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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Hundreds of drivers from Florida to California are shocked to find that the floors of their cars are rotting beneath their feet. It’s a hidden safety concern that all car owners need to know about.
At his shop near Boston, Mike Shalhoub was about to get his first look underneath a 2003 Nissan Altima.
“This one, Wow. This one is bad,” said Shalhoub as he looked under the car.
He’s talking about rust, eating away at metal underneath the driver and passenger side floorboards.
That’s when Shalhoub breaks the news to drivers. It’s time for a repair job that can cost several thousand dollars.
Nissan Altima owner Cynthia Allen remembers that moment well.
Allen, speaking about her reaction when she saw the rust, said, “Wow. I was just in total disbelief. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Never seen nothing like that before…it was bad. That bad.”
She was shocked because she’d always taken her car to Nissan dealerships for service and the odometer on her 2002 Altima hadn’t even hit 70-thousand miles.
A Google search quickly told her she was far from alone. Angry Nissan owners are documenting the damage on YouTube.
One driver even pushed his foot right through the floor.
Another driver created an anonymous twitter handle called @after the company told him his Altima was out of warranty and he was out of luck.
“I’m not a car expert, but I could easily tell that it was not normal,” said the owner of the Twitter handle.
More than 400 complaints were filed with the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration.
Last month, a 2006 Altima owner told the federal government: “This is a known defect that Nissan takes no responsibility for. This could become a safety issue.”
So far, there is no comment from Nissan.
Auto Safety Expert Sean Kane said the problem travels far beyond the snow and salt of the harsh New England winters. Complaints are scattered all over the country.
“This is clearly a defect and Nissan needs to step up and pay for it,” said Kane.
He said this problem falls through the regulatory cracks.
Automakers like Toyota and Ford have issued rust recalls before but those dealt with frames and axles that could cause a car to collapse on the road.
When asked why there hasn’t been a safety recall on this, Kane said, “It’s not a safety problem that’s going to cause immediate death and injury if you have a hole in the floor. As a result of that, I think Nissan has been able to get away with this problem.”
Worried her feet were about to hit the pavement, Allen forked over a thousand dollars to have the floorboard replaced last fall.
She believes Nissan should reimburse everyone for the damage. But if that doesn’t happen, Allen said the auto giant will drive another customer away.
Nissan said it’ll review the complaints on a case-by-case basis, depending on service history, age of the vehicle and mileage. So, there’s a chance customers can get some money to help pay for those rust repairs.