Dear Tom and Ray:
My wife and I just purchased a brand-new 2012 Nissan Juke SL, with a CVT transmission and the 1.6-liter "turbo" engine. It came with a bonus of "lifetime FREE oil changes." Now that we have driven roughly 1,000 miles, we scheduled an appointment with our dealer's service department, and dropped the car off without any fanfare. Later, they called my wife at home to tell her that the free oil isn't really free. They say that because our model is a turbo (all Jukes have a turbo), it requires synthetic oil, and the free oil change offer includes only "standard -- SAE" engine oils. They told us the upgrade to synthetic will be $60 more per oil change. My wife said, "No thank you," and asked them to put in the standard oil.
The owner's manual, which calls for only standard, 5W-30 SAE-grade oil, makes no mention of requiring synthetic oil. Did we do the right thing? And wasn't the dealer being a bit slippery?
TOM: A bit? Yes, and I'm making notes so we can use this trick on our customers in the future!
RAY: Our contact at Nissan confirmed that the Juke requires only standard, SAE 5W-30 oil, and not synthetic oil.
TOM: This is a case where a little disclosure would have gone a long way. If the salesman had said to you, "We offer free oil changes for the life of the car, but that's only for standard oil, and we RECOMMEND synthetic oil for this car, which will cost you an extra $60 per oil change," you would at least have been informed that the "free oil change" offer was not really a free oil change offer.
RAY: Right. At least you would have known that going in, and you wouldn't have felt like you got the bait-and-switch.
TOM: So here's what I'd do. Meet with the dealership's general manager, explain what happened and propose this solution: Since synthetic oil costs twice as much, but needs to be changed only half as often as standard oil, ask if they'll give you half as many free oil changes during the life of the car and substitute synthetic oil. If they normally offer a free standard oil change every 7,500 miles, ask them to give you a synthetic change every 15,000 miles instead.
RAY: If you get turned down, then you're free to -- and should -- make use of the follow-up customer-service surveys and online ratings sites to let other potential customers know that you felt misled. But give the dealer a chance to resolve it amicably first.
TOM: And by the way, synthetic oil is great stuff, for various reasons. It lasts longer, lubricates better, decreases our dependence on foreign oil and leaves less used oil that then needs to be recycled or disposed of. So we don't disagree with the recommendation of synthetic oil. We just disagree with the sneaky way the dealership handled it. Good luck, Craig.