Acura asks vehicle owners to pay to diagnose possible defect

A Cape Breton man is accusing Acura of “gouging” customers after he was informed he would be required to pay for an oil change needed to diagnose a manufacturer's defect.

Automaker says customer who complained can apply to be reimbursed

Acura is offering some vehicle owners a warranty extension if their car is using excessive amounts of oil. However, Bob Martel was told he'd have to pay for the oil change needed to diagnose the problem. (Submitted)

A Cape Breton man is accusing Acura of "gouging" customers after he was informed he would be required to pay for an oil change needed to diagnose a possible problem with the luxury vehicle.

"I think it's pretty cheap," Bob Martel of West Arichat told CBC News.

"I don't really understand why you would set up a process which required the customer to pay part of the assessment."

Martel recently received a warranty extension notice from Acura, saying certain 2009-2014 Acuras with 3.7-litre V6 engines may experience excessive oil consumption. He paid approximately $41,000 for his 2012 Acura TL — the second Acura he's owned.

Vehicle owners told to pay

The notice said an oil consumption test is required to determine whether his vehicle is using too much oil.

What it doesn't say, and what Martel discovered when he contacted the Acura dealer in Halifax, is that he's expected to pay for the oil change associated with the test.

"It's really not about the money. It's the principle," Martel said, adding he would understand the need to pay if he had a complaint that he wanted checked. However, he said Acura started the process because of a possible manufacturer's defect so the company should pay for it.

In the notice to customers, Acura said it is extending the warranty on affected vehicles for six months starting Nov. 15, 2018 with no mileage limit. After that, the warranty period will change to eight years from the original date of the vehicle purchase or 200,000 kilometres, whichever occurs first.

Acura stressed the extension is being taken "as a customer satisfaction measure and not due to safety concerns."

Pricey engine repairs

It also said if there is a problem, the dealer will repair the affected engine components — work that can cost between $3,000 and $8,000, according to George Iny, executive director of the Automobile Protection Association.

Iny said customers who don't want to pay for the oil change could arrange for the diagnosis when a scheduled oil change is required, adding they will benefit from the no-charge repair at the end.

Car expert Doug Bethune said Acura has been producing vehicles with high oil consumption for years. He points to an investigation by an American law firm into this issue with an eye to a possible class-action lawsuit.

Acura responds

CBC News requested an interview with an Acura representative about the requirement that owners pay for the oil change. 

In response, Acura spokesperson Laura Heasman sent an email that simply said, "Upon speaking with our customer relations department, we've discovered that Honda and Mr. Martel have come to a mutually agreeable resolution on this matter."

Heasman said customer complaints are considered on a "case-by-case basis" and that customers "may apply for reimbursement from Honda Canada for the cost of the required oil change." 

Martel said he was told by an Acura representative that because of customer loyalty, he could apply for a refund of the oil change fee. Martel said he's not agreeable to that and wants the fee waived, but also said he has little choice but to get the diagnosis.

"I'm very disappointed in the brand right now," said Martel.

About the Author

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days, she's focused on helping consumers get the most bang for their bucks and avoid being ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca.

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