NBC 5 Responds: Drivers Left on Hook by Transmission Troubles

Drivers say a prominent carmaker left them on the hook after transmissions failed twice in less than one year

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Drivers say that a prominent carmaker left them on the hook after their transmissions failed twice in less than a year, and NBC 5 Responds discovered they are not alone.

Jerking. Shaking. Stuttering. These are the words drivers across the country are using to describe close calls on the road while driving certain Nissan cars equipped with a CVT transmission – or "Continuously Variable Transmission." 

The CVT transmission, touted by Nissan as a feature that provides a “seamless, stronger acceleration and increased fuel economy” is also the focus of a class action lawsuit that alleges the carmaker knowingly installed defective CVT transmissions in potentially 1.4 million vehicles, including:

  • 2013-2017 Nissan Sentra
  • 2012-2017 Nissan Versa
  • 2014-2017 Nissan Versa Note

A preliminary settlement agreement was reached in November with Nissan agreeing to extend the warranty on affected cars and reimbursing out of pocket costs. A final hearing is scheduled for March 6, 2020. The carmaker denied any wrong doing.

While that case was playing out in court, NBC 5 Responds began hearing from concerned drivers – who are not part of the lawsuit -- who say it happened to them too.

Gary Sugerman relies on his 2015 Nissan Sentra to deliver medical supplies.

He bought the car used, with less than 45,000 miles on it.

“I’m in my car like eight hours a day and it always has to be running in top shape,” Sugerman said.

That was not the case for long. Sugerman says the transmission in his 2015 Nissan Sentra conked out 30,000 miles after he bought it. 

“It felt like it was giving it gas, but the car wasn’t moving any faster. Like it had no power to the engine,” Sugerman recalls. “I could have gotten stuck on the highway. This is dangerous. Every day, I was putting my life in jeopardy.”

Because Sugerman’s Sentra was still under warranty, Nissan replaced the CVT transmission with a new one, free of charge.

Recent college graduate Miranda Morin wasn’t so lucky. She also bought a used Sentra with low mileage and says her 2014 went ka-put just out of warranty. When Nissan wouldn’t pay to replace it, Morin says she was forced to take out a $3,700 loan.

“That’s a lot of money for anyone, let alone a struggling college student,” Morin said.  

But the problems didn’t stop there. Sugerman and Morin say both newly replaced CVT transmissions quickly failed too.

“The guy says, nope it’s your transmission again, and I’m like, you got to be kidding me, another one?” Sugerman said.

“I just started crying,” Morin said. “I was like, that is my luck, isn’t it?”

Both cars are on their third transmissions in less than a year.

It is a problem plaguing other drivers, too. NBC 5 Responds found more than 200 similar complaints on 2014 and 2015 Nissan Sentra’s alone on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website.

Sugerman and Morin say they tried to battle Nissan on their own, but reached out to NBC 5 Responds after the carmaker refused to make them whole.

“Nissan just called and they’re not paying for anything,” Sugerman said.

We asked Nissan why no reimbursement for Sugerman and Morin from the get- go, and why no recall?

In a statement, Nissan North America told NBC 5 Responds:

"Nissan is confident in the quality of our CVT technology and works with our supplier to make ongoing changes to enhance performance and durability.  Our current models and service parts reflect the latest available product enhancements.

As to specific customers, Nissan will from time to time assist customers with a portion of repairs not covered by the new car limited warranty. These decisions are made on a case by case basis and depend on a number of factors that are considered.  In the cases of Mr. Sugerman and Ms. Morin, Nissan ultimately covered 100% of the cost of the transmission replacements."

The carmaker then agreed to pay for the second transmissions for both drivers.

Back on the road, Sugerman and Morin say they are cautiously optimistic, hoping their transmission troubles are behind them.

“I just don’t think that its fair for anyone in any circumstance to pay for anything that’s faulty to begin with,” Morin said.

"Who knows?” Sugerman said. “This transmission could go out again at 30,000 miles." 

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