'I just don't feel safe': Airbag issue leaves Nissan customer frustrated
Ross McLaughlin & Carly Yoshida, CTV Vancouver
Published Thursday, October 13, 2016 6:00AM PDT
A Surrey mother says she’s afraid to drive her vehicle after repeated attempts to fix an airbag issue in her Nissan have failed.
Desiree Cairns has owned her 2015 Nissan Murano for less than a year, and it only has about 10,000 km on it, but she says the airbag warning light keeps coming on while she’s in the front passenger seat. She says even though she’s taken the vehicle in at least 13 times for service, the problem has persisted.
“I just don’t feel safe driving the vehicle anymore,” she said.
A recall was issued for the Murano in April because of a defect in the occupant classification system, meaning an adult could be misidentified as a child or the seat could register as “empty,” which means the airbag wouldn’t activate in a crash. According to Transport Canada’s website, in order to fix the issue, dealers were required to reprogram the airbag control unit and the occupant classification system control unit.
But multiple attempts to fix Cairns’ vehicle haven’t worked. The computer was reset six times and reprogrammed three times; the occupant classification system sensors were replaced twice; and the control computer was also replaced.
George Iny with the Automobile Protection Association says after that many unsuccessful repair attempts, the company should offer the owner a new vehicle or a refund.
“You’re looking at what may appear to be a lemon,” he said. “If you can’t fix the car at that point you should be offering a refund or an exchange to the owner.”
Cairns says she’s been obeying instructions she was given from Nissan on how she is supposed to sit in the passenger seat. They include sitting upright, not crossing her legs, not turning toward the back seat or reaching forward, since she’s been told her weight could shift and confuse the sensor in the seat.
“In the event that I get T-boned, I can guarantee you I’ll be shifting and moving,” said Cairns. “Are you telling me my air bag’s not going to work?”
In a statement to CTV News after the latest repair attempt, Nissan says “a qualified Nissan technician has inspected the system and found it to be operating effectively.” But four days after the assessment, Cairns says the airbag warning light was back on again.
Cairns has decided to apply to the Canadian Motor Vehicle Protection Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP), a national program that owners can use to resolve disputes with vehicle manufacturers through binding arbitration, to see if Nissan will be asked to take the car back.
Stephen Moody, the general manager of CAMVAP, says most manufacturers work voluntarily with them to resolve issues, and about 70 per cent of consumers are successful.
“When consumers think the problem is not going to be resolved, that’s the time they should come and talk to us,” he said.
But Iny says while the CAMVAP program can be effective, some consumers can be disappointed with the results if the decision means they get sent back for another repair instead of having their vehicle replaced.
“In almost every other area of retailing, when the product is defective, you can exchange them or return them but not in the car business,” he said. “The industry goes out of its way to stick you with their problem if they can’t fix it themselves.”
Transport Canada says they're continuing to work with Nissan and document complaints about the occupant classification system in their vehicles. They suggest that customers who have concerns call Transport Canada's defect hotline at 1-800-333-0510 or submit a complaint online.
Nissan and Transport Canada are sending technicians from Toronto to take another look at Cairns’ vehicle, but she just wants Nissan to buy her vehicle back. She says that until there’s a law in place that mandates vehicles be bought back, she fears it’ll just be sent back for repair again.
“What if we get into an accident?” she said. “I’m not going to be protected.”