One Lexus owner’s storyThe following story is true. Unfortunately it is not unique. Because other Lexus buyers had the same experience I detail below, the website LexusOverride.com was born. Lexus has removed the override feature from it’s vehicles without warning preexisting or potential new customers. That's just not right. Here is my story.
September 30, 2006:
After considerable research and deliberation, I purchased a new car- my first Lexus after many a Toyota . I bought a 2007 model Lexus ES350 right off the lot from Newport Lexus in Southern California. Before buying the vehicle and because it was important to me, I spoke to the salesman specifically about the Lexus Navigation system and asked about the override. The 2007 models were very new then and there was little known about them. The salesman assured me that there were a series of ‘codes’ that could be inserted to allow use of the Nav system while moving but said he did not know them. There have been ‘override’ codes on previous Lexus models, so I had no reason to doubt him. He then volunteered that there were even ways to get the DVD to play movies while the car was moving, if I went to an aftermarket installer. The movie option did not appeal to me but I felt satisfied I had done my due diligence about the navigation and so I bought the car. What a great day!
October, 2006- January, 2007
The Lexus owner’s sites and other user groups are abuzz – looking for the override codes to the new Navigation system. The new system, the 6.1 version, is made by Denso. Slowly, rumors come out that the code is harder to find, that it involves turning on the headlights, that there is no code, that only the technicians know it and are sworn to not reveal it, etc. During this time, I place occasional calls to the Lexus’ Customer Service 800 number to try to get the override information. I am repeatedly told nothing specific about the presence or absence of an override or even an official Lexus policy on the override during this time.
This time, the call to Lexus 800 is different. The Lexus representative tells me officially there is no override for the 2007 vehicles, all of which have the 6.1 Nav system. I can’t believe it! I ask how I can go about returning my car. Lexus’ Customer Service instructs me to contact the National Center for Dispute Settlement and file my claim.
January- May, 2007
My case winds through the National Center for Dispute Settlement (NCDS) for months. Information is requested, and it is intially considered a 'valid' case by the panel. However, the case ends up being thrown out because Lexus asks for a summary judgment to nullify the case since “the car operates as it is intended”. All along I had noted that the issue was that the vehicle was materially modified without customer warning – I took the case to settlement like Lexus told me to do, and this, this is what I get? This is how the customer is treated?
LexusOverride.com is born. To date ,
hundreds over 1,600 people have signed up with little publicity for the site. Over 50% of those signing up state they would not have bought a Lexus if they knew the Override was not available.
Consumer's Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports is contacted about the Lexus Override controversy. They are in the midst of determining whether this is a significant user issue that deserves customer education.
August 30, 2007.
I visit Lexus Headquarters in Torrance, CA in order to personally give my request to return my vehicle, since Lexus has told me they will not reinstate the override.
A stroll through the Lexus HQ parkinglot reveals a mixture of cars- mostly Lexus vehicles and some are new and some are old. There goes the theory that all the HQ people have 2006 or older vehicles! There are a few basketball courts, a nice outdoor bistro area for lunch- overall, not a bad place to work.
I enter via the guest entryway and am met by a security guard at the front desk. I ask to be directed to Customer Services. The guard explains to me that she cannot tell me where Customer Relations is. Instead, she directs me to a 'red phone'in the waiting area which I am to 'press 0' and I will be connected to Customer Relations. I cross the waiting area to the red phone, pick it up and - the line is dead. I press 0, reset the hook, listen, press 0 - nothing. Oh, the irony! I wonder if this is a Lexus joke or a metaphor for Lexus' consumer attention? I return to the desk and tell the (now 2 desk people) that the phone is dead. They write the 800 number on a piece of paper and tell me to call that from the other phone in the lobby. I call. After a short wait, the cheerful customer service representative picks up. I explain that I am in the lobby and have a letter for Customer Relations. My friendly rep, (Zoe I think) asks " you are in the building?" and I reply yes. She then tells me "I cannot give you that information"!! Say What?? This is now getting surreal. I did not ask for any information- oh, she explains she won't tell me where the customer relations department is located if I do not have an appointment. OK, I say, then can you or someone come down so I can be sure my letter is delivered? No can do, I'm told. Leave the letter with the guard at the front desk and someone will get it to us. So, I leave my letter and go home. No fuss, no muss and certainly no customer service!
10/08/07 Update: Lexus calls to say they are sorry I am unhappy, but they will not offer an override. Then they give me the number for the National Center for Dispute Settlement (NCDS). Humorously, I already went through NCDS back in January-April as instructed by Lexus, but then Lexus petitioned to have my case thrown out after three months of paperwork, etc. In the meantime, we continue to get traffic and sign-ups. Keep steering car buyers away from Lexus / Toyota until our cars are fixed and sign up to be informed of potential trade-in's or solutions to the Nav Overrride debacle!
11/7/07 Lexus calls to explain that removing the override was a 'liability decision' made by 'legal'. There is no actual legal requirement that the navigation system be disabled while the car is in motion, but apparently the legal department had decided that it reduces corporate liability. But wait! Good news!! There will be a new and improved voice recognition system in the 2009 vehicles to fix the problem. I ask what if you purchased a 2007 or you buy a 2008 vehicle? Nothing. They are looking into it (but so far the message is tough luck). Reductive analysis reveals that the latest legal strategy could be to minimze legal risk by minimizing sales?? I await another Lexus response. In the meantime, Stay Tuned as we begin a new campaign to fix a useless product...
12/08 We have new, printable business cards for people to take and distribute at the car shows this year. Please print some up and help Lexus see the light.
9/10 BMW beat Lexus in car sales for the month of August,2010. Lexus owners, after being ignored and abused for so long by Lexus Coprorate are finally moving on.
Dear Lexus Corporate:
Listen to us.
Your once loyal customers.
Lexus, are you listening?