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Nissan Pathfinder Transmission Lawsuit

This Alert Affects:

Anyone who owns or leases a 2013 or 2014 Nissan Pathfinder.

What's Going On?
A class action lawsuit has been filed alleging that the continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) in 2013 and 2014 Nissan Pathfinders, which are marked "JATCO CVT8HT," are dangerous and defective. Unlike the belt-driven transmissions found in other Nissan vehicles, CVTs are chain-driven and prone to "belt slips." A "belt slip" occurs when the chain fails to transfer power through the transmission and accelerate the vehicle.
What Problems Have Been Reported?
When accelerating from full stops or slower speeds (e.g., 15 to 40 mph), the vehicles will start to shake. Many drivers have described this problem as a "judder" or "shudder." Some drivers claim this happens when merging into traffic or accelerating on the freeway, presenting a serious risk of accidents and injuries.
Has Nissan Recalled These Pathfinders?
Nissan issued two technical service bulletins directing dealerships to reprogram the transmission control units in the affected vehicles. These measures, however, were voluntary, only covered certain vehicles and, in some cases, reportedly did not stop the shuddering problem. Nissan has yet to issue a formal recall for the affected vehicles.
Type of Case
Class action

Nissan is facing a class action lawsuit that alleges the continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) in its 2013 and 2014 Pathfinders are dangerous and defective. According to the lawsuit, these transmissions are prone to “belt slips,” which occur when the chain fails to power through the transmission and accelerate the car. This problem is believed to occur when a driver accelerates from a full stop or slower speeds (e.g., when merging into traffic) and can cause the vehicle to shake, shudder or hesitate.  The suit seeks to recover compensation for anyone who owns or leases a 2013 or 2014 Pathfinder.

Why Was a Lawsuit Filed?

The class action lawsuit alleges that Nissan sold vehicles with defective transmissions and seeks to compensate all owners and lessees of 2013 and 2014 Nissan Pathfinders throughout the United States. The lawsuit is also demanding that Nissan recall the SUVs.

According to the suit, the chains in the Pathfinders’ CVTs can slip and cause a shaking or shuddering problem upon acceleration. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges that she purchased a new 2014 Nissan Pathfinder in October 2013. Three months after purchasing the SUV, her vehicle allegedly began to violently shake and shudder upon acceleration and she brought her vehicle back to the dealership to be fixed.

By this time, Nissan had already issued two technical service bulletins for the shuddering problem. In the first technical service bulletin, issued in January 2013, Nissan instructed dealerships to perform voluntary software updates to the transmission control units in affected vehicles. Then, in September 2013, Nissan issued a second technical service bulletin for the same problem, which again instructed dealerships to reprogram the software in affected vehicles and, if the shudder problem persisted, replace the transmission entirely; however, the second service bulletin did not cover Pathfinders if they did not have the first software update performed before they were driven 1,000 miles.

While the plaintiff had several software updates performed on her transmission control unit, the shuddering allegedly continued and she contacted Nissan to have the company buy back her SUV; however, Nissan refused to purchase her Pathfinder and, to this day, the vehicle still shudders, shakes and hesitates when accelerating, according to the suit.

The class action lawsuit also alleges:

  • Nissan was aware of problems with these transmissions before the first vehicle was ever sold

  • Nissan began reprogramming the software in vehicles with affected transmissions just five weeks after they first went on sale and secretly reprogrammed the software in vehicles that had not yet been delivered to dealerships

  • In a letter to Pathfinder owners regarding the first technical service bulletin Nissan issued, the company intentionally misinformed consumers that the shuddering was not a safety issue

  • In the second technical service bulletin, Nissan assumed that vehicles driven more than 1,000 miles without the software reprogramming “suffered irreparable damage to the transmission internals”

  • Despite the two service bulletins, the shuddering persists, and some drivers have had their transmissions replaced as many as three times and still experience the problem

Consumers Complain Nissan Shudder Problem Is Dangerous, Should Be Investigated

Since January 2013, more than 100 drivers filed consumer complaints with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the shudder problem in their Nissan Pathfinders. Despite these complaints, the class action alleges that Nissan has not addressed the problem and has yet to issue a formal recall on the affected vehicles.

Some of their complaints can be read below.

“Most of the time that I am accelerating between 20 – 25 MPH, the vehicle is shaking. The amount of shake or ‘shudder’ varies from slightly noticeable to very noticeable. The concern here is the reliability of the transmission (CVT) which seems to be slipping. I believe this should be investigated to prevent failure of the transmission while driving in freeways thus preventing a possibility of a crash.” – Driver of a 2013 Nissan Pathfinder in Hayward, CA

“When accelerating from a stop, or increasing speed from a turn, the car sputters, power fluctuates, and sometimes it vibrates and feels like I am driving over a grid. Shifting is rough while driving, and the car sometimes feels like it’s going to stall, or like I’m driving a standard transmission and I’ve left off the clutch too soon. The problem has been ongoing and started inconsistently where I thought maybe it was road conditions and not the car, but the problem now occurs every time I drive the car, it’s getting worse, and I’m expecting any day for it to break down on me. I purchased the car new on 2/26/13, so I’ve had it just over three months.” – Driver of a 2013 Nissan Pathfinder in Whitestown, IN

“Whole family is in the car and I was driving, while we are entering to highway and merging to right land, shudder happens and we lose all engine power, gas pedal becomes useless and only thing I can do was to slow down. In that instant we are almost rear ended by semi truck. CVT transmission put the car into shudder state. We were not able to speed up while merging to highway for almost 20 seconds.” – Driver of a 2013 Nissan Pathfinder in Des Plaines, IL

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Case Resources

Kenai Batista v. Nissan North America, Inc. Complaint
Case number 1:14-cv-24728, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida