"Navigation without Motion is Tyranny (or at least a rip-off) "
Well, one of us received a $2650 rebate from Lexus and if you are persistent, it's possible that many of you can too. Below is his experience; follow it and tell us how you do. If you get a check, please consider rewarding this kind of behavior by donating something to this site using your credit card via the secure PayPal link below. This quest has not been costless- besides the cost of the site and programmer, no small amount of time and energy has been spent to get a fix for everyone.
Getting a rebate from Lexus is a necessary but insufficient first step -we are currently looking at a discounted purchase with GPS manufacturers (for our site registrants) and alternative DVD software.
Here are some suggestions on how to proceed. Keep in mind a few things.
A. You are pissed off about this, but you are in the right and you will be a *lot* more successful if you are firm but maintain a positive, cheery attitude while talking to these people. Your fight is with a Monolithic Corporation, not the people who work there. Some of them are even on your side and may be able to improve your chance of success.
B. You are in the right and the Toyota/Lexus attorneys are in the wrong. They won't admit it- don't expect them to. But they don't want any trouble, either. If they stonewall Owners, there are other options available to us and we are looking into ways to popularize the limitations in the system and how Lexus has dealt with owners if they continue to stonewall.
C. You MUST DOCUMENT THE CRAP OUT OF THIS PROCESS. If a class action suit does occur, you will be way ahead.
D. Obtain a Notebook to keep all correspondance, email, phone call logs, etc. I suggest this one at Amazon or it's equivalent. The pages must not be removable. Log the following information- date, times, names of people spoken to, phone numbers, and summary of the conversation. It is very important in order to be taken seriously later on. You can tape or staple correspondance into the notebook as well. Keep everything in chronological order.
E. This is going to take a long time. Accept it before you start or you will be very frustrated. I found it best to think of it as an educational experience.
F. They need you back. During this whole process, you may reduce Lexus and Toyota sales by word of mouth. They know that and they are powerless to stop you- unless they make you satisfied. If Lexus makes us all go through the NCDS, they will still have a lot of pissed off Lexus owners who will not be recommending Lexus vehicles, so Lexus will do better if they address this sooner, rather than later. But we are dealing with Corporate attorneys so who knows how it will go.... In December 2007, Lexus sales were down 7.2% from December 2006. Dissatisfied Lexus owners are doubly bad in a declining market....
The 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. Because Lexus has removed the override feature from it’s vehicles without prior warning to preexisting or potential new customers, it falls on others to inform the car buying public just what you get when you buy a Lexus. 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 Center for Dispute Resolution 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?
I register some domains, hire programmers and LexusOverride.com is born. To date, hundreds of people have signed up with little publicity for the site. One Half 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!
Consumer Reports (shame, shame!) does not inform car buyers about the controversy surrounding the Lexus Navigation system. Oh well, more registrants for me, I guess.
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 you're not going to be happy). 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....
Lexus Mails a rebate Check for the total cost of the Nav system- $2650.
Traffic starts to increase on LexusOverride.com as more sites link to us and popularity grows.
1. Call your dealership and ask to return the car (that's what I did) or for a rebate on the Nav system. Remember to document the calls (phone number, date, time, who you spoke to, their response, etc. ). Assuming they refuse to return the vehicle, ask how you can file a claim against Lexus to return your vehicle. Presumably, they will refer you to NCDS (see below). If not, call Lexus Customer Service at 1-800-255-3987 (that's what I did). Customer service gave me the number for NCDS and told me to call them.
2. Call the National center for Dispute Settlement (NCDS) at 800-936-4303. Ask to file a claim about your vehicle. I filed my claim because the Navigation system did not work as represented by the dealer's salesman and because Lexus had made a 'material change' in the operation of the vehicle without telling me as a potential customer. In my case, I specifically asked about using the Navigation system override before I purchased the vehicle. In my case, the salesman said it did exist. I bought in October, 2006 and it may be that he thought there was an override, he knew there was not, or he did not know or care. I filed that initial claim in February, as directed by the people at Lexus Customer Service. You will be contacted (often by phone- log all those calls with names, info, etc because there is no other proof of your contacts) several times - often at the end of the day and the process will move along slowly. The NCDS will ask for documents (sales or lease documents, title, registration, etc. Make copies of all the documents you send and the date sent (you can use return receipt to have better documentation). The NCDS finally decides who will be your aribter for your case. I received calls from my arbiter asking why I filed, what I wanted (to return the car) etc. In my experience, I suddenly found that, just after I had been led to believe my case was accepted, Lexus filed an "eligibility review", which prompted requests for any supporting documents, etc. After about a month, my case was denied on the grounds that the vehicle operated as warranteed. Don't forget that the NCDS is paid by the car companies, not by you. So while you may find them pleasant and courteous, they are not necessarily on your side. There is also pitifully little documentation-ask for copies of anything they reference (ask to have them faxed to you) that came from Lexus, etc. Also, it is a good to print out a report of the fax usage to confirm what you've written in the notebook.
Here are the rules for the NCDS.
3. Give us feedback about how you are doing at firstname.lastname@example.org . We will post those results on another page on the site. Some registrants have suggested a class action suit. We are attempting to achieve the same outcome with better Corporate-owner relations and lower cost.
More to come soon....