Thursday, May 31, 2007

Day 44, Awaiting GM's Response

The month of May ends still awaiting response from corporate GM. Saturn of Manassas is also silent, and their return-receipt green card has not yet been received. (That should have been in my hands on Tuesday with local mail delivery)

(Also posted earlier on the day on

In addition, Saturn has made it clear they do not care about customer service and customer satisfaction. They have also made clear they have no intention to respond in a like manner to my 4 page letter that was delivered a week ago by FedEx.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New location for the battle with Saturn

To date, I have been blogging about my fight with Saturn (and by extension General Motors Corp.) on Over the next few nights, I will transfer the bulk of those posts over here, and expand the timeline back to day 1, Tuesday, April 17, 2007. That is the date at which the timing chain failed while the vehicle was in operation on our 2001 Saturn L200, stranding me in Richmond, Va. at a mere 84,700 miles, destroying the engine in the process. 90,000 miles was the scheduled service where the timing chain is replaced, an implied warranty that it should last at least that long. Throw that on top of the design change in the middle of the 2001 model year, after manufacture of our vehicle but before we purchased it, something which Saturn knew about yet did not recall existing models to fix. Nor am I the only one this has happened to - a check of the complaints on NHTSA shows at least 24 others about the same issue, and two investigations into it, showing that there were an increased rate of failures among vehicles manufactured between November 2000 and February 2001.

Quick links to the non-moved posts:
May 30:
May 29:
May 25:
May 24:
May 21:

The quick summary to date is that Saturn has accepted responsibility, but will not assume 100% of the cost - they only offer a paltry 15%. Saturn chose to respond to a written letter by Fedex by a phone call from someone other than the addressee. Copies of the same letter are in the hands of GM corporate execs this week, awaiting response. Those copies were sent certified, return receipt requested.

Day 43: Awaiting GM's answer

Today, May 30, marks Day 43 in the Saturn L200 timing chain debacle.

Yesterday's mail did not contain the expected return receipt reply card from Saturn of Manassas, and no further contact from them has been had since Wednesday, May 16, 2007.

There is yet an opportunity for GM to make it right as far as the L200 is concerned, but they have shattered our trust in them, and that will take a long time to restore. I only pray that GM supports its Saturn VUE platform better.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Will GM Corporate respond?

As noted here on Friday, the Saturn division of GM failed to respond in kind to a written request instead pretending to "note concerns" and insisting their head (Lajdziak) "reviewed" the letter, but saying so in a late afternoon phone call.

The Copies of the letter that went to the corporate level at GM should be delivered by the USPS today, Tuesday May 29, 2007. The copy that went to Saturn of Manassas (And thus, finally "informing" them of what corporate has been doing) ought to have been delivered to them on Saturday, May 26, 2007, and the return receipt card should be in my mailbox today.

Today is day 42 since the timing chain failure and resulting engine damage.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Saturn ignores letter to corporate General Manager

As I initially blogged here, I have been having issues with Saturn over a 2001 L 200. On Wednesday, May 23, 2007, I Fedexed a four-page letter, with 9 pages of email thread transcript, and 12 pages of printout from NHTSA: my complaint filed 5-18-07; the 24 prior complaints filed; and the two recent investigations by NHTSA, the most recent of which has Saturn acknowledging a high failure rate of the timing chain amongst the Ls manufactured November 2000 to February 2001.

That letter, addressed to Saturn Corporation's General Manager, Jill Lajdziak, was delivered on the morning of Thursday, May 24, 2007. This same letter was copied to G. Richard Wagoner Jr, Chairman and CEO of General Motors Corporation; Troy A. Clarke, President of GM North America; Mark R LaNeve, GM North America VP for Sales, Service and Marketing; and Tom Tellepson, General Manager of Saturn of Manassas.

This afternoon, about 4:20 PM EDT, the aforementioned "Adrienne" called, stating that Saturn had received my letter, that Ms. Lajdziak had reviewed it (when asked if she had "read" it, this Adrienne repeated the "reviewed") and referred it back to "Adrienne". She then proceeded to claim that Saturn stood by their previous position - one which admitted responsibility but only offered a 15% discount. Either they are responsible or they are not - there is no in between.

When I asked that Ms. Lajdziak call me herself, I was told that "that would never happen" and Adrienne seemed disinterested when I informed her that Saturn's refusal would be publicized far and wide, and that they cost GM a loyal customer, as I will not buy another GM product again, since it is obvious that GM cannot be trusted.

It also seems apparent that Ms. Lajdziak never read my letter. We'll see if the three in Detroit read it - each was addressed to the correct mail code for the particular individual, sent certified return receipt requested.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

April 17, 2007

A little more detail about the location of failure:

The intersection of the failure was High Point Ave and Norfolk Street in Richmond. I was making a left turn from a stop-sign on High Point onto Norfolk. Instantly, power was lost and the vehicle stalled. I was lucky not to have been hit, and was able to coast about a half-block, placing me on the right side curb on Norfolk Street, in between High Point Ave and MacTavish Ave, facing MacTavish.

A map of the location on Google Maps can be found here, and a satellite image of the area here.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Saturn refuses to take responsibility for their product

Saturn, the division of General Motors, made a design change in the middle of the 2001 model year on their L-series cars that increased the size of the lubricating nozzel [sic] of the timing chain. This change was reflected on cars manufactured after it was implemented, but the existing cars already manufactured were not corrected or remedied. We purchased an L200 new in June of 2001 from Saturn of Fairfax, after the design change, but it was manufactured in November 2000, and thus was not corrected. The vehicle was purchased with a 36,000 mile "Car Care" service package, which was extended to 60,000 miles before its expiration, a package which also served as an extended warranty.

We learn all of this after the timing chain failed at 84,700 miles, and subsequent searches of NHTSA investigations, findings and service bulletins. Saturn itself has stated that the chain is scheduled to be replaced at the 90,000 mile service - an implied warranty that the part should last at least 90,000 miles - but Saturn's filings with NHTSA all state that the failure is never supposed to happen while the vehicle is in operation.


Ours broke on April 17, 2007, in Richmond, Virginia, while pulling out of a stop sign. Instantly dead in the water, I had to wait half a day to be towed back up to Northern Virginia. Initially, the timing chain seemed the likely diagnosis, but upon review, the break during operation damaged the engine itself beyond repair. If I had not stopped to eat before hitting I-95, it would have broken on I-95 at highway speeds, increasing the chance of damage to life, limb or property.

It was taken to Saturn of Manassas, the same location where the car's entire service history took place, where between the local entity and corporate both have been dragging their feet - finally offering a 15% discount off of a warranty price on a new engine - an Insult. 15 percent on something that they are 100% liable. I suppose they wanted to see if we would accept that low-ball. The appearance is they were not concerned with RESOLVING the situation, but rather trying to drag it out into oblivion. Well, we would not accept it. The same local retailer who claimed to not have any clue what corporate was doing, even when corporate sent an email stating clearly that the local retailer's service manager, Tom Tellepson, was delegated to review the situation. (And we still have not heard from Mr. Tellepson, as even the 15% offer call was by the Service Clerk)

Saturn's "Customer Service" (in quotes as they apparently do not believe in it) area in Tennessee assigns "Area Managers" to a case - Managers who don't return calls timely, and assume that the customer is unimportant. This from a position that is supposed to be the liaison between the customer and the local retailer. Very poor at best in this role, this manager had trouble getting calls returned from the local retailer, and then we end up hearing the 15% insult from the local retailer's service clerk a full two days before the "area manager" called back, and even then, that was only after several subsequent emails to the main address. Things are so shady there that you can't even get a last name or a direct phone number for one of these "managers", and when you ask for their supervisor, you are told that they have none. (Somebody had to hire them...) Finally when pressed, they give up the name of the "General Manager" of Saturn (purportedly a Jill Lajdziak), but the way they act, who knows if that is true or not. The "area Manager" could not (or would not) name the head of GM - that I found by accessing GM's 2006 annual report.

This particular Saturn was #2 of 4 we purchased new in the past 8 years. Our reward for loyalty to Saturn? A product that could not even make it to that 100,000 mile threshold - the instant-photo line-up at any Saturn retailer. And even with an admitted safety and mechanical defect, one which Saturn knew about from the start, Saturn, and by extension its corporate parent, General Motors, have refused to back their product. This in the face of their current vehicles bearing 100,000 mile warranties, and current brochures of theirs claiming "customer service" was key. Perhaps it would not be so bad if the part failed as Saturn stated in its prior NHTSA filings it should - at startup. That would have meant only a timing chain to replace. But Saturn's filings were at best inaccurate, for this very situation proved their prior filings wrong. So in their infinite wisdom, they would rather stick it to a loyal customer than admit that they were wrong. That they should have recalled the existing 2001 L-series models when they made the design change. There is a message for GM in all of this: loyalty cannot be blind, and it cannot be one-way.

This story will be retold, and they will be sorry they thought so little of customer service. Saturn and GM have in an instant shattered our confidence in them, and the safety of our remaining Saturn. So much for their claims in their current brochures, "you'll get as much attention after you're a Saturn owner as you did when you first walked in the showroom." or "There is a way to treat people like always." - it seems Saturn's true treatment has been revealed.

Complaints have already been filed with NHTSA and the Center for Auto Safety among others, and more will come. Letters to the aforementioned Jill Lajdziak, to the Chairman and CEO of GM, G. Richard Wagoner, Jr., and the President of GM North America, Troy A. Clarke, are awaiting response. They have a chance to make things right.