Help, my Honda radio is on the blink

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By Christopher Elliott

Narendra Goel’s 2003 Honda Accord faced radio display problems. Despite an expired warranty and ineligibility for a class-action repair, his persistent appeal to higher management yielded an unexpected resolution – Honda agreed to fix the defect and offered a $100 voucher.

Question

A few days ago, the display on the radio of my 2003 Honda Accord went on the blink. The radio still works, but I can’t see any of the stations.

I called customer service and mentioned that I’d done some research and found that the radios on the 2003 Honda Accords had this problem. She looked into your corporate records and told me that there was a class-action suit and they would repair the defective radios for seven years or 110,000 miles. She told me that since that time has elapsed, Honda could not take care of the problem.

The Honda customer service lady told me that Honda sent a notification to me. I told her that I never received any notification. She pointed out that if the notification was not delivered, it would have been sent back to Honda.

I would like to keep this car, unless it quits on me, but a radio without display is very inconvenient to use. I called a local Honda dealer and I was told that I have to pay $150 just for diagnostic.

I’d like Honda to authorize the repair of the radio by their dealer. I sincerely appreciate your consideration of my request.

Narendra Goel, Chicago

Answer

We do get a lot of complaints about Honda. In this instance the company was under no contractual obligation to fix your radio. Your warranty expired long ago. And as you point out, the class-action settlement didn’t apply to your vehicle because you were past 110,000 miles and it is 2013.

But Honda has a reputation to uphold (full disclosure: I own an Accord, too). So while the car manufacturer wasn’t under any obligation to repair the radio, it would have been a meaningful customer-service gesture — especially in light of the fact that the radio has a known defect.

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You found on this site with the email addresses for the Honda managers and appealed the company’s denial to John Mendel, executive vice president for sales, by sending him a brief and polite email. (Email addresses at the company are [email protected]). Our advocacy team created a very comprehensive guide with step-by-step instructions on how to escalate your complaints to the CEO.

“Almost immediately, I got a call from Honda informing me that it will take care of my problem. All of this even though the warranty had expired,” you told me. “I went to the dealer and the car was fixed.”

Honda also offered you a $100 voucher, which can be used on a future purchase.

Honda is one of most complained-about manufacturers. But I love this story because this is how the appeals process should work. While rules are rules, a supervisor or manager should also be able to see when they should be waived. The company took a big-picture view of your repair request. Instead of charging you $150 for what would have probably been a minor part, it realized that you would probably buy your next car from Honda if they fixed this.

Something tells me you will.

Should Honda have agreed to fix the radio even though it didn't have to?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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