Girard Nissan sold me a lemon and won’t honor my warranty

Brian Livings purchases a used car from Girard Nissan in Connecticut and within several days the vehicle becomes inoperable. Livings gets the car repaired per the dealership’s approval but now can’t get reimbursed. Can our advocates help sweeten the taste of the lemon he just bought?

Question: I purchased a used car from Girard Nissan in Groton, Conn., which is about four hours away from where I live in New Jersey. I went to this dealership because my desired car, a manual transmission Honda Accord coupe in red, is hard to find, but Girard Nissan had one, fully loaded, at a good price.

While signing the paperwork with the finance manager, Joe DeAngelo, he mentioned that the car came with a 3,000-mile, 60-day warranty, which was a pleasant surprise. The paperwork on the warranty said that all repairs must be performed on-site in their shop in order to be covered. However, the finance manager said that since I live far away, they would support the warranty by accepting a receipt for the repairs from my local shop and simply reimbursing me. He gave me a recent example of an owner who lived in Boston who had just underwent the reimbursement process for his warranty claim.

I appreciated that they would simply reimburse me for any warranty repairs, since I live so far from their shop. I finished the rest of the paperwork and drove all the way home.

Three days later, I was out shopping and the car suddenly wouldn’t start. The engine didn’t turn over at all, so I thought it might be a bad starter and I came to appreciate the fact that the car came with the warranty! However, since the paperwork said all repairs must be in the Girard Nissan shop, even though the finance manager said that they’d reimburse me instead, I wanted to make sure I did everything correctly to ensure prompt reimbursement.

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While sitting in the dead car, I called him to obtain instructions to have the car repaired. I told him the starter seemed to have died, and he said it’s not a problem. Simply go to a local shop of my choice, have the repair done, and send him the receipt. He said as long as the repair cost isn’t insane, it will be fine. I hung up the phone and decided to take the car to my local Honda dealership.

Boardwalk Honda diagnosed the car as needing a new starter so I told them to go ahead and put one in. The part cost $325, plus labor, shop charge and tax, for a total of $750. I emailed the receipt to Girard Nissan as instructed.

After several telephone calls to Mr. DeAngelo, on which he promised to expedite the reimbursement, but never actually did so, I switched to sending emails instead of phone calls. In the emails, Mr. DeAngelo continued to be apologetic and made excuses, then set dates on which he promised the check would be sent out.

After several dates came and went with no check being sent, Mr. DeAngelo told me the reason it hadn’t been sent was that their general manager did not like the price I was charged. He sent me a scanned, hand-written note on which someone from Girard Nissan had detailed their desired price of $385 for the part and $109 for the labor, plus $31 for tax, for a total of only $525. Mr. DeAngelo told me the check had been delayed so long because he had been advocating for reimbursing me the full amount, but to no success. In the interest of speeding up the reimbursement, I offered to accept this incorrect, lower amount. Mr. DeAngelo promised me a new date when the check would be sent on July 6.

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The check was never sent, and Mr. DeAngelo continued to make excuses and promise new dates which never occurred. On July 12, I emailed him an email of complaint which outlined my ongoing disappointment with Girard Nissan. He replied saying he understood my frustration and promised a new date, July 14, which did not occur either.

I have no faith that this reimbursement check will ever be sent, which is very disappointing because I acted in good faith during the whole process, from asking clarifying questions during initial paperwork, to calling Mr. DeAngelo from the broken-down car before taking it for repairs. Had I not been told a reimbursement scheme would be applied to my case, I would have simply driven the four hours to Girard Nissan for the repair! The false information given to me throughout the whole process drove me to a local shop for repairs, which Girard Nissan has declined to pay after repeatedly telling me that they would in fact pay. Having them insist on a lower amount is totally inappropriate as well.

Would you help me to be reimbursed for the full amount of $750? — Brian Livings, Mays Landing, N.J.

Answer: I can’t imagine how frustrating an experience this has been for you. You were promised warranty coverage for your vehicle, and, despite the dealership telling you that you could get the vehicle repaired elsewhere and be fully reimbursed, they reneged on their promise.

Then the finance manager failed to keep several promises saying that the checks would arrive on specific dates.

First off, you did a great job keeping a paper trail of this ordeal. You started with a phone call which is hard to memorialize and then switched to emails, which can be saved.

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Nevertheless, DeAngelo made several promises of reimbursement to you and then failed to honor them.

You were quite patient with him and even offered accept a lower reimbursement amount because someone at the dealership felt you had paid too much for the repair.

After several instances where DeAngelo failed to deliver, you contacted our advocates, who attempted twice to contact the dealership. DeAngelo finally responded with yet another promise to deliver. When he didn’t, our attempts to follow up were answered with silence.

Our advocate told you your best bet might be to take Girard Nissan to Small Claims Court and shared with you information on how to file a claim in Small Claims Court.

You might also have had better luck by escalating your claim with an executive at Nissan Motors Corporation. We list the names and contact information of Nissan executives on our website. We encourage consumers to work their way up the contact list by sending a simple, polite email and then following up the complaint if no progress is made within a couple of weeks.

Finally DeAngelo responded to our advocate and promised once again to have the check sent by overnight delivery on Sept. 8. When that date came and went, our advocate reached out to a Nissan executive on your behalf. The executive must have greased some wheels, because soon after, you received a call from the general sales manager of Girard Nissan. He said it was the first he’d been informed of the issue and said he would overnight a check.

We’re happy the phone call did the trick. You informed us that you soon received your long-awaited reimbursement.

Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined. Read more of Mark's articles here.

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