“Dear Ilyce:
I listen to your show on WSB radio often. You’re great!
But at least three times, I’ve been listening as you bashed Honda for the problems with your 4 year old minivan (an Odyssey?), from an intermittent mechanical or electrical problem to what it costs to fill the tank ($ 65) to the lousy 20mpg mileage you get, both city and highway.

I guess I’m disappointed that a top-notch talk show host wouldn’t sanitize the show, perhaps expressing very strong opinions about problems with your minivan (or TV set or lawn mower, etc), but you’d do so without naming the manufacturer. Sponsorship independence is one thing, but direct bashing is another.

It’s sad that your Honda experience hasn’t been like ours. We love our Accord, it’s the best car we’ve ever owned…..and it gets a consistent 35mpg on the highway. Your minivan is larger, it has a bigger gas tank which obviously costs more to fill, and the fuel economy won’t be as high as what we experience with the Accord. But the Honda minivan is the highest-rated product in its class and many of your listeners’ personal experiences will agree with the ratings. Most listeners would assume that you have an isolated problem that just needs to be fixed…..go get it fixed, you’ll be happy. But I’ve heard about your extreme dissatisfaction with the Honda minivan 3 times now…..

I can’t recall hearing you repeatedly bash any other manufacturer, so the only thing I can figure is that you’re using the exposure of the show to leverage the dealer (and Honda) into fixing your minivan’s problem. If I were as frustrated as you, I might do the same. (Maybe it works: I’m a nobody, but you got my attention.)

I know a few folks who work at the factory where your Odyssey was built. If you could detail the intermittent mechanical problems you’re having, I’d be happy to ask these guys privately whether they’ve heard of it…..or perhaps whether there’s a technical service bulletin dealing with it. Sometimes a local dealer doesn’t dig deep enough or he can just be unaware of a service bulletin…..but if I can help make your Honda experience as pleasant as ours (and that of millions of other satisfied owners), I’d be only too happy to do so.

No, I don’t work for Honda, nor do I work for a car dealership, nor am I a mechanic. I’m just offering to help. Everyone else I talk with is thrilled with their Honda experience. Perhaps I can put you in touch with folks who can get to the bottom of the intermittent problem you’ve had…..and maybe that problem is somehow related to the poor gas mileage? Let me know if I can help”

Thanks so much for your letter. Allow me to clear up a few misconceptions. First, I never use my radio show, my nationally-syndicated column, or my position as a bestselling book author in order to “leverage” a free anything from anybody. I also do not receive any compensation from any of the companies I talk about. I am nobody’s shill.

Fortunately, I make enough money (and save it as well) that I can afford to do just about anything I want, including getting the Honda minivan fixed, or sell it and replace it.

Like you, I was delighted with my original Hondas, and in fact, my husband Sam and I, and his side of the family, are all Honda car buyers. Our last two cars were Honda accords (both black 1994 versions, one bought new in 1993 and one bought used a few years later) and we kept them for about 12 years until we bought our new Accord (which has also been a disappointment, 2005 version) and our minivan, which has had nothing but trouble.

We have taken the minivan back countless times for service and while it has been under warranty (we buy the extended warranties for our Honda cars) and I only go to a Honda dealer for service (Iove the service guys!), I don’t think our car (or any car) should have this many problems. It is in direct contrast to our last experiences with this manufacturer.

I’m also annoyed that the mileage I’m supposed to get (from the advertised sticker on the car) is nowhere near what I really get. I keep my cars in excellent shape (mostly because I know little about cars, and really only need them to get me safely from one place to another).

What I do use the show for is to demonstrate that I go through the same things that my listeners do. I say a lot of good things about a lot of the companies I do use personally, such as Quicken (software), Fidelity Investments, Vanguard, and others. Listening to me gripe is also a source of entertainment for a lot of listeners — they listen to me talk about my struggles with the cars and how I try to rectify the situation.

If you’re a regular listener, you’ve probably heard me talk a lot about my investment condo that was for sale (I felt every seller’s pain this Spring) and our failed (and finally successful) attempts to rent it. If you noticed, I never said where the condo was located, how much it was selling for, nor where it was listed. I don’t need to use the show for personal gain (other than my paycheck from the station, of course), but I do believe that hearing what I go through can be a learning experience for others.

Years ago, before I was hosting my own show on WSB and was simply filling in for Clark Howard 40 to 50 times a year, I sang the praises of my Hondas. I loved them. But the problems I’m having now speak to the larger problems the car industry around the world is having — and don’t get me started on Detroit.

I do appreciate you taking the time to write and to listen to the show AND to offer your assistance in getting my Minivan fixed. It’s due for its 40,000 miles checkup and hopefully the guys in the shop will finally figure out why my steering wheel makes that funky scraping sound.

And if they do fix it, you can be sure I’ll spend some time on the air talking about it.

I hope you have a great weekend. See you on Sunday at 11am.

Published: Jul 6, 2007