000 kms, whichever comes first however it covers defects only. (A catalytic converter that packs it in halfway through it's expected life cycle is not considered a defect...? - Crypt).

As the dealer is the one who implements our warranty and diagnosed your vehicle we recommend that you talk to the service manager, Steve Fraser or the general manager Mark Weisbrod.

The warranty is in effect for defects only as diagnosed by your Mazda dealer.


Mazda Canada Inc.
So... according to the company rep, they were in fact the ones who wrote the company warranty, but they have left it up to their individual dealerships to decide whether or not they would honour that warranty. So basically, the inmates are running the asylum. The dealerships themselves are unaccountable to anyone. Well... anyone but the general public, that is. I don't know how the company headquarters think they can absolve themselves of their responsibility, or pretend to hold themselves unaccountable for the product they sell in this country, simply by distancing themselves from the decision-making process.

I called the dealership this morning, before coming into work. I asked Don (who answered the phone) straight up, were they or were they not going to honour the warranty on that vehicle. I had to know because we had to resolve what to do with that P.O.S. MPV we were now saddled with. He informed me that his head mechanic was on the road at the moment (conveniently...), and they had yet to receive any directives from Mazda Canada. (Passing the buck back and forth or what...?) I told him that we had already e-mailed Mazda Canada and they had advised us that the ball was in their (Performance Mazda's) court.
He told me they had not yet received this information from head office, but that he would pass it along to their head mechanic, as it would aid them in deciding what to do. I somehow got the impression I had just given him 'carte blanche' for total deniability. We have yet to hear back from them officially today, but we have to assume that they are going to refuse to cover the work required. If they had any shred of honesty, they would never have floated that cockamamy story about the coils killing the catalytic converter. That's just an insult to a person's intelligence. I wondered how many people they had actually duped with that old chestnut. Worldwide...? The numbers must be impressive.

I learned a very valuable lesson through all of this. Certainly as far as the MAZDA Corporation and it's products in this country are concerned. They write a pretty good-looking warranty, but if you hope or expect them to honour it, you had better not be holding your breath. You're going to have to hope that you've stumbled upon one of their dealerships which is run by people of character and honest dispositions. I'm here to tell you that Performance Mazda in Orleans, ON... is no such place.

As a post-scriptum to all this, my better half e-mailed me this morning. There was a message from Steve Whittaker of Performance Mazda on our answering machine. He stated that after being in touch with Mazda Canada, they want her to bring in the van, have them take off the cat converter to see what kind of damage there is and go from there.
My response to this proposition? In this situation...? No fucking way... I could only tell her what I suspected:
"I don't like where Steve Whittaker is going with this. I wish we were able to trust these guys, but they have done absolutely nothing to warrant that. I'd like to get this guy to commit one way or the other. Yes or no...

If he gets that van in the shop, he'll strip off the catalytic converter, then tell you that they won't cover it. Presto... you're fucked. The van has now been completely disabled. What are you going to do...? Tell them not to fix it? It's now totally undriveable and they're not going to store it there for free... You'll have to let them fix it. Otherwise, you can't even get it to another dealer to trade it in... That's a pretty friggin' conniving and douche move to pull on anyone. Even by car dealer standards...

I dunno what to tell you, Honey. I wish I had something more positive to say about these lot, but I don't.

Maybe you can call Steve back and tell him of your well-warranted concerns. Get him to assure you that bad converter or not, that you'll still be able to move the van off his lot (without a tow truck) when they're done looking at it."
I haven't received a reply from her yet and it pisses me off that I can't say anything positive about any of this. I'd like to be more encouraging, more supportive... but that's hard to do when you're dealing with people like this. It's like trying to pick your way through a nest of vipers.
Way to go Mazda...

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