Recently I came to blows with a dealership over a clients prestige 15,000 mile, 4 year old car. Out of warranty but with two failed drive shafts. My clients were charged for the replacement of one and the repair of another. Two weeks later the repaired one failed and was replaced under the garages “Goodwill” policy. It wasn’t Goodwill, it was a failed part and as such the dealership were under obligation to pay. But the issues didn’t stop there.
At no point had any of the technicians looked at the situation and thought – this is a very low mileage car, with no sign of damage, to have issues with both drive shafts – Its not your job or my job to understand what is normal or abnormal when parts fail on our cars. It is up to the garage to look after your best interests and if something looks odd it should be bought up with the manufacturer by the dealership. They should also represent you the best they can. If they feel something is odd then they should push for goodwill on a repair. Even if its only a percentage of the repair. Often the Manufacturer will step in and help because if it really is a defect or weakness in their product they want to know. My experience in these cases is it is the dealership that fails in their duty to look after the best interests of their clients. Whenever I have taken a case direct to the manufacturer they have done everything to deal with it.
The worst thing about this particular situation was that the repair of the driveshaft was actually completely uneconomical. After really looking into the bill it became apparent that because of the labour charged to repair the shaft, it would have actually been cheaper to replace it. An incredible 50% cheaper.
It took three weeks of going backwards and forwards to this dealership before the manufacturer finally stepped in and refunded a whopping 100% of the bill.
Not every case is like this but it’s hugely important that you question everything. Always ask if it is worth approaching the manufacturer for Goodwill. Ask how the part has broken and what they think could have caused it. If you get “We aren’t CSI Miami” (I have done in the past!) as a response then it is NOT good enough. Technicians SHOULD be trained in diagnostics – not just the plug and go kind – they are there to look after you and you pay a premium at main dealers to get the very best in care and technology. Ask questions and if you don’t feel right then contact the manufacturer directly and ask for their advice. Always ask to see the parts. If you want take photographs of the parts and notes of what they say the issues are, then do.
Obviously there are some parts which can fail because of basic wear and tear. For example you could expect the rubber gaiters on the Drive Shaft to split as they are in such a vulnerable place and are made from a material which could suffer if struck by something hitting underneath your car. It is the parts that you would reasonably expect to last longer than a period of 6 years. The price of the car and the parts would be a good indication of your expectations. If you buy a budget brand car then it could be argued it is unreasonable for you to expect parts to last as long as a premium brand.
It is a confusing and often difficult route to go down but in certain cases, and in cases such as this it is a very useful piece of information to know.
I believe that dealerships need to be there to help look after their clients best interests. When you buy a car you are buying into that brand and the more you are looked after, the more honest they are, the more likely it is that you will take their advice on things such as winter maintenance and tyres. Information that is actually often very good and very true. Manufacturers do know how to get the best safety and the most longevity out of their product. So their advice is key. However we need to remember that the dealership and the Manufacturer are representing two different things. One is driven by the product and the quality of the product and the other is there to sell, make money and increase turnover. Of course one works for the other but its important to remember and is why I advise always going to the manufacturer as early as you can.