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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • I had my arbitration hearing today.

    To start, they asked if I wanted to negotiate with Lexus to solve the problem. I agreed and they left the room. All Lexus wanted to do was let me trade my car in on a different model and pay the difference. That's not much of a resolution - since I can do that any time I want. I declined.

    After all the preliminaries, I started with a description of the problem and documenting evidence (including NHTSA reports were 50% of all ES problems were related to this problem, reports from this board, reports from, and a letter from Lexus admitting that there was a transmission problem).

    Lexus got to respond. They stated that there was no problem and it was simply a matter of my driving style. They argued that the car was within specs.

    I then asked them what the specification on transmission hesistation was. They admitted that there is no spec on this parameter. I asked how they determined that my car was within design parameters if there's no spec. They said that they compare it to other cars of the same year and make. I then said "so if every ES has the same problem, you will then say that mine is normal?". She refused to answer the question.

    One of the arbitrators asked if there was any record of accidents caused by this problem. I wasn't aware of any, nor was Lexus.

    We then did the test drive. The car hesitated right on cue. No question about that.

    After coming back into the room, we each gave our closing statement. Lexus repeated that it was a 'shifting style' problem and not a real problem. I repeated that by Lexus definition, if 100% of the cars had their wheels fall of, it would not be considered a problem. In reality, the hundreds of complaints as well as the results of the test drive show that it was a real problem.

    I'll know within 10 days. If I don't win this, then I'd say that there's little chance of ever winning an arbitration hearing. The evidence was pretty clear.

    I'll let everyone know how it turns out.
  • Sorry that was a copy - paste mistake. The intended message was this one:
    I too have a 2004 ES with an annoying rattle from either the front passenger seat or door. I can't seem to figure out the source of the noise. I'm pretty sure that if I move the passenger seat all the way forward the noise disappears.
    I asked the dealer to look into it a the 5K check but they were unable to duplicate it.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,404
    The dealer has to duplicate the problem because he needs to prove to the factory that he is replacing something defective, either by showing a part to the rep or some affadavit. If he can't prove that to the factory, he eats the repair which of course he is reluctant to do. he can't submit a warranty claim that says "Replace gixbo box #2, didn't solve problem, pay me anyway for time and materials".


  • As someone else has already stated, the larger problem is that the dealer has to know what to replace before he starts. There are thousands of parts in a modern auto and quite a few of them could cause a rattle. What's the dealer supposed to do - start changing parts at random? Or maybe replace every single part in the car that could possibly cause a rattle? Neither of those options is acceptable, obviously.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,404
    The dealer gets, I believe, some token amount for "rattles", some minimum time. He can't really send two people out in your car, one to drive, one to listen, for very long and not start losing money.

    So you see the customer and the factory sort of play "bookends" on the dealer and he plays both sides as best he can.

    Don't presume the relationship between dealer and factory is all warm and cuddley. Far from it, they are often at war, sometimes at peace.

    I think everybody involved wants someone else to be holding the bag, is what it boils down to.


  • gottlsgottls Posts: 21
    I've been following this forum for several weeks now deciding on whether or not to buy the 2005 ES330. I do believe that the reported rattles and transmission hesitation complaints are real, but does this effect the majority of the cars, or just a few? I understand that rattles come and go, however a transmission safety problem is a real concern. So, are there people out there who have the ES330 WITHOUT these problems? I sure would like to know before I put this car at the top of my list. Thanks for your time.
  • maxhonda99maxhonda99 Posts: 1,289
    You may want to ask the question in the regular ES300/ES330 forum also since more ES300/330 owners frequent those boards.
  • poto1xpoto1x Posts: 26
    Why take a chance? If you get one with a transmission problem it's yours and yours alone. Do you want to spend the time filing under the Lemon law or going through arbitration or being involved in an accident?

    ps: The problem isn't always obvious in the test drive because of the adaptive learning "feature", it can first occur after a couple thousand miles!
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    I've driven my 03 ES300 for 1 1/2 yrs now and have followed this website for the entire time. The first time I noticed hesitation and rough downshifting was after about 1,000 miles. So, the adaptive feature of the transmission can result in a difficult assessment for prospective buyers.
    Everyone is different. Some think the tranny is dangerous, others don't seem to notice. Such a variation is difficult to explain, but many people think that the transmission performance is consistent from car to car and that the real difference is in "how you drive".
    If you are someone who is very demanding of precision performance or if you have been use to drivng a BMW or similar German-made car, you could be disappointed with the ES.
    On the other hand, if you don't drive aggressively and are moving up to the Lexus brand, you might be satisfied with the ES.
    I would suggest that you talk to as many owners and test drive the ES as much as you can to decide for yourself.
    I've owned Toyotas and earlier model Lexus vehicle and this ES with the 5sp tranny shifts rougher and hesitates far more than my previous '95 Avalon and my wife's 01 RX300.
    Best of luck in your assessment.
  • abe2abe2 Posts: 2
    I am scheduled for es 330 arbritration at the end of Oct. 2005. How did your arb. Go? Any advice? Have you seen Lexus Response to arb. manufacturers response form. They outright lie , and they claim the car must be safe and reliable since I have driven 16,000 miles on the car. Funny, I've been complaining about the acc. lag since week one, What was my altenative to driving the car?
  • abe2abe2 Posts: 2
    Sorry, My arbitration is scheduled for the end of the month. Any advice on how to deal with them.
  • I don't know if this will do any good since I haven't gotten the results yet, but I would suggest:

    Lexus will claim that the car is operating within specifications. Simply ask them what the specification is for acceptable shift time. They will then say 'we don't have a specification, it depends on circumstances.' Point out that this statement is inconsistent with a flat statement that it is with specifications.

    Another approach is to ask Lexus to search their computer database to determine how many people have brought their ES in for transmission complaints. The Lexus person said that they had that information, but did not have immediate access to it. She did say 'it's not a significant percentage' which I find very hard to believe. Everyone I know has complained at least once. You might be able to press them for statistics - what percent of all ES owners brought the car in at least once with a complaint of transmission problems?' If you could get this answer, it might strengthen the argument immensely.

    The other approach I used was in response to the 'the car operates as designed'. I asked 'did you design the car with a multisecond delay in shifting?' The Lexus person will ALWAYS refuse to answer that - don't let them off the hook. If they say that the car was DESIGNED to have a 2 second delay, they look foolish - and you can then easily say that's a defective design. If, on the other hand, they say that the car should NOT have a 2 second delay, you can show that your car is NOT operating as designed. They lose either way.

    Depending on the arbitrator, you may be able to push harder. I asked 'since you don't have a specification, how did you know that my car was operating as designed?' The Lexus person said 'we compare your car to other cars with the same model and year.' I pointed out at that point that by this definition if 100% of the cars had a fatal flaw it would be OK since they're all the same way.

    Finally, I printed out about 50 pages of docs from the NHTSA site, this site and the Lexus Owner's club. I had identified several hundred complaints on the issue. That makes it harder for Lexus to say that it's not a problem.

    You might also bring in a couple of Lexus ads claiming that they offer 'pursuit of perfection'.

    However, I don't want to get anyone's hopes up. The arbitrators are supposed to be completely independent and I felt that they were. They asked one good question 'does anyone know of an accident caused by the delay?' Lexus said that there were none and I was not aware of any. That weakens the argument that the problem is so severe that Lexus should refund $35 K. I'm not aware of anyone who's won an arbitration hearing.

    Good luck.
  • Got my response today on arbitration. The arbitrators unanimously decided that I had not proved that the transmission problem significantly impaired the usefulness or safety of the car.

    Given that the Lexus person admitted that they didn't have any specifications and that their 'the car meets design criteria' REALLY meant that 'all of the ES cars do that', I don't think the hearing could have gone any better.

    I guess they were swayed by the fact that there have been no accidents reported.

    I don't have the time to get a lawyer, but if anyone is starting a class action, I'll join in.
  • I am considering buying a Lexus, but the nearest dealer is approximately 100 miles away. Will Toyota do warranty work on Lexus?
  • maxhonda99maxhonda99 Posts: 1,289
    "Will Toyota do warrant work on Lexus?"

    No. I believe Toyota dealers will not honor the warranty.
  • Now you know why Lexus is not doing anything about the problem. There is absolutely no incentive for them doing so. Also, if you go to trial on this issue, the results from the arbitration can be submitted by the defense.

    I think it all depends on which arbitrator you get. I went through arbitration with a dealer because of a faulty transmission on a Toyota Tacoma. The arbitrator didn't even need to take a test drive. He made his decision only on the records I kept(under the Lemon Law) and that was good enough. The only difference is that the Service Manager agreed that there was a problem. The dealer refunded the entire cost of the vehicle on a pro-rata basis. (Six months of ownership was subtracted).

    I am not convinced that all of the arbitrators are impartial. We don't know what kind of kick-backs are being passed around.
  • Yep. That about sums it up. In spite of Lexus admitting that they lied about the car meeting specifications, and the fact that there are hundreds of complaints, and the fact that there was an obvious delay in excess of 1 second when stepping on the gas (I repeated it 4 times for the arbitrators), the arbitrator says that there's no safety issue.

    Lexus may have one this one, but they lost the war. We have about 20 US divisions and the Presidents are allowed to spend $35 K every 4 years for a new car. I will make sure that every one of them knows about this problem. There's a good chance that they'll lose quite a few sales from that alone.

    Not to mention that I will continue to tell everyone I know who's considering a Lexus - both here and in other forums.

    And sure as heck I'm never buying another one. Since I buy 2 cars every 3-4 years, they're losing out. If it weren't for the transmission and the way they dealt with it, the Lexus would have been my choice almost every time.

    I wonder why they're too stupid to realize how much their handling of this issue is costing them?
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836
    The downshift delay in the ES300/330 is one weak point of this otherwise great car. The shift logic in this transmission will try to keep the car in the highest possible gear for maximum fuel efficiency and lower emission. Remember, this car is classified as SULEV whereas the pre 2002 where classified as ULEV. Also the gas mileage of the post 2002 ES300/330 is 20/29. Whereas the older version only got about 19 city and 26 highway.
  • Frankly, I don't care what their excuse is. When you try to merge onto a freeway, the car sits there for a couple of seconds thinking before it starts to move. That's extremely dangerous. The extra couple of mpg aren't going to mean much when I get killed because I'm rear-ended when my car won't get out of its own way.

    If they couldn't make it SULEV and keep it safe, they should have passed on the SULEV thing.
  • I just wanted to take the time to thank you.....I have been lurking on this board for a while and experiencing the same issues as you concerning the transmission of my 2003 ES300. I have been back and forth with the service dept, and they have offered me trade on my vehicle and I said i'd listen to their offer. The dealership informed me that corporate would be willing to sell me a vehicle at invoice minus the holdback of 2%. I explained that I would like him to price as RX330, as it really is the only other vehicle in the lineup which I can afford and fits my size requirements. (The IS is too small) He also explained that they realized my car had an issue and they would give me a “really good deal” on a trade.

    The following day he called me back with a price for my ES300 of 22K. I was insulted- I’ve had the car merely 15 months and it has 21,000 miles. This is no where near the blue book value, nor is it any compensation for the fact that Lexus has sold me a faulty vehicle. In addition, the price he was willing to give me on the RX330 was not invoice minus 2% holdback.

    I was curious what if they ever gave you a price when they offered you a trade. I can go anywhere else and get a better deal than they were offering.
    Below is the response I got back from corporate as well as my reply:
    Thank you for contacting Lexus Customer Satisfaction regarding your 2003 ES 300. We appreciate the time you have taken to share your thoughts.

    Upon further review of your service history, Lexus has determined that there is nothing defective with your vehicle's transmission. It is operating as designed. We apologize you are dissatisfied with the driving response characteristic but there are no further technical updates to address your concern. We have documented your dissatisfaction here at our national headquarters for future product consideration.

    If you are still dissatisfied with our position, you may pursue your rights under your state's Lemon Law or through third party arbitration with the National Center for Dispute Settlement. They can be reached at 1-866-272-4872. Please refer to the Owner's Manual Supplement for more information. Again, we are sorry for any inconvenience this situation has caused you.

    If you would like to discuss your concerns further, you can also reach the Lexus Customer Satisfaction Department at 1-800-255-3987, Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Pacific Time.

    My Reply:

    If the vehicle is operating as designed, what is the specification for acceptable shift time? I do not care that you have documented my dissatifaction for future product consideration, I only care about what you can do to remedy my situation. In addition, I do not appreciate the "canned" response to my inquiry, as I know that the many others who have complained about this issue have gotten the EXACT same response.

    To conclude, I feel the pain that you and many others are going through, and I am ready to take this to the next level.
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