The online complaint at Safecar.gov reads, “I got on the 10 Freeway and everything was good. No Traffic and I'm driving 55 miles an hour. I push the gas pedal to go faster and nothing happened. …. The car had started to slow down. I pushed the gas pedal a few more times and when nothing happened I started to panic. I get over to get off of the freeway and now my speed is about 40mph. Cars are merging on the freeway behind me going at least 60. I was so afraid they were going to hit me…” This 2016 complaint concerns a 2012 Nissan Sentra and a problem that is reported over and over again at the same site.
A class and three subclasses have been proposed for this action.
The complaint for this class action quotes many online complaints that describe similar problems with 2012 to 2017 Nissan Sentras that are equipped with Nissan’s Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The CVT is an automatic transmission with two pulleys that have variable diameters with a steel belt between them to change speeds. The idea is that, instead of having fixed gear ratios, the pulleys can vary their widths to provide the exact amount of torque needed, delivering power more efficiently and saving fuel.
However, according to the complaint, the CVT is prone to premature failure from overheating. The complaint suggests that the temperature of the CVT fluid is controlled by a small cooler attached to the CVT, and that this design makes it “unreasonably sensitive” to heat, which may turn on the vehicle’s Fail-Safe Mode and cause anything from shudders to catastrophic transmission failure. It alleges that the CVT’s fluid quickly rises to a temperature outside of the narrow range needed for the car to operate, so that the CVT malfunctions without warning, the driver loses control, and the risk of an accident is increased.
Interestingly, the complaint claims that the CVT is made with the mounting holes necessary to add an external cooler.
The complaint claims that Nissan has been aware of the problem since 2013 or earlier, through things like pre-production testing, repairs at dealerships, and consumer complaints, it did not disclose this information to consumers, nor did it recall the cars and fix the problem.