FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA -- Here's my Saturn experience. If this deters just one person from getting involved with the company, it will have been worth it. I received your name and address from (withheld), who's the Manager for Saturn Customer Service for my area. I'd like to relate to you a series of experiences I had recently with my 2003 VUE. As a result, I am expecting reimbursement of expenses totaling $256.22.
It all started over the summer, when I noticed that the key cylinder of my VUE was beginning to malfunction. The key would fall out while I drove, and occasionally the VUE wouldn't start because the key refused to turn in the cylinder. I didn't think much of it at the time, only adding it to the list of body malfunctions that had plagued the VUE since I bought it (mysteriously cracked mirror and windshield, dents caused when closing the hatch, windshield wipers flying off into traffic (during a snowstorm!), hood release lever repeated breaking, tires and wheel bearings worn out at 45000 miles, among other headaches). I thought, "Why, it's nearly 4 years old, I should expect these things!"
Before beginning a long trip in October, I thought I'd be proactive and have the key cylinder replaced, to avoid any problems while traveling. Since my local dealership is an hour away in Fargo ND, I had the cylinder installed by my regular mechanic at College Way Auto here in Fergus Falls, MN. Saturn of Fargo prepared the cylinder and shipped it to College Way Auto, who installed it on October 20. I embarked on my trip with a song in my heart and smile on my lips and new key cylinder in my VUE.
Everything was going very well until I was preparing to leave the parking lot of the Blytheville, AR Days Inn at approximately 5:15 in the morning of November 2. The key wouldn't turn. Nothing like looking down the barrel of a 550 mile drive with of car that won't start because of a faulty part.
While calling around to the auto parts emporia in Blytheville, I was told by each that Saturn doesn't supply such new parts to stores, and that I'd either have to get the part at a dealer, or have it shipped to them, which might take a few days. I had an urgent schedule to keep in Wisconsin and Illinois, so I opted to get the tow to my nearest Saturn Dealer. I called the customer service number as listed in my owner's manual, and was told that the nearest dealers were in Little Rock, Memphis, or Jackson, TN.
I opted for Jackson, I told the customer service representative, because although it was southeast of Blytheville, it was closest to the northerly direction I was heading. The representative said that may be I could drive over my local repair shop and they could tell me where to get it fixed. I reminded her that, while that was a great idea and the thought had occurred to me, it would be impossible because my car wasn't starting and that was why I was on the phone with her. I proceeded to call the 24 hour towing service in Blytheville, and was told that they wouldn't be open for another 3 hours, and to call back then. Apparently, in Arkansas, "open 24 hours" doesn't necessarily mean "in a row".
After changing all my plans for the day, and preparing for the idea that it may take more than a few extra hours to get to Wisconsin, I checked back into my room and waited to call the tow truck. I eventually caught up with the towing service, who recommended just going up to the Saturn Dealer in Cape Girardeau, MO, only 100 miles straight north, and right on my route to Wisconsin.
Funny, I said, Saturn didn't mention anything about a dealer in Cape Girardeau. Things were looking up! The guys from the towing service needed to take the VUE out of gear to get it up onto the flatbed tow truck, and proceeded to disconnect the cable that connects the shifter to the transmission. That's fine, I thought. I'd been sitting there for nearly 5 hours waiting for this moment, and whatever they needed to do to expedite this process was greatly appreciated.
A hundred miles later I was safely ensconced in the spacious waiting room at Saturn of Cape Girardeau, MO, talking music and cars with the sales staff there. Later that afternoon, a member of the repair staff brought out the key cylinder to show me the damage. That person explained that the key cylinder had been crimped in such a way that the tumbler wouldn't tumble, and so the key wouldn't turn.
They'd be happy to replace (a) the key cylinder, as well as fixing (b) a broken horn switch, and (c) the hood release lever, which had snapped off in my hand for the umpteenth time. I opted for the key cylinder only, as I can live without a horn and I'm already used to yanking on the cable to open the hood. So, let's recap. Here's what it's cost me so far:
$842.85, so far, of which $579.74 should have been unnecessary. I was on my way back north at 5:30 that evening, and luckily I'd saved that day for travel only (no work), so I didn't have to cancel anything because of my predicament. The rest of my tour was uneventful, transportation-wise, but the story doesn't end there.
Upon returning to my home in Western Minnesota, on November 5, I went immediately to my regular auto repair place, College Way Auto. They asked how the tour was, and I told them that it went pretty well, and then placed the defectively crimped cylinder on the counter. "Oh, hey...Oh... Uh oh." "Yeah," I responded. According to the Saturn dealer in Cape Girardeau, it was crimped wrong, and as a result I got stranded. "Let us take care of it. We'll make a call and let you know."
They called back within a few hours to say that Saturn of Fargo denied any knowledge of the cylinder, and that it was College Way's fault for crimping it wrong, and that they hadn't crimped it, and they'd be willing to throw in $40 if it would make me feel any better. (That's less than 7% of the unnecessary billing).
This got under College Way's skin a little, as you might imagine, as they didn't even have a crimping machine, and they had to represent Saturn's lies to their customer. They offered to keep trying, and to do anything I'd need to rectify the situation. Upon returning home from College Way auto, I called the Saturn Dealer in Fargo, and let them know that I didn't appreciate their misrepresenting their own role in my ongoing problem. They said that they'd sure get to the bottom of it and that they'd have the service manager call me back just as soon as he could. No call yet as of December 21. I'm still waiting.
I then called the dealership in Cape Girardeau to let them know that I was having difficulties. The manager there gave me a little information about those key cylinders. He told me that many of them are no good. His dealership replaces so many of them that they must keep a large supply on hand simply to keep up with the number of them that must be replaced. He mentioned that any dealer that tells you that they don't replace a bunch of these key cylinders is a liar. Hmmm. We seem to be developing a pattern over at that Fargo dealership!
The story doesn't end there. On November 2, I was picking my daughter up after her busy day in the third grade. While I was turning around, the car simply fell out of gear. All of the tension went out of the shifter, and the vehicle was then stuck in reverse. The car was stuck in such a way that not only could school buses not move into a safe position to pick up kids, but neither could the teachers exit their parking lot.
I realized, of course, exactly what had happened. Thinking back to a couple of weeks earlier, the towing company in Blytheville, Arkansas needed to take the car out of gear in order to drag it up onto the flatbed to take me and the VUE to Cape Girardeau, and it had simply been reassembled incorrectly. The result was, however, another tow and repair. I explained my predicament to the folks at College Way Auto, and it turns out I was correct--the linkage from the shifter to the transmission had not been reassembled correctly, and it simply fell apart at the shifter.
Let's look at some grand totals: Proactively replacing the key cylinder $263.11. Towing Service to re-repair key cylinder $360.52. Re-repair cylinder $219.22. Towing Service to re-repair shifter $65.00. Re-repair shifter $32.13 for a grand total of $939.98 of which $676.87 was completely unnecessary.
By now in my story, folks at College Way Auto had made several overtures to Saturn of Fargo, including showing them Saturn's certification that the cause of this trouble was an incorrectly crimped key cylinder of their own doing. My insurance company agreed to take care of all of the towing expenses. Perhaps chagrined at being caught in this duplicity, Saturn of Fargo upped their offer to $155.04. So now here's where we are:
Which leaves me with $251.35 in unneeded repairs due to Saturn's negligence. Saturn of Fargo has offered $155.04, which leaves $96.31 unaccounted for. Now here's my problem. I ran this entire story past **, who's the area Customer Support manager in charge of my area. I told her that I was expecting the entire $251.35 reimbursed. She put me on hold, considered the options, and was moved to offer me $100 of in-store Saturn Credit in addition to Fargo's offer. Anyone with a modicum of empathy would see the patent absurdity of this offer.
I don't want $100 in oil changes and Saturn key fobs 60 miles away. That will not erase the mistake. What I want is for Saturn to step up and make it so that this farce never happened. I told this to **, and she offered for me to take it or leave it. That's when I asked for information on her supervisor. She said that she had no supervisor. I assured her that there must be someone she reported to, and she gave me your information.
I've been thinking about the Saturn's reputation as a company dedicated to customer service, and frankly, it hasn't been the extraordinary and rewarding partnership that benefits me every time I pull out of the driveway, as touted in my owner's manual. Instead, I wonder what will go wrong next, and in what creative way the buck will be passed. I've enclosed copies of all receipts, and I will call your office within the next couple of weeks to follow up. To follow up, they did eventually send the check, and I laughed as I dropped in into the trash.
OHIO -- My wife and I planned a family vacation for our family. It took over a year to schedule and coordinate for all of the members of the family to schedule vacation at the same time. We leased a new 2002 Saturn. By the time the family all got together for the vacation from Ohio to Northern Michigan the Saturn had 15,000 miles on it.
The vehicle stopped on us in an intersection in Spaulding Mi. We pushed the vehicle off to the side of the road. It was 9:30 PM. We called the number in our Saturn owner's manual. At 11:30 PM a wrecker showed up to retrieve our vehicle. The closest Saturn Dealer was located in Green Bay Wisconsin over 100 miles away. The vehicle was towed to Green Bay. We found lodging for the night. Then the next morning we paid for transportation to Green Bay for the family.
At the dealership in Green Bay I was told by a service manager that they had run our vehicle for several hours and could not duplicate the problem. Just as they were bringing the vehicle out to us it stalled. It was good that it happened while we were still at the dealership and not back out on the road.
The problem turned out to be some sort of module, of which they didn't have in stock. They had to obtain the part from another dealership. By this time we had all lost a whole day of our four day vacation. By the time the car was ready we checked into a hotel for the evening.
The next morning we headed back home from our ruined vacation. Four people each lost over a day of a vacation a year in the planning. When we got back to Dayton Ohio we spoke to the dealership about our problem and our expenses to no avail. So I called the Saturn Customer Service number. It was a waste of time. They offered me $90.00 towards my expenses. I told them to shove it up their butts. We were out of $702.00 dollars. I got no satisfaction.
To make a long story short we turned in the vehicle at the end of the lease instead of buying it like we planned. We will never lease or buy another SATURN vehicle. When I see the Saturn commercial where they say "We have done right by people from the beginning" it makes me want to vomit!!! I read the responses of several readers that read the complaints or experiences that Saturn owners shared on this site. It sounds like they were written by people that probably had a vested interest in Saturn.
FAIRFAX -- It is my strong belief that Saturn of Fairfax breached their contract and did not complete the repairs they claimed to make. Furthermore, they misdiagnosed my vehicle problem, which lead to complete failure of the particular part, even after adding on additional charges and repairs after their initial estimate for which they could not justify.
After picking up the vehicle from the station, it broke down less than seven miles away. When I called them to complain I was told it would require additional repairs and towing at my expense. After failure to respond to my phone calls and inquiries, failure to complete the repairs, poor customer service, unexplained fees, I was billed for work that was not completed.
In the way that I was mistreated by the original two service agents, their lack of solutions, contradictory statements, and the fact that the car was not fixed, I had no other choice but to have it towed to another service station whose analysis revealed internal damage to the part in question. It was later revealed by a third-party inspection of the parts that they misdiagnosed the problem and that Saturn had actually damaged the vehicle. There is also reason to believe they violated several codes of the local Consumer Protection Act.
I am disappointed in Saturn's ethical failure and refusal to resolve this matter in a logical and fair manner, even through BBB intervention. No consumer should be held liable for a product or service that was not provided. Because of Saturn's misdiagnosis, I suffered two weeks without a car and even missed work. Their failure to communicate with me and offer me a solution left me no other choice but to hire someone who could repair the vehicle successfully and quickly. This dispute also resulted in hours of paperwork filing consumer complaints with federal, state, and local business agencies, as well as fighting off their ruthless corporate attorneys.
RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA -- When I brought my 1999 Saturn in to get a new alternator, my brother and I observed that for all but 45 minutes, the car sat with no one working on it but was charged for 2.9 hours of labor at $90.00 per hour. When I went to pick the car up, the service representative told me the turn signal wouldn't cancel correctly, but was otherwise ready to go. This was strange since it worked on the way there.
When we started back to my sister's house, the car had a very bad miss that jerked the car so bad I immediately returned to Saturn of Riverside and the service representative went with us and could see the miss and the turn signals not working. He commented that it was like "having a heart attack in the hospital". He said the mechanic had tested the turn signal switch and found it was faulty but that they did not stock or repair the switches and could do nothing.
The ride back to my sister's house was scary without a turn signal switch and the bad miss jerked the car badly. When my brother checked the plastic housing around the steering wheel, he found it was loose and when tightened up, the turn signals worked - so they had lied about testing the switch. Later, we found that the terrible miss was caused by a small fuel return line being disconnected. I was surprised that the mechanic would act so careless and cost me so much money. Never again will I trust Saturn with repairing my car.
MESQUITE, TEXAS (NORTH DALLAS AREA), TEXAS -- My car would not start, so I charged the battery overnight, then drove the car into the service department the following morning, 10/01/07. Upon arrival, a service advisor (a slender, dark haired male whose name is not listed on the invoice) looked at the car's dashboard and filled out a form stating that the dash's “security” light is lit and that both the battery and alternator need to be tested. Minutes later, I watched as a mechanic (male with long blonde hair) plugged an electronic hand-held diagnostic unit into the vehicle beneath the steering wheel.
When finished, he walked over to me and stated that he received three trouble codes from the car relating to the car's power. Several minutes later, after the mechanic tested the alternator, the “unnamed” service advisor informed me that that both the alternator and battery were defective and needed to be replaced. Around 3:00 PM the same day, I received a phone call from a male service advisor (not sure whom) and was told he just received the alternator from Hurst and that the repairs would not be completed until the following morning.
The next morning, 10/02/07, I received another call from a male service advisor (not sure whom) and was told he had “some bad news.” Both the alternator and battery were replaced, but now “all the lights on the dashboard are going crazy” and that the “BCM” needs to be replaced. The next day, afternoon of 10/03/07, when I arrived to pick up the car, I spoke with two service advisors, ** (who acted as a member of management) and the initial “unnamed” service advisor.
I asked them why I was not informed on 10/01, when I first brought in the car, that the BCM was defective. Mike said that they didn't know it was “fried” until both the alternator and battery was both replaced and that the mechanic had not received a trouble code using the diagnostic unit until after the initial repairs. These assertions are absurd, because on 10/01, I was informed three trouble codes had been received, but nothing about a “BCM” was mentioned.
Next, I asked both advisors what a BCM does. They said it controls many of the electronic functions of the car such as the horn, headlights, and dashboard warning lights. This too indicates foul play, because when I initially drove in the car on 10/01, all aforementioned functions were operating as normal. The only thing odd with the car's electronics was that the “security” dashboard light was constantly lit. I informed the advisors that this light has been on for about the last six months and that other service advisors and mechanics have commented on it, but never diagnosed why it was so (except for tires, all maintenance and repairs have been performed at Saturn of Mesquite).
Also, in a dishonest attempt to explain why all of a sudden the BCM was found to be defective a day after the car was dropped off; Mike said the diagnostic device was not used on the car until the next day. When I reminded him I personally observed it being 2 used and discussed its results with the mechanic on the morning I brought the car in, he recanted his claim.
Next, he told me that I had “fried” the BCM myself by charging the battery overnight and that the battery was literally smoking when the car was brought in. Both of these claims are blatantly false. When I brought the car in, none of the symptoms of a bad BCM were evident to either me or the unnamed advisor (erratic headlights, horn, etc). In addition, the battery never “smoked.” I even asked the unnamed advisor right then and there if he witnessed any smoke and he honestly replied, “No.” My wife and I believe one of two fraudulent acts took place: Either the BCM was never defective or the BCM was damaged while in Saturn of Mesquite's custody.
FORT WAYNE, INDIANA -- My son had our local Saturn dealer install Saturn Performance Tune part #1921260 on a 2008 Sky Redline. Two days later the engine blew. The engine block and heads are cracked along with the turbo and water pump. Saturn will not honor new car warranty or warranty on the tune install. Once repair work started to reach $10,000 they shifted their focus to finding something/anything that may have voided the warranty. Looking for help from anyone, because what they are doing is wrong!
FISHERS, INDIANA -- I had a complaint because a service tech at the Saturn of Fishers dealership located in Fishers, Indiana misdiagnosed the cause of failure and installed the part as the cure when in reality it could not have caused the problem.
The DRL's or daytime running lights on a '02 Saturn L300 came on in the middle of the night on several occasions. There was no key in the ignition! I had known for some time that the BCM, Body Control Module was bad. It was diagnosed as the cause of the odometer failure. It read 690K miles. I opted not to have that repaired at that time. Saturn has had recalls on a lot of items and to save $410 I was willing to wait to see if there was a campaign that extended warrant. As far as I'm concerned the odometer should be under warranty coverage to 80K miles. Saturn and GM do not agree. So be it.
More than once the DRL's Daytime Running Lights came on in the wee hours of the morning with no one in the car or the key in the ignition. Several of my old buddies at Delphi and one an employee of Motorola told me this problem was caused by the BCM. I knew the BCM was defective anyway and made an appointment to have it replaced.
By this time the DRL's were on constantly. To avoid a run down battery I pulled the headlamp fuses. I told the service rep that I had been told it was caused by the BCM. After a short wait the service rep told me the cause of the DRL's coming on was the Multifunction Lever Switch located on the steering column and it and the DRL's on was not related to the BCM. I needed it fixed so said okay. I have since learned that a defective BCM is the only part in that system that could cause the DRL's to come on in the middle of the night.
I have been ripped off and Saturn of Fishers, a Division of Lackhart Corporation, or Saturn Customer Assistance Center will seek an opinion from Saturn Service Engineering as to whether this part can cause the problem. The BCM was replaced at the same time and it did affect the cure of the problem. I can promise this, I will badmouth Saturn, GM, and especially Saturn of Fishers until the day I die or they do, whichever comes first!
PLANO, TEXAS -- In May 2000 my wife and I bought a 2000 LS from Saturn of Plano in Plano TX. This is the third Saturn I bought from them. The LS was a demonstrator with 4,000 miles on it but they said they would treat it as a new auto. At the time we purchased the car we found that the rear bumper was damaged on it so they replaced this before we receive the car.
Shortly after we receive it I noticed that the car had a bad vibration when it reached 70MPH. I took it back and they replaced all the tires on the car. But it still had the same vibration and it started to make a strange noise when the car was turned. So I took it in again and they found that a part on the front suspension was broken they also found that the coolant reservoir was cracked. After they replaced this it fixed the problem with the vibration and noise.
Next I noticed that the car was making a funny sound when it was idling. I looked under the car and noticed that the muffler was not mounted on the rear of the vehicle as it should have. When I took it back to get it fixed they said that it would cost over $700 to fix it. As I explained to them that this must have been damaged before we bought the car for the following reasons.
Damaged rear bumper. Front suspension was damaged. Coolant reservoir broken. All of these occurred before we bought the car and was fixed by the dealership. They said that we must have done it by backing into something (as was done to damage the rear bumper before we got the car) and that they would have noticed it when they worked on the other problems.
I contacted Saturn Customer Assistance Center and stated that they could not do anything because they did not own this dealership and the dealership would not fix this problem unless I paid for it. I sold the car because I could not trust it as it must have been in an accident before I bought it. I just want to warn people about this dealership.
FLORIDA -- Before I married my wife her sister owned the 97 SL. Every other time she took it to Saturn for an oil change they would write up motor mounts on the service invoice. I'm a mechanic by trade. The motor mounts going out every 6000 miles sounded fishy, especially since my wife now owns this lovely piece of **. (She owned it before we met). I looked at the mounts and they were fine even after another 30,000 miles on the car since the last mount change.
Now the sister owns a 99. Oil change time, well it is cheaper at Saturn. But the things they will tell you. You guessed it, motor mounts again. They called me about this new problem, so I had them come by the shop. No abnormal movement of the engine, nothing visually was incorrect, didn't shake going down the road. If you are told you have this problem go and get a second opinion from someone you trust.
Now back to the 97. Oil is escaping the engine, but where? My wife complained that her oil light was on only after getting the oil changed at Saturn two weeks earlier. I was fumed. So I carefully inspected the engine. No oil leaks anywhere. But where is it going, it's not burning it or is it? I found that another shop had done 6 of these 97 heads in the past month. It's not a quick and easy job. The head alone is about $850. The head gets a small hair line crack on the inside, it goes through to the outside to let oil burn off, just not enough to see.
Saturn has not re-called this part. The 97 only has 65,000 miles on it. It hasn't been hot rodded. There is no logical answer to this except for a manufacturer defect. Guess the Styrofoam they used to cast the parts needs to be changed. Saturn sucks! Everyone who ever bought a Saturn new or used should get together and over throw the company and get back our money of course at the price when it was still on the lot.
MADISON, WISCONSIN -- I went to Saturn of Madison yesterday because an indicator light on my dashboard was intermittently blinking. I mistakenly thought it was the battery light, so that's what I told them and they said they'd check out the electrical system. Later they told me that they never saw the light come on but they tested the alternator, and it took a long time, but after testing it for a while, they found that my alternator was at only 70% power. They replaced the alternator (for $385 including labor), I drove off and the indicator light immediately came back on.
I returned immediately to the dealership, and they asked me to come back the next morning. The next day they found the blinking light and said that it was actually the coolant light. They topped off my coolant and said that it was fine now and the light was off. I asked if I could get my old alternator put back in, but they said that it was bad anyway, so they recommended that I keep it. I asked them to put the old one back in again and they said that they couldn't refund the labor (about $200). I told them to leave in the new alternator and give me back the old one. They charged me $30 to keep my old part, but I paid it anyway.
I made a few calls and quickly found a nearby company that does nothing but repair and rebuild generators, drove straight over there, and had my old alternator tested. They were very kind and didn't charge me for the test. There was nothing wrong with my old alternator! I went straight back to the Saturn dealership and told them about the test and they quickly agreed to put the old alternator back in the car and give me a full refund.
The refund will be by check even though I paid by credit card and it will take two weeks. I don't know if I'll actually get the money or not, but in any case, I know that they would have done nothing if I hadn't gone right away to have the old part tested. Replacing a car part that isn't broken is not something I would expect from a reputable car dealership.
UPDATE: Saturn did refund my money right away, and after I complained to the head office I received a certificate for 4 free oil changes. The only problem with that is that I have to go back to that same dealership to have my oil changed. They always tell me that I need hundreds of dollars worth of things done to it, even things that I've just had done elsewhere. Oh well. Three more oil changes to go and I'll never have to walk in there again.