Saturn, Bellevue, WA Complaint - no responsibility? - Repair

Review by Anonymous on 2004-02-23
WASHINGTON -- (the following is a copy of a letter sent to Saturn regarding a series of problems resulting in a prematurely unusable vehicle)

Dear Saturn,

When I initially purchased my Saturn SL2 in April of 1995, I was thrilled. Consumer Reports magazine had given the car a very good rating, the price was acceptable, the features provided everything I needed, and the dealership had outstanding customer service. The car was maintained regularly and there was never a need for concern. For the first few years all was well and I told everyone I knew how terrific the Saturn program was. Then a series of events occurred which completely negated my opinion. I am writing this letter to inform you of specific events in the hope that you may find ways to improve. The initial Saturn Corporation I knew in 1995 was a great company. I can only hope that you will become that again.

On April 4, 2001, (66,006 miles)
I took my 1995 Saturn into Bellevue Saturn Service Department to replace clutch components per a previous diagnosis. They recommended replacing the rear seal at the same time because, as they explained, it was close to the mileage and age when that should be done. This was agreed to and the seal was also replaced. Completed April 10.

April 15, 2001 (66,030 miles)
I contacted Scott at the Bellevue Saturn Service Department. After less than 32 miles of driving the car was profusely leaking and smelling of burning oil.

April 16, 2001 (66,042 miles)
The car was again scheduled for service at Bellevue Saturn Service Department. It was revealed that the seal had been improperly installed and the galley plug improperly sealed, causing the oil to leak from the engine. The service department replaced the seal. Completed April 18, 2001.

April 18, 2001(66,049 miles)
I drove the car home and found it again leaking oil profusely. I drove it back to the service department. They again "replaced" the seals. NO paperwork was issued for this service visit.

April 24, 2001 (66,100 miles)
I returned the car again to the Bellevue Saturn Service Department because of a grinding noise coming from the new clutch components. They found the synchronizer not slowing down fast enough and found the blocker ring worn out. The synchronizer issues were addressed and the blocker ring replaced.

Twice I took drove the car by the Bellevue Saturn Service Department because the engine was making unusual noises. It ran much rougher than before, and needed oil more frequently. The service personnel told me that it sounded "normal for a car that age" and that 1995 Saturn engines had a tendency to wear rapidly. The suggestion was that I "look" at the new Saturns. NO paperwork was issued for these unscheduled visits. The noise progressively worsened, the car progressively burned more oil, and still the dealership service department reassured me that these symptoms were "normal" for a 1995 Saturn.

August 15, 2003 (79,472 miles)
I took the car in to the Bellevue Saturn Service Department because the alternator was wearing out. (When the radio was turned on, the engine whined loudly). I asked the Bellevue Saturn Service Department to replace the alternator. The service personnel phoned me later in the day saying that it was not the alternator at all, rather it was the power steering assembly causing the whining noise. When I picked up the car late that evening, I found no difference in the whining sound.

August 22, 2003 (79,685 miles)
The alternator quit. The service department told me that the battery needed to be replaced as well. Now I was the lucky customer to pay for a new alternator, battery and installation in addition to the power steering assembly. Complaints were not well received at the dealership. The most empathy came from a sales person who wanted to sell a new Saturn to me so I "would not have problems like this". That was only one of the many times when sales people at the dealership approached me while I was waiting for service to try to sell me a new car.

After writing a letter to the Better Business Bureau of Washington, the dealership refunded the cost of the unnecessary power steering assembly. The dealership would not put a dime toward the new battery or installation, which would not have been needed if they performed the work they were asked to do in the first place. They didnít think covering the battery cost was "reasonable". Although I disagreed in principle, it was more expedient to take the refund they were willing to offer than argue about the overpriced battery.

October 21, 2003 (81,140 miles)
The engine made terrible noises and quit. Because the trust level toward the Bellevue Saturn Service Department was completely destroyed, I had another mechanic inspect the car. Upon inspection it was revealed that there was long-term internal engine wear. The #4 rod bearing was spun and the crank scored. Considering the series of events and progressive symptoms, it is likely that the engine running completely out of oil twice in April of 2001 was the initiating factor. The power steering pulley on the new power steering assembly was obviously damaged prior or during installation in such a way that is likely to cause rapid and premature belt wear.

When discussing the power steering pulley and the engine damage with the new Bellevue Saturn Service Department manager, I was told that they "stand behind their work" and would replace the power steering assembly again. BUT, because I drove the car that it was not their fault that the engine prematurely wore out. The manager was curt and rude. He insinuated that I had damaged the car in attempt to gain a new engine without cost.

Other than the engine, just about everything else on the car is in new condition. New brakes, tires, clutch, gaskets, battery, snow traction devices, leather, etc. all in great shape. The car had been meticulously maintained. However it is now, unfortunately, a useless piece of junk.

Every time I see the Saturn sitting in my garage, I remember the Consumer Reports publication in 1995, the excitement about a "new" kind of car company, the thrill of being able to buy an American car that would (as the sales person said) last for 200,000 miles. What a disappointment this has been. I am now driving a Honda.

Nobody can blame the economy or politics for the high number of import cars sold each year in the United States. People will loyally purchase products that work from people they trust. If an American car company would stand behind its product and deliver what is promised I would buy another American car. As it is, I have very little reason to look at American made cars again. It is more than disappointing that the foibles of a few personnel in one service department are ultimately the cause for the loss of American manufacturing jobs.

I challenge you to become the "kind of car company" you intended to be.
And I wish you the best in your endeavors.
Comments:2 Replies - Latest reply on 2004-02-24
Posted by mcwriter on 2004-02-24:
Please don't take this the wrong way, but I think you're expecting a hell of a lot more out of a 9 year old car, and a dealership that sold you a car 9 years ago, than you should ... just my opinion.
Posted by mcwriter on 2004-02-24:
Then again ... it does also seem that the sh*t started hitting the fan when you brought it to the dealer for what should have been a routine repair. If that's their way of suggesting it's time for a replacement they are one bass-ackwards operation.

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