Regulators in Canada started investigating reports of brake issues with the Nissan LEAF more than a year ago. On rare occasions in very cold temperatures, a LEAF might unexpectedly require more pressure on the brake pedal than usual. If that happened, the car could take longer than expected to slow down or stop. That’s not a good thing.
According to Green Car Reports, in extremely cold temperatures a relay inside the car’s electronic brake booster can freeze. When that happens, the car does not react properly when the brakes are applied. Nissan says if the relay malfunctions, a warning light will appear on the dashboard. The brakes will still operate, but only in “assist mode,” meaning the brakes will not function as usual.
At first, Nissan reacted slowly to the problem. Eventually, it determined that the software controlling the electronic braking system was at fault. Updating the software was the solution, so it began a service campaign. What that basically means is that if a LEAF happened to be brought in to a Nissan dealer for service and if the customer complained about the brakes, the software upgrade would be installed. Otherwise, nothing was done. Owners were not notified of the service campaign.
As the result of continued pressure from regulators in Canada an the US, that service campaign has now become a full fledged recall. It affects 46,859 LEAF EVs in the U.S. from model years 2013 through 2015, as well as 679 vehicles in Canada. The company will notify owners when dealers are ready to schedule appointments to address the braking issue. The software update will be performed free of charge.
LEAF owners can contact Nissan customer service at 1-(800)-647-7261 for more information. They can also find out more at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Safercar.gov website, under ID number 16V119000.
What’s the takeaway from all this? Simply that Nissan and most other manufacturers continue to operate in 20th century mode when it comes to servicing their customers. According to a recent comprehensive survey of EV owners and potential owners by CleanTechnica, one feature that many of them expect on their future cars is wireless updates for the software in their cars. At present, only Tesla has that capability.
The story here is not that an electronic part may malfunction in cold conditions. The story is that Nissan, like most of its fellow car makers, continues to resist fixing glitches in its cars in a proactive way and continues to drag its feet to avoid an official recall. It weighs the risk of a brake failure against the financial cost of fixing the problem swiftly and accurately. And it continues to force customers to schedule a service appointment when it is convenient for the dealer instead of when it is convenient for the customers.
Last month, Consumer Reports spotted a potential issue with Tesla’s new Summon feature. CR found that a Tesla might not detect a small child when operating in Summon mode. Tesla reacted within 24 hours and sent updated software to all affected cars within a few days. That’s the kind of proactive response 21st century customers expect. It’s sad that so many companies continue to have a last century mindset when it comes to taking care of customers.
The problem with Tesla is not that it is disruptive. The problem is that so many in the car business are ignoring the lessons Tesla is trying to teach them.