Arbitration is not the consumers’ friend; it is used by large retailers’ shield against accountability. But we are finding that diligent consumers are beginning to gain greater success in arbitration cases involving automobile disputes. Most recently, Raul Ramos faced-off against Nissan for the defective battery back in his 2011 Nissan Leaf SL-E. When he first purchased the Leaf, he was delighted to find that his range was as high as 112 miles. However, after reaching 21,085 miles, his Leaf lost its first capacity bar. Less than two years later, at 36,360 miles, it lost its second capacity bar. At this point, Raul didn’t have the range to drive to work and back anymore. The following year, at 52,109 miles, the car lost its third capacity bar and then, by 61,150 miles, he found that his car’s range was now limited to 40 miles on the highway. Forget running the AC or running an errand at lunch time or after work.
Mr. Ramos was not alone — in fact, a class action case was brought against Nissan for this exact problem. Thousands of Leaf owners in the Southwest had complained about premature loss of charging capacity and a settlement between these drivers and Nissan was forged. However, the settlement didn’t include drivers whose mileage exceeded 60,000. Raul had his car checked out by a Nissan dealer and learned that the primary failed part was #295B0-3Nf9E and cost $4499.00. The total cost for repairs parts & labor to replace the battery was $5709.54 + tax. It would cost him almost $6,000 to fix the defect common among 2011 and 2012 versions of the Leaf — most all of which suffered from loss of charge capacity in hot weather. (editor’s note: the battery that Nissan sells in the 2013 and higher models is called a “lizard” battery, because it tolerates heat more efficiently).
Nissan was not sympathetic to Mr. Ramos and declined to replace the battery. Its position was that Raul did not opt out of the class action settlement, so he was bound by its terms. However, Raul was not only thoughtful but he was also diligent. He demanded an arbitration and won. Nissan was ordered to install a new replacement battery at no cost to him. Here is Raul’s advice to other Nissan Leaf owners with similar problems:
Based on what I went through, here’s what seemed to work:
1. Get a service record for all four or more battery tests.
2. If you’ve taken your car into the dealer previously for battery degradation concerns, then get copies of those.
*** This is important because it shows to the Arbitrator that you gave Nissan a chance to acknowledge the issue and they refused to repair the problem ***
3. Go to the dealer again and ask that them to inspect the battery, due to severe battery degradation.
4. Ask that it be replaced under the 8 year 100k warranty, since the degradation amounts to a defect in the battery.
*** Bring data on each capacity bar disappearing (Mileage/Date) for each occurrence.***
5. Ask the dealer to open a Case with Nissan North America about the severe battery degradation. If they refuse, then call Nissan North America and open a case yourself.
6. If Nissan North America rejects your claim, then open a case with the BBB Auto Line.
*** In your BBB Auto Line Case: Provide Nissan Marketing Material about the battery lasting 8 – 10 years, along with all the documentation from steps 1 and 4. If possible, request a 3rd party technical assessment of the vehicle (I had to wait until the appeal portion of the process to do this). ***
7. If you lose your case with the BBB, you can appeal it. (I had to do this in order to get all my evidence considered and a technical assessment.)
8. If they accept your appeal, then a formal meeting with the Arbitrator should be called at this stage, and you’ll probably need witnesses and all your documentation again. A technical assessment may occur at the trial or be scheduled later on.
I went into these meetings without a bunch of technical information, because I wanted them to know that I relied on what I was told by Nissan and that the car’s battery was not performing per their documentation or marketing. I also let them know how this problem impacted me personally and my family, due to the inability to complete certain commutes (pick up kids from sport, school activities, etc.), which I was initially able to. I didn’t argue over the technical details or get upset with the Nissan counsel. Lastly, I had two witnesses, which you might want to have to support your case.
This process took nine months to complete.