As anyone who has driven an electric car for any length of time will tell you, driving electric comes with its advantages and its disadvantages.
Alongside the benefits of never having to pay for gas again, the quiet, smooth acceleration and low running costs, electric car owners often highlight the low service costs associated with electric car ownership, thanks to there being no engine oil to change, spark plugs to replace or emissions checks to pass.
But one Nissan LEAF owner in the UK got the shock of his life recently when he took his car in for its annual service to discover that the service department had charged him £8.94 for a new oil filter and £17.50 for a new air filter. (While the Nissan LEAF does in fact have an air filter for its in-car HVAC system, the interval of changing it is is far longer than an annual service.)
Enter J Pantsjoha, (AKA @EVmeerkat on Twitter) a London-based telecommunications professional who first purchased a Citroen C-Zero electric car back in 2011 as his commuting car but quickly expanded his family fleet to include a 2013 Nissan LEAF after experiencing the joys of low-cost motoring.
By the time he booked his LEAF in for its first annual service at the end of last year, Pantsjoha was an electric car-driving pro, having racked up tens of thousands of miles since first plugging in in 2011. As a consequence, nothing, he felt, could catch him out.
With the car booked into the local Nissan dealer in Mill Hill, London, Pantsjoha took his car in for the service, and arranged to drop by later in the day after work when the service was complete.
We’ll let him pick up the story that afternoon after work.
“When I visited the main dealer desk, I was advised that the First Service charge was £149, which I found odd because I know many other LEAF driver-colleagues who have paid much less for the first service,” he said. “Then I was promptly told that I only needed to pay £109, which is as welcome as it was, still confusing as I have heard a number of different charges from £79 to £109 quoted by other drivers.”
He paid, picked up his car’s keys and the prerequisite printout sheets from the service, and headed out to the dealer parking lot to find his car parked waiting for him. Thanks to a complementary clean, he noted the car was shiny and fresh, but didn’t think anything else about either the service cost confusion or the service itself.
While sitting in traffic, he glanced at the service sheet.
“What I found, at first I barely noticed,” he said. “Then I had to double-take and finally, when I arrived home, I sat down and started laughing.”
Pantsjoha had been charged for an oil filter and air filter on the service. Despite listing his car’s licence plate and VIN number at the top of the service sheet, the accompanying job detailed below was the first annual service for a Nissan Pixo — a small low-cost gasoline minicar jointly manufactured with Maruti Suzuki and available in Europe with both Nissan and Suzuki badges.
Pantsjoha contacted Nissan Customer Services, who directed him back to the dealer in question. While the dealer quickly admitted there was a mistake with the invoicing and agreed to process a refund, the process of obtaining the refund quickly became rather long-winded.
“When I called the dealer, I was told that it was a mistake, but that someone would call me back [to arrange a refund],” he explained. “When I called the dealer three days later for the refund, I was asked for my credit card details and advised that £30 would be refunded ‘sometime today’ back on my card. Days later, nothing had happened.”
More calls were made with Nissan Customer Services and to the dealer to chase the issue, with the entire process taking several weeks. Still, not sign of the refund came, with neither side seemingly able to get hold of each other.
Both Pantsjoha and the dealer in question say they each tried to call the other. This morning, when we rang Mill Hill Nissan for an official statement — Pantsjoha hadn’t heard anything since Friday last week — we were told that the service department had been “trying for weeks” to contact the LEAF owner, something Pantsjoha says hasn’t happened.
“I haven’t had a single missed call on my mobile phone,” he told us today via email. “The details I provided previously appear to have been misplaced, so today I will give them another call.”
“We would like to give him his money back,” a service agent at Mill Hill told us this morning. “We’d like to pay him.”
“Legally, we cannot comment on cases without permission from the customer,” a Nissan spokesperson told us this afternoon. While the dealer has admitted that the problem was caused by a ‘computer error,’ neither Nissan nor the dealer can provide any insight into how the problem occurred in the first place.
“I’m on the phone with the general manager at the dealership now for the refund,” Pantsjoha told us at lunch time today. “The amount varies though. Not £30, but £14.” Later on, the dealer called back, he said, and agreed at £30 refund would be credited as soon as possible.
“Apparently, someone in service booked the car in as a Nissan Pixo,” he confirmed. “The dealer is investigating this internally, and they’ll call me next week to ensure the refund has gone through.”
While this particular problem appears to be close to a resolution, it does serve as a reminder to those who have plug-in cars that service schedules — and more to the point service requirements — are often different to gasoline vehicles.
Even with plug-in hybrids and range-extended electric cars like the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and Chevrolet Volt, exact service requirements are often ignored by dealers eager to cash in on service consumables which aren’t always required. As a consequence, it’s always worth checking specific service requirements for your vehicle — and checking oil life indicators if your range-extended or plug-in hybrid car has one — before booking it in.
Finally, it reminds us of one very simple, golden rule when paying for any goods or services. Always. Read. The. Bill. First.
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