Q - When is 5 years not 5 years?
A - When it's your Mazda corrosion warranty.
Update 2/26: I added some pictures to my Flickr account, for those who want to see. The Driver's rear door is the one getting fixed.
Today, 2/25/2011, marks the end of my 5 year Mazda corrosion warranty and today it goes in to have 1 of 3 rusty doors repaired. I'm grateful that I'm getting one fixed, but very frustrated with the process and wonder why the other two didn't qualify.
The Mazda rust warranty, like most I think, only covers 'perforation'. On the face of it, that would seem easy to identify, if there's a hole or not. But in practice it's not always that easy to see. The metal might be perforated but the paint still intact, but bubbled. The perforation might be hiding behind trim or overlapping panels might make it hard to see.
My car has rust mainly in 3 of the 4 doors on the bottom edges, inside where the outer skin and the door frame meet. There is also rust in the driver's side rear quarter panel. As my warranty was coming to a close soon, I contacted the nearest Mazda dealer, Byers Mazda, last week to have it evaluated. That's when the drama began.
As soon as it became clear the time frame involved, the service manager became quite agitated. Evidently, the regional Mazda rep has to make the evaluation and determination on rust issues and he was just there in the last week or two and wasn't due back until April. Without his evaluation, there was nothing they could do and pictures aren't generally acceptable. (That's understandable, they don't always tell the entire story.) Once the 5 years expire, there's nothing that can be done, period.
So, because he had already been and gone, I may be out of luck. I told him that there was no way I could have known his schedule (nor that he was required to see the car), and that there was clearly rust and I was clearly still within the 5 years, so I had no reason to doubt my coverage, which now seemed to be in jeopardy. He said something like "Yes, but this didn't just happen." a phrase he'd repeat many times over the coming days. We agreed that I would bring the car in on Friday AM, he would take some pictures and send them to the rep and we'd go from there.
The rep reponded and agreed to cover one of the rear doors, but there was another catch: The car had to be at the body shop, and work started by Friday (today) or the coverage would expire. Again, there was no way I could have known that not only did the evaluation had to be done prior to the warranty end, by the regional rep who only comes every 6-8 weeks, the repair had to begin prior to the end of the warranty. I mentioned this to the manager and he responded, "Yes, but this didn't just happen."
When I asked why that one and not the others, all he could say was it was the only one that showed perforation. To me, they all show the same symptoms - obvious rust, cracking and separation/splitting. I asked for the rep's contact number or to receive a call from him to talk about it, and he gave me the general customer service number for Mazda, but with an ominous, slightly threatening warning: He said that if I contacted Mazda (this was yesterday) and they open a case, then things may change. I asked if they would revoke the coverage already granted and he said maybe or they may insist that the rep see the car which would go beyond the warranty and the coverage would expire. Again he said, "If you had come to your dealer sooner ..."
At this point, I'm pretty ticked off and I want to call the corporate office, but I don't want to jeopardize the coverage I've already been granted. The dealer has been doing as little as possible and blaming the inability to resolve this on my procrastination. Frankly, I don't think matters one bit, five years is five years, and to mention it is frankly insulting and condescending. So, do I call or not? All this time, I've been tweeting about details of this, including the @MazdaUSA twitter account when I did. I had gotten no response until yesterday afternoon, after pointing out how fast GM responded when they thought my issues were with the Chevy dealer (my Saturn had warranty work this week too), I got a message from Mazda asking form my contact info. I gave it and received a call from them yesterday evening. He expressed sympathy, but he too seemed to have an urgency to get resolution before today's blasted, arbitrary deadline. I'm supposed to get a call from the rep today, but as of 1:15 PM, I haven't.
All of this could have been avoided. The bottom line here is that your 5 year warranty isn't really 5 years, in my opinion. Because the car has to be evaluated by a rep who only comes by every few weeks and the repairs have to begin prior to the end of the warranty, you really need to get the car in probably 2 months before the end if you want to be sure that he's able to see your car. Simply communicating this in the warranty documentation would help, but really that only covers Mazda's behind on what is, frankly, poor policy.
The real solution here is to honor claims brought into the dealer up until the final hour. There's no reason this could not have been evaluated and repaired after the expiration of the warranty, as long as the original claim was made within the warranty period. As it is, the 5 years is an illusion, it's effectively only 4 years and 10 months.