Free of Charge

Free of Charge

OR: WHY I BOUGHT A NISSAN LEAF WHEN I ALREADY HAVE A RENAULT ZOE

 

I just bought a new car. That’s it in the photo, below. I’m standing by it immediately after signing the paperwork, and I get to collect it next week. It’s new, so it doesn’t have a registration, yet, and when I first saw it, it still had film over the hubcaps and plastic over the seats.

“But Lee – didn’t you buy a new car just last year?”

Why, yes I did. Thank you for mentioning it.

Last February I bought a Renault Zoe. It’s an electric car with a real world range of up to 168 miles on a single charge (depending on various factors). With one or two exceptions, our driving needs are short distance – the furthest we usually travel is to our Scarborough holiday home and back – a distance of about 85 miles round trip, so the Zoe easily manages that. Once a year we visit family in South Wales – 265 miles away. We managed it last year, though it was a bit tricker.

But the Zoe is the best car I’ve ever had. It’s wonderful to drive and it’s cute to look at. I was very happy with the purchase.

But then the problems started happening.

 

I travel a bit for work, and a few times a year I’m away for two weeks at a time.

In July of last year (5 months after buying the car) I had one of these 2 week trips, and came back to a car that had no charge. Actually, that’s not quite true. The main battery (the one that powers the vehicle) was full, but the 12v battery (that handles the electrics: the headlights the entertainment system, etc) was dead. Just a normal 12v battery. I assumed I’d left the lights on and it died, but I had to call someone out to take it in to the dealership. It was taken in, and I was given a hire car for a week, and then I collected it, happy to have my lovely Zoe back.

And in October I went away, again, and came back 2 weeks later to the same problem. I told the Dealership, Renault and Renault Finance (who financed the car) that I was rejecting it, as it was obviously an inherent flaw in the car. I told them I’d be happy to have a replacement, as I liked the car so much. They said no. The car went into the dealership again to be fixed, but this time the dealership was confused, and didn’t know how to fix it, so they contacted Renault in France for guidance. This took 3 weeks, and I was able to collect the car, again. As far as I was concerned, however, the car was rejected, but they offered me £200 in Renault vouchers as compensation. I know.

Shortly after, the car began to exhibit additional problems, which were not present before the service centre worked on the vehicle for the second time. Whenever the car heating was on, a loud buzzing noise could be heard. I recorded this and sent a copy of the recording to Renault Finance and Renault Customer Services.A warning light appeared on the dashboard, intermittently, stating “Check ELECTRIC System” (their capitals not mine). According to the vehicle handbook, this error light, along with the two warning lights underneath it, means:”Indicates a fault on one of the pedal sensors or in the 12 V battery management system.” (which is the system serviced by the service centre).

And shortly after that, the rear parking camera ceased working.

Not only had the service centre been unable to repair the vehicle, they had, it seems, introduced at least three additional faults. I sent a photograph of the warning message and also a video of it (starting with me outside the car, so they could clearly see the number plate, confirming it wasn’t merely an image I’d found online) to both Renault Customer Service and Renault Finance.

Again, I contacted Renault (customer service, dealership and finance) and again said I would be content with a replacement.

And then, a few months ago in January, the same problem. Dead battery, dead car.

When I collected it (again!) the dealership told me that they’d recharged the battery. Nothing else. Nothing to investigate or fix the underlying problem of why the battery kept failing.

And again, a refusal by Renault to take the car back.

So I contacted the Financial Ombudsman and made a formal complaint. I could have contacted the Motor Ombudsman, but it’s a self-regulatory group, and doesn’t feel impartial, so I contacted the Financial Ombudsman as the finance company has equal obligation to put right any issues such as the ones I faced.

It took a few months but the ombudsman service ruled in my favour and Renault Finance have (at last) agreed to take the car back.

It’s a shame, as I truly love the Zoe and would have been happy with a replacement, but now I’ve lost faith in Renault — both in their customer service and in their dealers’ ability to actually fix cars. So, Renault have lost a sale and Nissan have gained one.

Ironically, perhaps, Renault Finance and Nissan Finance are the same company, so the finance company haven’t lost a sale, despite them being one of the worst parts of this experience. Renault Customer Service themselves were always very polite and helpful, though they appeared to have zero influence over the complaints process, with that landing on the original dealership (Renault Liverpool, who did nothing to help resolve the situation) and the finance company.

I’ll post something about the Leaf, soon, but this has been a long blog post.

tl;dr : Love the Renault Zoe, but after-sales service when something went wrong was appaling and Renault lost a sale they could easily have kept.

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