Or: What you need is a warranty for your warranty.
This is not a complaint – those days are over (I can only hope). Now is the time for tales and morals, as in the moral of the story. This story concerns the purchase of a home generator, a model EM4000 by Honda, and 2 failures, out of the box as they say.
This story is also about how a warranty repair comes with no guarantee.
Here’s the story.
The generator was delivered and turned on for a test the second week of 2015. It failed to run longer than 1 minute before sputtering to a stop – repeatedly. We called American Honda Power Equipment Division (AHPED), filed a failure report and obtained the name of a local authorized dealer for repair. The local service repaired and returned the unit, and while waiting, I started it . It ran now, but oscillated, every second or so. It was obvious to both the service representative and myself that the generator still failed to operate normally. Back to authorized service it went.
Here is the video I shot of this failure. It shows the unit connected to a heater, for a load, and a light, as an obvious indicator of voltage stability, the problem.
The events so far took about a month, the next 5 were spent trying to convince Honda that their warranty statement meant what it said. Here’s one line of it: “American Honda will repair or replace, at its option, any Honda Power Equipment parts, accessories, or apparel that are proven to be defective in material or workmanship under normal use during the applicable warranty time period.” My italics.
In this case, I did not need to prove anything, fortunately, the failure could not be more obvious – oscillating voltage. The question for Honda, and the issue for me was, how was Honda going to prove what material was defective? That proof was critical: either prove what material failed, or prove the unit now works. After all, we are now looking at a brand new out of box second failure.
A generator performs only one function – it makes electricity. And the electricity from this Honda generator should comply with their – Honda’s – specification, sent to me in an email from AHPED, and repeated here verbatim:
“The voltage variation on your unit at the given load is : Voltage variation rate: Momentary 15% max. Average 7% max. Average time 5 sec. max. Voltage stability: ± 1% max.”
AHPED also acknowledged that the authorized service they sent me to did not have test equipment necessary to verify that the failed “material” they somehow identified as the cause of the failure had resulted in a generator now working according to specification. Oh Honda does have this test equipment, just not at the service dealer they sent me to, it’s in another county.
Here’s what the test device looks like, photographed when it was finally brought to my home in order to test the generator repair.
In the beginning, there was the great debate. The generator was stuck in warranty limbo, that being the authorized service shop waiting for resolution while I negotiated with AHPED: emails back and forth – AHPED refusing to make available their test device (shown here).
Purchased online through one of Amazon Payments distributors – would either Amazon or the distributor be of any assistance? No. All requests I made for help had them pointing back to the Honda warranty. But the Honda warranty, along with my generator, was not working.
Next, a string of consumer complaints.
BBB of Metro Atlanta, Athens & NE Georgia – the Better Business Bureau – apparently their function is to bring both sides together, clarify the issues in the hope that clarity will bring resolution.
This effort eventually resulted in my repeating that to verify a voltage irregularity repair, one needs at least, a volt meter, while Honda fell back on simply re-quoting their warranty policy – “will repair defects in materials or workmanship during the warranty period.” This cat was chasing its tail – no resolution, case closed by BBB.
Next, New York State, Department of Consumer Affairs – complaint still pending. And, NYS Department of Financial Services – complaint still pending. I also wrote a warranty story to Consumer Reports.
During all of these various communications, I cc’d all parties I thought should be concerned: Amazon Payment, the distributor I purchased the generator from, and of course, AHPED (The authorized service dealer was always helpful although, as it turns out, mainly services other types of gasoline powered machinery). There were many emails – sometimes several in one day – sometimes clarifying, sometimes rebuffing, and of course, complaining complaining complaining.
Here is a later one from me to everyone involved, and an excerpt from Honda:
“I do not have – have not had since bought in December 2014 – the Honda generator. It sleeps at the authorized Honda service place in a town nearby. This generator failed to run out of the box – this problem (sputtering and stalling after 1 minute run, continuously) was fixed by authorized service. At this point a new problem became apparent: oscillating voltage – connected light dims and brightens at intervals (see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8zu5RROcQ8). Honda USA finally admits that the authorized service they referred me to does not have the facility to render this type of repair, i.e. voltage meter or analyzer and load resister. Amazon Payments states that supplier’s warranty does not permit a refund under these circumstances and leaves it at that – no help there. The distributor refers me to the Honda warranty. Honda USA insists that authorized service should repair under warranty, but acknowledges they can not verify efficacy of this repair. Everyone – can we all act like adults here and someone take some responsibility and offer an actual solution other than pointing a finger? After 6 months of letter writing, this spectacle is wearing very thin.”
From Honda –
“If you still have concerns with the operation of the unit after you receive it back from the dealer. We can suggest that you take the generator to another Honda dealer. There they can load bank the unit and give you a second opinion.”
“Second opinion” here refers to Honda’s suggestion that I transport the generator to another authorized dealer where an actual test could be performed showing voltage stability. Interesting use of the phrase, “second opinion,” attempting to reduce the issue to opinion from one of facts: electrical specifications are not opinions – what I had been asking for all along was a repair based on fact, NOT opinion.
Next, a letter to Japan – politely explaining the situation and asking for their assistance.
Here’s their response. I’ve blacked out the name – after all, they did respond – the point is, the letter’s real.
“…results of their decision” – Coded, it says: “We have told AHPED to resolve this issue to the customer’s satisfaction.” I say this because the phone call I received from AHPED was just that, literally, a request for me to tell Honda what I want.
I responded, “I’m shocked” (no pun), the voice on the phone replied lightly, “Why?” I said, “Are you familiar with the history of this?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “That’s why I’m shocked.”
My request?: test the generator with your test equipment in order to demonstrate the voltage is now within your stated specification.
And they did. Six months, countless emails, consumer complaints, letters, reviews and finger pointing, and guess what? The Honda generator area rep arrives, along with the local authorized service rep and the test unit in the back of his car, hooks up the generator and verifies all is good.
Here’s a video of the final verification test.
End of story? Sort of.
Consider Honda’s specification: “Voltage stability: ± 1% max.”
Now look at the volt meter on their tester. Notice the incremental markings: 10 volt increments.
1% of 120 VAC is 1.2 volts.
You can’t verify ± 1% using this gauge. “Don’t worry,” I told the rep, “We’re good here.”
I accepted the test, and the repair (one can only hope that Honda’s factory test has a different meter).
What I cannot accept is the way AHPED handled this.
Their area service rep keeps this tester in his car, he rotates from dealer to dealer, including the one my generator sat in for 6 months. So why did AHPED expend all this energy fighting off my complaint when there was a simple and effective resolution at their fingertips?
I’ll speculate one or all of the following:
* Even though all of my communications with AHPED filtered through the same person, and the area rep knows that person, it is possible information did not travel to the right people – possible.
The local authorized service people, and the Honda area rep – all very pleasant and helpful –
* But from the outside, it appears AHPED people are not customer oriented, that is, not trained to solved problems (more focused on looking at and fighting for the bottom line dollar?).
* Not trained and/or not delegated the authority to do the reasonable thing.
Any way I look at it, I actually feel for these Honda employees – I would not want to work under these conditions.
Nor be their customer.