Last post on Jul 28, 2011 at 8:56 PM
You are in the Pontiac Grand Prix
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Pontiac Grand Prix, Sedan
#56 of 4457 First Letter--Sorry So Long
Jun 21, 2000 (5:10 pm)
September 16, 1998
Mr. John F. Smith, Jr.
CEO and President
General Motors Corporation
3044 W. Grand Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48202
Dear Mr. Smith:
The purpose of this letter is to inform you about the repairs to the transmission of my 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix and seek reimbursement for the repairs. Up until this month I was pleased with my Grand Prix. However, as you can tell from the enclosures I am very disappointed with the durability of the car, specifically the transmission.
Before I detail the problem with the transmission, I wish to provide you with some personal information so that I am not just "another angry face". I am 24 years old. This is my first car that I have purchased completely on my own. I am a third generation GM car owner. Both sides of my grandparents drove GM cars and my parents have always owned GM cars. I guess you could say I grew up in a GM family. My first car was a Chevy Beretta. I drove this car from high school, through college, and during my first year as a working accountant. I took my future wife out on our first date in that car. I will be married the 25th of this month and she owns a Pontiac Sunfire. Her parents are GM owners too. Like most cars, the Beretta had accumulated high mileage. I had two choices. I could spend the money to have the routine high mileage maintenance performed or I could buy a new car. Since my parents own a 1994 Grand Prix, I looked into the GT coupe. I purchased the car in October of 1996. Since I live a distance from my office one of the major factors in purchasing the car was durability. Shortly after the purchase of the Grand Prix I opened a GM credit card account to accumulate money for my next car. This would probably be a family car. As you can tell, my family and myself have been loyal GM car owners.
Now my loyalty has been shaken. Consumer Reports stated " The Grand Prix is a good value, considering what’s included in the price, if it proves reliable". It has not proven reliable. I have had the transmission on the Grand Prix overhauled at only 52 thousand miles. The total cost of this was $1,786.10 This is an extraordinary amount of money to pay for a major repair on a car that was not even two years old. I have to question if this is how GM is building their cars? This was a premature failure due to a defect with the GM made transmission. I should not have to pay for a major repair so soon after the warranty has expired. This reflects poorly on Pontiac to have made a vehicle that needs such an expensive and major repair with only 52 thousand miles on it. For this reason, I am seeking Pontiac to reimburse me for the work that had to be done on the car. I have demonstrated product loyalty now I am asking for Pontiac to stand behind its product not because it has to, but because it is the right thing to do.
As you can see from the receipt of the transmission bill, I had to take the car to an AAMCO dealer since the Pontiac dealer that I purchased the car from could not repair the car. I took the car to the dealership for a diagnosis. The car would not shift into 4th gear at freeway speed. When I received a call from the service representative, I was informed that the entire transmission needed to be replaced for a cost of $2,700.00. Naturally, a car with 52 thousand miles on it should not be having a complete transmission replaced, so I began to press for a more detailed explanation of the problem. It was then suggested that I take the car elsewhere if I did not want the transmission replaced. I picked up the car later that morning. I again pressed as to why the transmission could not be repaired instead of a total replacement. It was finally admitted to me that the dealership does not have a technician that is competent in repairing a transmission. It appears that the dealership would rather replace a transmission at a huge cost than be forthright with a customer that it’s technician cannot repair the car. This is misleading and unethical. This too, casts a poor reflection upon Pontiac and General Motors. To add insult, my oil was mysteriously changed. I was very specific as to why I brought the car in for service. I even left a note. No where was a oil change mentioned. This once again calls questions to competence. I bring in the car to have the transmission looked at and the oil gets changed? Would you want your car fixed by a dealership that demonstrates such incompetence? I have contacted the owner of the dealership and I am awaiting his response. For the above reasons, I did not have the work done at a Pontiac dealership. For the reasons stated above, the fact that the car was not repaired at a dealership should not be a reason for denying me reimbursement for the repairs.
I am very disappointed with my car. A car that cost $23 thousand dollars should last longer than a Yugo. To have to replace the torque converter and all soft parts and some of the hard parts of the transmission this soon is unacceptable. The transmission was defective from mile 1 and it just became symptomatic at 52 thousand miles. It is still a defective. Mileage should not matter. Your competitor, Toyota has fixed defects with its exhaust manifolds free of charge with as many as 120 thousand miles on a car. This was not a recall but a company standing behind the product it sells. Is it any wonder why the Toyota Camry is such a great selling car?
It is amazing to me that General Motors has been able to design spark plugs and engine coolant that do not need servicing for 100 thousand miles. It is unacceptable that a transmission should not last as long. When the Grand Prix was modified for 1997, Pontiac "talked up" the fact that the new engine would contain more torque than horsepower. In the ’96 models, a 3.4L V6 with 210 HP was the upgrade engine. I wonder if this was a wise engineering decision. It would appear that the engine has too much torque for the transmission to handle. This is the opinion of the mechanic who has worked on 8 other Grand Prix’s including mine. I have some of the original parts of the transmission. One part in particular shows metal to metal abrasions, warping caused by a forceful impact and scoring that should not occur. I will be more than happy to meet with an engineer to show the parts of the transmission. However, I do not wish to meet with anyone that does not have the empowerment to settle this problem. My time is important and I have already been inconvenienced too much with this problem as it is. With the torque converter also having to be replaced it leads me to believe that Pontiac has a problem.
I call your attention to the enclosures that came with this letter. The first exhibit (labeled 1) is the transmission bill. As I am sure you are aware, the Internet is a powerful tool that has global appeal. I call your attention to the web site, www.GrandPrix.net. This site is a Grand Prix owners site. Over 125 thousand people have visited this site. Under the "GP Problems" section I have posted the enclosed. In response to this message I have received messages from other owners. They too have had similar problems. Most of them were fortunate to still be covered under warranty. They are awaiting the outcome of this situation as well. Next, you will find Exhibit 3a-d. These are the Technical Service Bulletins related to the transmissions. Review of these TSB’s leads me to believe that Pontiac is aware of a problem. After that you will find the postings on GrandPrix.net of other Grand Prix owners that have had transmission problems. Finally, you will find the Consumer Reports summary page for the 1997 Grand Prix.
As you can tell below I have decided to copy many organizations in on this letter. I have not filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at this point. I feel it best at this time, however, to copy them in on this situation. I am hoping that I do not have to file a complaint with them. I am also copying Consumer Reports on this problem as well since their article questions the reliability of the car. I am also copying various consumer and government agencies as they should be aware of a vehicle that has a premature failure due to a possible defect.
Mr. Smith, I want to be perfectly clear, I will not stop until this situation is resolved. As I am sure you are aware, the conventional wisdom in the auto industry is that it takes 10 years to "repair" a dissatisfied customer. The best advertisement for product is a satisfied customer. Right now I cannot offer an advertisement for the Grand Prix. I have read recently that General Motors has lost market share. I wonder if problems like I have had are the reason why. I would like very much to e-mail everyone and post messages on Internet sites that Pontiac did the right thing and stood by their product. If this situation is satisfied, I will do just that. I hope very much that your action will allow me to do so. Please contact me to resolve this situation. I will be on my wedding/honeymoon from September 22nd to October 3rd. As you can see this could not have happened at a worse time. I now head to my wedding and new home $1,786.10 lighter in the wallet due to a car that should not have major problems. I eagerly await your response.
Jun 21, 2000 (6:23 pm)
Broncodave...please take some advice given in a non-confrontational manner from someone who is a bit older and perhaps wiser than you.
First and foremost, I "skimmed" the above letter, didn't read it through and through. My guess is neither did GM.
Second, if someone wanted to charge me $1,700 for any product or service, I'd want to know why it failed and exactly why their solution fixes it. To simply say that you are not technical is acting like an ostrich....putting your head in the sand. If, as you say, that the transmission was defective from "mile 1", then you should have had it serviced at "mile 1".
Third, you are negotiating from a position of weakness. Your warranty was up. Your dealer had no responsibility whatsoever to you. What you wanted was some sort of relief for the repair. What you should have done was appeal to the dealer to keep you as a customer by speaking to GM on your behalf for partial relief for the repair bill in a calm, respectful way. They are the ones with the power (remember, your warranty was up). What you did was try to "bully" your way to get what you wanted. The response of the dealer/GM (or lack of one) is not unexpected in this case.
I repeat, since your trans was experiencing difficulties from the very beginning as you claim, you should have had it repaired while it was still in warranty.
A faulty transmission doesn't last 52K miles, unless it was abused over time.
My guess is that your dealer didn't respond to your satisfaction becuase your demands were unreasonable (give me a new transmission after my warranty has been up for almost 20K miles or I'm going to whine and whine and whine).
My guess is that the BBB didn't do much with your case since you were out of warranty and you gave no culpable reason to your dealer or GM to make an exception.
#58 of 4457 graphicguy--Couple of Points
Jun 21, 2000 (7:48 pm)
I am not being confrontational with you. I don't even know you and you don't know me. But you have made some assumptions that are not correct. You really have to understand the entire situation to understand my position.
First, I did ask about what caused the failure. AAMCO said that the failure was catastrophic and because there was so much damage it was not possible to tell what lead to the problem.
Second, what I was saying in the first letter is that the transmission was defective (design flaw)from day one. In other words, GM put a defective car on the market. It was SYMPTOMATIC at 52K. There was never ANY indication of a problem until it happened. Therefore, it could not have been fixed before.
Here is an excerpt from my final letter to GM and the dealer after I purchased the Honda:
"Before I left, I asked that a call be put in to General Motors about the transmission. Mr. Pappas stated, "we haven't been able to fix them yet. GM doesn't even know what is wrong with them or how to fix them." No assistance was ever offered in verifying a manufacturing defect or calling General Motors for an appropriate repair procedure. His only comment was "You call GM." This was completely wrong. This statement led me to take the car to AAMCO and had the transmission overhauled. After all, if GM doesn't know what is wrong with them, then shouldn't I go elsewhere?"
Does this sound like to you that I was unreasonable? Does that sound like I was trying to "bully" the dealer?
Like I said in all of the other posts, it was the dealer that screwed me first by not following policy and then GM by backing the dealer when he was wrong. Yes, I knew the warranty was up I knew what position I was in. I like Ronald Reagan would rather bargin from a position of strength. I also knew that GM had replaced transmissions under "goodwill adjustments" as well. That is exactly what I was looking for: a reduction in cost.
The BBB reference was for the dealer as somehow he thought I wanted an oil change to go with the transmission problem. I copied him in on the letter.
Tomorrow I will post my final letters as I don't have them on disk with me. I will also post GM's form letters. That way you can read them all, know all the facts and then pass judgement if you wish.
#59 of 4457 still not sure
Jun 21, 2000 (10:31 pm)
I appreciate your info dave as well as anyone else. This car purchase will our first new car. My biggest concern is with the cooling system. My parents had a Chevy Lumina Euro sport. The cooling system design has me worried. They blew a head gasket and got water on the heads ($$$$$). Also the alternator would go out every 8 mo. after the warrenty was out. There were numerous other problems, but I want go into those. Under the hood these vehicals are the same. But so far I have not been given any info that documents any changes they made to alleviate these problems. If anyone can give me a direction to look I would appreciate it.
#60 of 4457 rascalman
Jun 22, 2000 (1:10 am)
I don't think that the new Pontiac Grand Prix GT or GTP is the same under the hood as a Chevrolet Lumina Euro Sport. First of all the Grand Prix has the 3.8L engine. What did the Lumina have?
#61 of 4457 im back
Jun 22, 2000 (1:30 am)
broncodave ,just because you had these problems doesnt mean that everyone else will have the same experience you did, unless we were talking about kia's.
#62 of 4457 Redesigned Grand Prix?
Jun 22, 2000 (1:56 am)
I am just curious if anybody has heard any information about the redesigned grand prix for 03' or 04'?
Jun 22, 2000 (12:05 pm)
I never said that they would all the problems that I did. However, I think someone who is interested in buying a car should hear both good and bad ownership stories in order to make an informed decision.
#64 of 4457 Gotta back my man Dave up on this one
Jun 22, 2000 (1:27 pm)
I am not sure that I would have dealt with the situation in the same way Dave, but I can appreciate your frustration. I believe graphicguy's point on the confrontation issue is that when you give an ultimatum to some one like GM they are more likely to let you go buy a Honda. In their mind they already lost you as a customer so why spend $1,700 to help you out?
Now for my experience. I totally agree with you that the problem was there from day 1. I had a 99 GP GT Sedan that I also bought brand new as my first car. My family is deeply GM as multiple members have been or are still employees. My GP was in the shop for over 20 business days the first year, not counting the 45 calendar days for bodywork (body shop was inept). I had a new transmission put in, drove it out of the service department and the driveability problem was still there. Next day I had a flat tire (nail). That was not the dealer's fault though because they admitted to flattening the right front not right rear. I digress, after the new transmission was already in they found out, by driving the car with a Tech 1 or 2 attached that the torque converter was engaging and disengaging repeatedly while shifting from 3rd to 4th. This was tearing the tranny to pieces. They downloaded new software to the computer and the problem was fixed.
I had a sit down with the dealer's service manager and the GM district service manager. They spent 2 hours explaining to me that every car has problems and I am just hung up on the past problems. Suffice it to say I was not happy, I pulled rank (which I did NOT want to do) and got the car bought back.
Because of the inept local dealer I did not buy another GP and instead bought a Catera (which has been great).
This is only anecdotal evidence, but I do think there is a problem with the transmission system in the GPs that may or may not be fixed in 2000. It is very hard to know because for the last three years Pontiac/GM has refused to admit that a problem existed.
My sympathy goes out to you Dave, you got bent over a barrel and the only thing I can tell you is what I told the GM rep, "I can only vote with my money. You will not listen to me now, but 40+ years of future car buying will speak for itself."
Jun 22, 2000 (2:53 pm)
What I've always contended to be true is being born out by what I'm hearing here. The dealer is the link between you and the manufacturer. Dealer service equates directly to the perception of your ownership experience, be it good or bad.
Broncodave, in your situation, the dealer had no idea what went wrong. That's unacceptable. I would have hauled it to another dealer to get a better answer. AAMCO has been invetigated by the FTC for trying to put a new or overhauled transmission in just about every car that comes in to their shops, whether faulty or not. Fact is, your original dealer didn't feel compelled (because you were out of warranty and they weren't looking for your repeat business) to give you a straight answer. They are a bad dealer and left you with a bad ownership experience. If, as the transmission guys said, that your trans wouldn't shift into 4th gear was caused by some catastrophe, then every catastrophic event has to have some cause. How else would you know how to keep the problem from happening again, if you don't know the cause?
I would be that if the dealer told you what went wrong and what they were going to do to fix it AND appealed to GM on your behalf with some sort of relief, your story would be different.
mattchalmers--I had a buyback from BMW several yers ago. Had to fight tooth and nail to get it done, but I went through arbitration to "win the day". I haven't bought another BMW since then, but I don't condemn the brand, just the dealer. If the dealer is competent enough to fix problems, then your buyback, my buyback wouldn't have been neccessary.
I'll repeat what I've said before. GM has put millions of the 3.8L/4 speed trannys (the only way they come) on the road. They put the same combo in the GPs. This is a proven design. Leave it to an inept dealer to srew something up.
That's why I shop the dealer and much as I shop for the car or the price.