My wife and I had mutually agreed to purchase a Lexus ES 300 based upon its reputation of reliability, dependability, elegance, and mechanical stability. Our experience owning a Lexus ES 300 for the past three years has been surprisingly far less than satisfactory - in fact a nightmare - a sequence of horrifying events involving life threatening hazards, privation of reliability, dependability and mechanical stability breeding incessant fear, anguish, frustration, financial burden, ultimately resulting in respiratory trauma for my wife, myself, two associates and the consequential death of our first child.
These casualties and sufferings have been further compounded by
actions taken by Lexus which have in effect caused jeopardy of
employment, irreparable damage to credit with National Rent-A-Car, defamation of our reputations and compromise to our safety by falsely reporting the loaner vehicle, issued to us by Lexus, to authorities as stolen, and by committing criminal theft of our personal property and belongings, including a laptop computer containing crucial and irreplaceable documentation, further jeopardizing my employment and our livelihoods.
Our service records demonstrate that diligent care has been taken with this vehicle and that it had met all service recommendations during itsoperation. Neither the extensive 60K service 9/04/98, the 65K service 1/05/99, nor the 70K service 7/07/99 revealed any problems with our Lexus. I will also point out that a redundant 60K mile service was imposed upon this
vehicle, excessively, without our notification or consent on 3/02/00.
Our miseries began on 7/09/99 when a new headlight installed two days prior had burned out. We returned our Lexus on 7/14/99 to Lexus of Manhattan, who performed the prior two services, to have the new headlight replaced. We received a call from a Lexus representative that afternoon claiming that multiple leaks were discovered emanating from the engine seal, the rear main seal, and the valve cover gaskets which in turn damaged both the timing belt and water pump. When we picked up our Lexus on 7/19/99, our cost was $2,263.60 and the inconvenience of five days lost operating time.
One would not expect that leaks of this number and magnitude could go completely unnoticed during a 5,000K service completed only one week prior on 7/07/99. These alleged leaks therefore potentially could have continued to go unnoticed, ultimately causing the engine to seize during operation, had the vehicle not been returned a week later for a defective headlight. One might also be inclined to question the design of an engine
in which the timing belt and water pump are so positioned under the oil case and so unprotected as to be so vulnerable to any potential leak in the system.
After driving our Lexus to our garage following the service of 7/14/99, it had not been driven again until 8/11/99, when we took a road trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During the return trip back to New York, we felt the transmission slip several times while driving on I80, amidst heavy traffic, causing near collisions with a tractor trailer and other vehicles in our proximity. After barely making it to a service station,
I had the transmission oil checked. It was determined by an Exxon mechanic that there was no transmission fluid in the transmission case.
I again returned our Lexus back to Lexus of Manhattan on the morning of 8/12/99, explained the problem, and was assured we would be contacted as soon as the problem was diagnosed. During the afternoon of 8/13/99, we were called by a Lexus representative and were informed that the transmission had multiple leaks and needed replacement. In light of the
fact that the transmission had been replaced under warranty two years prior on 4/14/97, we found this news astonishing. Our cost was $4,591.42 and the inconvenience of ten days lost operating time, a total cost of $6,855.02 including the service in July.
It would be highly unlikely that a recently replaced Lexus transmission, free of defects, would develop multiple leaks. Further, any transmission leak should have been detected during any one of our frequent visits to Lexus of Manhattan Service Center. That observation was provided by a Lexus of Manhattan's mechanic in response to our questions.
At this stage, one would also find it difficult to believe that leaks of this magnitude in both the engine and the transmission could possibly go unnoticed during the services performed on 7/07/99 and 7/14/99. These oversights endangered the lives and compromised the safety of my family, myself, and associates who traveled in our Lexus. One would again be inclined to question the quality, craftsmanship, reliability, and reputation of a vehicle which needs its transmission replaced twice before reaching 75,000 miles.
After bringing our Lexus to Lexus of Manhattan on 2/03/00 for its
recommended 5K service, we were informed that the engine mounts needed replacement, leaks were continuing to emanate from the engine seals, and that the Lexus would need to be serviced for several weeks as soon as it was practical for us to return the car for service.
One wonders why the alleged problem with the engine mounts was
not assessed during the previous service in which the engine was
disassembled. Why must the obvious poor quality of a previous
repair be the customer's financial responsibility?
After leaving Lexus of Manhattan on 2/03/00, I noticed that the odometer read 000000 and remained so while driving. The speedometer was also not functioning at that time.
We returned our Lexus to Lexus of Manhattan on 3/02/00, were issued a loaner vehicle, and were informed two months later that our Lexus was ready. We attempted to pick up our Lexus on Saturday morning of 5/05/00. After paying an invoice of $4925.78 in good faith, we drove our Lexus out of the dealership. The Lexus was smoking heavily from under the hood, and continued to expel smoke well after allowing the car to run for 15 minutes. We were advised by Mr. Richard Soriano to take back the loaner
car that Lexus had issued us, and to allow the service center to further repair the problem. Our Saturday morning had been completely consumed by this massive oversight.
One would imagine, with any significant repair made on a vehicle, that a test drive would be an integral part of a service performed. Apparently, as will be affirmed later, test drives at Lexus of Manhattan are considered the sole responsibility of the customer.
Even more astonishing, during this service our Lexus had been subjected to a duplicate 60K service, for which we were charged in full - a service we neither consented to, nor was necessary, as our records clearly indicated this same service was performed 9/04/98.
It is further puzzling that the diagnostics performed on this duplicate and exorbitant service completely missed finding the need for a new battery. Nor did it occur to anyone at Lexus that during each of our several attempts made to pick up our vehicle, the car had failed to turn over. On each occasion, the battery needed to be charged for a significant amount of time
before an attempt could be made to start the car. This is clearly the sign of a worn battery, even when taking into consideration that the vehicle had remained idle at four week intervals between our attempts to retrieve it.
Also, on the repair bill, paid 5/05/00, was a $1223.45 charge, including labor, for the replacement of the computer circuit board for the odometer and speedometer. It is my firm belief that any malfunction in gauges of this significance ought to be the sole responsibility of the manufacturer, since these instruments are both mandatory by law and necessary for the
safe operation of a vehicle. Again, one questions the quality,
craftsmanship, reliability, and reputation of a vehicle which requires such rigorous, frequent, and incessant repair and maintenance.
We again returned to Lexus of Manhattan on 6/14/00 at 6:45 PM to return the loaner car and pick up our Lexus. I was escorted into the garage by two service representatives who led me to our Lexus. After attempting to start the car, it was determined that the battery was dead.
The battery was then recharged briefly and again an attempt was made to start the car. The engine turned over several times and cut out immediately.
The service representative attempting to start the engine persisted to race the engine at high RPMs, but the engine continued to shut down after making loud grinding and grating sounds. During this time, the engine began to smoke heavily. Both servicemen recommended that we keep the loaner vehicle until further repairs were made.
Another attempt to retrieve our Lexus was made 7/21/00, with similar results. After the battery was charged, the engine was started, and again it stopped abruptly, and began to smoke. The serviceman assisting us concluded that the work had not yet been completed. Both my wife and I had severe doubts that this vehicle could ever be revived or brought back to operating condition after again hearing the engine grind and seeing the smoke emerging from the engine the way it did.
On 8/18/00 my wife and I again arrived at Lexus of Manhattan. We planned to travel to upstate New York that evening and were prepared to depart from the dealership. Anticipating a similar series of events as we had previously experienced in finding our vehicle in disrepair, I unpacked our video camera to document the events.
I was again escorted into the service garage to locate our Lexus. Again, the car failed to turn over and again the battery was charged for 15 minutes. After our Lexus was eventually started, I noticed slight traces of smoke emerging from the engine. The serviceman told me that he believed the smoke was probably caused by residue on the engine and that I should not be alarmed. The serviceman then drove our Lexus out of the garage to the parking space where our previous loaner vehicle
was parked. We then transferred our luggage and personal belongings, and embarked on our trip to the AltaMura Music Festival at the Catskills.
Approximately ten minutes into our journey, we smelled and observed smoke coming into the interior of our Lexus through the air vents. Horrified, I pulled over to the nearest gas station, opened the engine hood, and observed smoke emerging heavily from several locations within the engine: from around the sides of the engine and in front near the radiator. The engine was also making a grinding noise, similar to the noise it made at the Lexus service center during a previous attempt to retrieve our car. While returning to Lexus, we continued to smell vapors and to inhale smoke as it seeped into the car through the air vents.
We arrived at Lexus and were eventually greeted by a sales
representative and servicemen. They observed me as I video
taped the heavy smoke emerging from under the closed hood
of the Lexus, pouring out over the illuminated headlights,
emitting a strong, pungent odor.
When asked what was wrong, I proceeded to open the hood of
our Lexus and to point out the problems. The Lexus people stated the following:
1)"The smoke was likely due to mere drops of oil accidentally
left on the engine case which will eventually burn off."
2)"The RPM gauge was reading below 1. If the gauge reads
above 1, there might be a problem. If it reads below 1, the
car is fine."
3)"The Odometer had read 000000 due to the new odometer.
That means the car hasn't been out for a test drive, and
any excess oil had not had a chance to burn off."
n.b.(to us, this meant that this vehicle had not been test
driven by a mechanic, and that we, the customers, untrained
in automobile mechanics, were responsible for the test drive,
a test drive which could in turn potentially subject us to any
hazards that a test drive would reveal to a trained mechanic.
It seems therefore to be acceptable by Lexus for its customers
to assume the hazards of the test drive and to be exposed to
harmful and toxic gasses and vapors generated by excess fluids
left upon the engine before the fluids have even had the chance
to burn off)
4)"We messed up the job the first two times and had to do it
all over again."
n.b.(these failed attempts are all done at the owners expense)
5)"The car is fine. Take it now, and if you have any problems,
we will give you a new one with leather seats and a sun roof,
I promise you."
6)"The car is not smoking anymore, see?"
n.b.(I continued to see smoke and to smell vapors. I also told
them that I believed that the odor resulted from something else
in addition to oil burning)
Trusting the judgment, expertise, and reassurance of the Lexus
representatives, we again embarked on our trip. While driving on the NYS Thruway, we continued to smell vapors from inside the car, and felt it necessary to pull over periodically and step out of our Lexus to breathe fresh air. By the time we arrived at the Music Center, we were coughing heavily and felt burning sensations in our throat and lungs.
For most of Saturday and Sunday, we stayed inside of our hotel room, feeling too ill to attend performances and masterclasses at the festival. I was forced to cancel my own performances scheduled for Saturday evening and Sunday due to my condition. I did, however, feel obliged to try to honor my commitment to give a full day workshop on Monday 8/21/00. During the workshop I felt light-headed and weak, and decided to end the session early after the second break of the morning.
We had planned to return home Tuesday 8/22/00. Two associates of mine from Lincoln Center asked if they could ride back with us. We explained to them the recurring problems we had been experiencing with our Lexus, that we had hoped that the excessive fluids on the engine surface had finished burning off, and agreed to drive them back to the city.
During the first hour of our trip, we were relieved not to smell vapors or to see any smoke. While traveling on the NYS Thruway, however, we did begin to smell vapors again as smoke began to seep in through the vents. We rolled down the windows partly, as we were traveling on a highway, but the smoke continued to overpower us. We felt terrified as we heard the two elderly gentlemen in our back seat coughing, wheezing, and complaining about the smell. I soon felt the power of the engine decrease while depressing the accelerator, looked for the closest rest station, and pulled over. By that time, we were all coughing
heavily, especially my wife. I assisted her and my two associates out of our Lexus, and opened the hood of the car. Again, smoke was emerging from the engine, but more heavily than before. I then escorted my wife to the lavatory where she vomited and coughed profusely. I apologized repeatedly to my associates who were also coughing and feeling ill.
Eventually, the smoke dissipated after the engine cooled. After
repeated attempts to start the Lexus, it would not turn over. My wife, two associates, and I were helplessly stranded at a rest station. It then occurred to me that Lexus had a 24 hour Roadside Assistance. I found their number attached to the owners manual in the glove compartment and called from my cell phone. After explaining the situation and our location to a Lexus representative on the phone, I was told that Lexus was not able to assist us at that time, and it was recommended that we
call a tow truck and handle it ourselves. In great disbelief and despair, we realized that we had been abandoned at a time we most desperately needed assistance.
After several more attempts to start our Lexus, a NYS Thruway patrol car pulled up to us and radioed for assistance. A NYS Thruway Utility Vehicle arrived at the scene and attempted to jump start our Lexus. After connecting jumper cables, the Thruway Emergency patrolman spent nearly 35 minutes attempting to start our Lexus while we watched and waited. Our Lexus
exhibited no sign of turning over, making only faint clicking noises while the key was turned. The patrolman assessed our Lexus to be inoperable and radioed for a tow truck.
We had been detained for nearly three hours. Feeling responsible for the well being of my two associates who were growing fatigued, I asked the Thruway Emergency patrolman to radio for a taxicab, at our expense, to take them home while my wife and I waited for the tow truck to arrive.
When the tow truck arrived 45 minutes later, we instructed the driver to tow our Lexus to the closest Lexus dealership, Lexus of Englewood. I paid for the tow in advance, and had the patrolman radio for a cab so that we could get home. Our total cost was $420 in towing and taxi charges, and our anguish, sense of despair, and trauma.
Our respiratory conditions prevented us from working the following morning. Our coughing persisted, at times quite violently. My wife suffered cramps during her coughing episodes. I began to worry about her since she was pregnant, and felt that this battery of events had been extremely draining on her.
We made an appointment to meet with Mr. Richard Soriano at Lexus
of Manhattan the afternoon of 8/23/00 in regard to the problems with our Lexus. Although he was sympathetic, Mr. Soriano claimed that no loaner cars were available, but did volunteer to have a rental car delivered to Lexus of Manhattan from Enterprise that afternoon. My wife and I were detained for over two hours awaiting our replacement vehicle, but no rental car
arrived, and we had no alternative but to proceed to our appointments, late, hiring taxis for transportation. Our cost for transportation that day was $85, and the inconvenience of not having a vehicle when we needed one.
The next day, 8/24/00 we arrived again at Lexus of Manhattan,
expecting our rental car to be ready. We emphasized to Mr. Soriano that we had waited over two hours the day before for the rental car which never arrived. He apologized, and suggested that we go to the car rental center ourselves to obtain the car and that he would reimburse us in full for the cost of the rental. He also assured us that once our Lexus was repaired in Englewood, he would arrange to have our Lexus driven back to Lexus of Manhattan so that we could retrieve it.
We had a meeting scheduled with clients at the Newark Airport, realized there was no time to wait for a car at the car rental office, and once again, were forced to hire car service to our destination.
When we discussed our alternative plan with Mr. Soriano to rent a vehicle from the airport, he insisted "You will be unable to rent a car at the airport unless you have an airline ticket." Never before had we encountered or heard of such a restriction. We were successful in renting a vehicle from National Rent-A-Car nonetheless. Our cost for transportation to the airport that day was $65.
The evening of 8/24/00, my wife had suffered cramps again. She had been coughing, and remained in the bathroom for a prolonged period of time. When I heard her sobbing through the door, I approached her. She muttered, "It's gone....... It's gone............" She pointed toward the toilet, where she had been bleeding heavily. Our baby had left us -- my wife had had a miscarriage.
On 8/26/00 we returned to Lexus of Manhattan, highly distressed and deeply saddened by our misfortunes. We inquired about the availability of a loaner car, as we were prepared to return our rental car to National. We were told that generally, loaner cars were not issued on Saturdays, but that an exception would be made in our case. We were issued a loaner vehicle by Lexus after signing documents and after photocopies were made of my license and credit card. We relinquished the keys and the paperwork of the National rental to the Lexus representative assisting us who volunteered to return the rental car to National first thing Monday morning, and assured us that Lexus would reimburse us for the cost of the rental. We were then issued a credit slip to fill the loaner with gas, and left that afternoon.
The next several months were extremely difficult for us. My wife and I were plagued with the memories of losing our baby and with the realization that we might have avoided our tragic loss, the detriment to our well being, the detriment to our associates' well being, and the escalation of perilous
experiences and trauma if only we had refused to accept our vehicle from Lexus the second time, after our attempt to return it on 8/18/00.
We then contacted Lexus of Englewood on 9/19/00, who reported several problems found with our Lexus. We were informed that the battery was completely worn and needed replacing, and that the cause of the heavy smoke was due to multiple leaks of oil and fluid from the oil pan and from the transmission dripping directly onto the hot exhaust manifold. This had been the primary cause of the noxious smoke and fumes which
entered our Lexus. These significant leaks were not only overlooked by Lexus of Manhattan after having serviced our Lexus for an extensive 24 week period 3/02/00 - 8/18/00, these leaks had been flippantly dismissed by Lexus as trivial.
Lexus, after having my wife and I return a profusely smoking vehicle for further inspection, after having been given a second opportunity to remedy an extraordinarily hazardous situation, chose to ignore clear signs of danger, leading us into an inevitable predicament of pain, suffering, and loss.
My previously pregnant wife, two passengers, and myself, had been subjected to toxic smoke and vapors emerging from the engine of our Lexus on multiple occasions due to the negligence of Lexus of Manhattan. After our Lexus had been returned for expelling smoke, Lexus representatives urged us to continue driving the smoking vehicle after being made aware of the problem, and knowingly released the vehicle despite our efforts to point out the danger.
We had called Lexus Customer Service Department in Torrance,
California in September to inform Lexus of the multitude of problems we had experienced both in dealing with Lexus and in owning a Lexus. The Lexus representative was, at best, sympathetic, and told us that our troubles would be reviewed. After not hearing back from anyone at Torrance for five months, we decided to make a special trip to Lexus Corporate Headquarters to discuss our case and the video which we
had made to document the events.
We notified Lexus on 3/01/01 that we would be making a special trip to Torrance, California and that we would be arriving at their Corporate Headquarters on 3/06/01. I had spoken to Mr. C.R. Johnson on 3/05/01 on the phone who confirmed that we would be meeting with him at Lexus Corporate Headquarters on 3/06/01 at 2:00 PM, and that apparatus would be made available for viewing our video documentation.
When we arrived for our meeting, in good faith, on 3/06/01 at 2:00 PM, we were surprised to meet Mr. David Boone instead, who informed us that the meeting which had been confirmed by Mr. C.R. Johnson had been canceled. Although we were assured that apparatus would be made available for viewing the video documentation, no such equipment was provided at that time.
During our meeting with Mr. David Boone, my wife and I reviewed our extensive case with him. Mr. Boone sympathized with us, especially after revealing to us that his wife is currently pregnant. He told us that he would not even have allowed her to be exposed to the fumes of a gas pump at a gas station, let alone fumes of decomposed chemicals, in her susceptible
condition. After describing our multiple afflictions and tribulations caused by Lexus, Mr. Boone requested that we compose a preliminary compensation estimate to submit to Lexus for restitution. We asked him how one places a price on the loss of a child. He told us not to worry, that Lexus would
take care of us.
It seems that Lexus had taken care of us in a way we would never have imagined. One day after our meeting with Mr. Boone at Lexus Corporate Headquarters, calls had been received at my place of employment at Juilliard, Lincoln Center, from the Detective Squad and investigators of the New York Police Department claiming that I was in possession of a stolen vehicle.
Lexus, after having issued a loaner vehicle to us on 8/26/00, had falsely reported the same vehicle as stolen to authorities on 3/06/01, the day of our meeting in Torrance, California. The calls placed by police authorities have raised considerable concern and have compromised both my professional image and reputation among my colleagues, administration, and associates at Lincoln Center.
In addition, both my wife and I were placed in a position of considerable danger and vulnerability driving a vehicle which had been placed on the stolen vehicle list, as we could have been pulled over and arrested at gunpoint.
On 3/17/01, our loaner vehicle and its contents were illegally removed from our private property. This outrageous and unlawful act was done with complete disregard to the legally required mandatory notification to local and state municipalities. We were neither contacted nor notified by phone or mail of Lexus's intentions to confiscate our loaner vehicle, which Lexus had issued to us for the duration of time it would take Lexus
to remedy our situation. Our leather bag containing our digital camera, our laptop computer, and crucial documents was secured in the trunk of the loaner vehicle at the time it was repossessed by Lexus.
According to a neighbor, a black car was observed in our driveway
on 3/17/01. A person stepped out of the passenger side of the car, approached our loaner, started it, and drove off with it. No attempt was made to notify us or to return our belongings to us at the time the loaner was taken. Instead, we had been left stranded in New Jersey with no means of transportation, no computer, and no digital camera.
After reporting the missing vehicle to the police, we were informed that Lexus had indeed falsely reported it as stolen, had unlawfully removed it from private property, had neglected to notify the local and state authorities of its intention to repossess the vehicle, and had committed criminal theft of our personal belongings, including our leather bag containing a laptop computer, digital camera, important documents, CD ROMs, and an E-Z Pass.
Once again, we had been victimized by the actions Lexus had taken. My employment at The Juilliard School and The Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center has been jeopardized as a result of our missing laptop computer containing syllabi, course curriculum, placement exams, and irreplaceable documents. Several attempts have been made to retrieve our computer bag and its contents from Lexus of Manhattan to no avail.
As a result, I was forced to attend crucial curriculum meetings without the prerequisite curriculum, syllabus, and other critical documentation.
Furthermore, our credit has been adversely affected with National Rent-A-Car to the extent that we are indefinitely banned from ever renting a vehicle from National in the future. After accepting the loaner car issued to us by Lexus of Manhattan on August 26, 2000, we turned over our paperwork and key to the rental car in exchange for the loaner vehicle. We were assured by a Lexus representative that our rental would be returned to National the following Monday and that we would be reimbursed in full for the cost of the rental. The vehicle was not returned, however, until 9/13/00 leaving us with a bill of $1,484.39, which we have paid but have not yet been compensated for. National has placed us on a permanent "Do Not Rent"
status as a result of Lexus holding the rental for three weeks before returning it.
After recently contacting my two associates of Lincoln Center who traveled with us in our Lexus the day it had broken down on 8/22/00, I have learned that one is now dependent on an oxygen tank in his home, and that the other also has respiratory problems which he attributes to exposure to the toxic smoke in our Lexus. Both my wife and I feel deep remorse for allowing our misfortunes and afflictions to extend to my associates who traveled with us.
The magnitude of this atrocity goes far beyond anything imaginable or comprehensible. However, the service history and video documentation spell it out clearly. Both my wife and I continue to suffer respiratory problems, pain and anguish over our losses and our associates' losses, and trauma and hardships caused by negligence, recklessness, and the sinister actions taken by Lexus, which have further compounded an already grim situation.
Our previous preliminary compensation estimate therefore no longer seems applicable to this ever worsening situation which has escalated considerably since our last meeting. We can only express to Lexus that their heinous actions and associated repercussions have tormented us in a continuous and spiraling manner, and may well continue to plague and to haunt us for the remainder of our lives.
Other victims please contact us.