I purchased a 2004 Mazda RX8 in Florida during it's 1st production run. Although minor problems were experienced in the initial few months, the manufacturer backed everything and the performance was stellar. To this day, I still love the car. As of now, I have incurred 24,700+ miles.
8 months ago, I came to Marin County, Ca. to work on contract. As this contract is a long term arrangement, I brought my vehicle for daily transportation.
After 2 months here, I began to notice the acrid odor of clutch burn, not always, but rather rarely and with no reason (i.e., not going up hill, or riding the clutch, etc.). As I was about due for an oil change anyhow, I made an appointment with Marin Mazda and brought it in, referring to the problem, and suggesting an adjustment to the clutch/flywheel assembly (I have owned manual shifts since I was 16). This was when I first met John Lauster, Marin Mazda's Service Manager. As a person, to this day, I still like John alot- I really do.
During my initial visit they said they were unable to find or reproduce what I had experienced, and that according to the diagnostics, everything was operating under proper ranges. Satisfied that, as my car was under warranty, and these individuals were professionals appointed and empowered to represent the product, I was ok.
3 months later, I experienced it again, only a bit more in length, and the smell lasted for 5-10 minutes. I brought it in again. And again, thay said they couldn't find anything wrong.
On the 20th of Sept., 2005, I experienced it again. The smell was overwhelming, and the clutch began to slip, a little at first, but within 20 minutes the slippage had deteriorated to the point where I knew I could not continue to drive it without possibly damaging the transmission. I immediately called Marin Mazda service and scheduled to bring it in, and had it towed from my home to the dealership.
On Friday Morning, John called me. He stated that they would have to replace the clutch assembly (bearings, flywheel, the whole package) and that as my 12 month/12k mile warranty on the transmission had expired, the cost would be passed to me. $1300.00. Needless to say, I was dumbstruck. My vehicle, 2 years old, with 24K miles, and a history of a reported problem to this dealership pertaining to the failure, WAS NOT COVERED FOR THIS ITEM?!? John was nice, professional, and offered zero confrontation. He went ahead and put in for a decision from the factory rep for coverage due to the history, and extenuating circumstances. John, thank you. He told me he would call me back with the rep's decision.
I then immediately contacted Mazda USA- and then the run around began. $9 an hour techs answering the phone after 20-30 minute hold times only to take a message with a loose promise that someone would be in touch. I thought I hit a time warp and went back to the 90's, where the corporations actually thought they could buy time by diverting the progression of information, and sticking you in a loop. But I am an open fellow, so I went through the motions, thinking that Mazda would surely see the obvious issue, and being the stand up company I percieved them to be, would stand behind the product as the problem was obvious and related to a recent recall involving thermal damage.
A couple hours later, I got a phone call from John. He stated the factory rep was qualifying it as "normal wear" and Mazda would not be covering it. I discussed with John the fact that this problem was brought to his attention 6 months ago, but he reiterated that as Mazda had made it's decision, the dealership was going to stand by it as well. I was astonished. I pleaded with him lightly, but to no avail. I told him I would would call back, and then hung up.
I began doing research online- and was empowered at the number of same and/or similar events I found. Transmission problems with Mazda products, 626, RX7, RX8, the 3 & 6 series- all clutch and flywheel assembly related. Many with horror stories worse then mine, some with happy endings as the dealer or manufacturer stepped up and reacted with honor and integrity. All experienced what I am going through initiallly though- where the dealer & manufacturer would not recognize this recurring problem as an item they were responsible for, and instead pushing the cost on the consumer.
I called John back, armed with knowledge. Surely now, with the light of sanity this had provided me, I would be able to convince other sane people that there was an obvious issue stemming from the product, and not it's use. But John was still firm in his resolve, however empathetic, but Mazda's Factory rep's decision was final.
So here I am, looking for my own reconciliation in all this, in the hopes that Marin Mazda, or the HQ Mazda USA, will take the time to KEEP the customer they worked so hard to get in the first place. In the end, it is just a car- it is the honor and integrity behind the service and the warranty that defines the true quality behind any product. Without such, the car is useless to anyone. Feel free to contact me with any legal adice or to share a similar experience.
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