Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It was bound to happen at some point

Well, when I agreed to "test drive" the MINI-E for a year I knew it was a prototype. I knew (and was warned) that there would probably be problems, breakdowns and other inconveniences to deal with, but I still wanted to be part of the largest deployment of electric vehicles by a major auto manufacturer since GM's EV-1 so I agreed to be one of the guinea pigs driving around in a prototype vehicle. Funny thing is, I really haven't had to deal with any of those problem. Yes, I had to have the car service twice to have battery modules replaced, but both times the car was parked when the warning icon came on so I wasn't stranded anywhere and I simply drove my other car that day while the car was taken in to replace the modules. It took eight months and 21,000 miles of driving for me to actually have a break down and to be fair it really wasn't entirely the cars fault.
We have had a real cold winter so far here in New Jersey and a lot of snow recently. The frequent plowing and salting of the roads results in pot holes developing and some can get really big before they are repaired. A few days ago I was driving to work in the morning and was going about 50 mph and found one of those big, nasty potholes with my front right wheel and broke something in the front end. I'm not quite sure if it's a part that is specific to the electric drive or something that is on a regular MINI but the car made a very loud bang when I hit it and continued to make loud banging/grinding noises so I had to pull over and call the 800 line for roadside assistance. The tow truck came in about a half hour and took me and the car to Morristown MINI
Vinny, the service rep that is the MINI-E specialist there took great care of me and got me a loaner car from Enterprise (all the MINI loaners were out or he said he would have given me one of them). I'm happy to report that the "flying doctors" that work on the MINI-E's have been feeding more information to the dealers than they previously were, so Vinny is current on what is going on with the cars that have been taken to Woodcliff Lake to be repaired. This wasn't the case in the beginning when we first got the cars. The dealers really had no information about the MINI-E's that were being serviced and the customers were frustrated because they couldn't find out the status of their cars. I talked with Vinny for a bit and he told me that he now gets the information that he needs to keep the customers in the loop and that's a great improvement. I used to feel bad for the guys at the dealers because some of the MINI-E participants would give them a hard time about the lack of information but it wasn't their fault, they weren't getting any info. Vinny assured me that he'll stay on top of it and give me a progress report as soon as he hears something and he did. I got a call from him a couple days after I brought the car in and he told me that they identified the problem and have begun the repairs. He said the pot hole caused considerable damage and it would take a couple more days to complete the repair and bring the car back to Morristown for me and that he'd give me a call when he knows exactly when it will be ready. He then went on to apologize for my inconvenience and told me that I would be refunded this months lease payment for my troubles. Now that's good service! (especially since the repair was kinda my fault)


  1. Come on Tom - cough it up - you finally jumped that bridge ;)

  2. Shhh! You know Richard Steinberg reads this!