By on November 23, 2008

The most ardent fans of Detroit accuse those who don’t buy domestic cars of being disloyal, if not downright un-American. But loyalty only makes sense when it runs in both directions. And Detroit has not been loyal to Americans, whether they be its workers, its suppliers, or its customers. But, assuming General Motors and Ford survive the current crisis, it’s not too late. Let’s focus on car buyers. What might Detroit do differently to deserve our loyalty?

Well, a few things. But the most significant would be providing customer care that deserves the name. Most of those who refuse to “Buy American” do so because they were burned by an “American” car, sometimes multiple times. In these cases, not only did the car require too many repairs—which was bad enough in itself—but the manufacturer did little or nothing to accept responsibility for the design or manufacturing defect and take care of the affected car buyer. If Detroit does nothing to assist car buyers when design or manufacturing defects lead to expensive repairs, then why should car buyers support Detroit when it needs assistance?

Some of Detroit’s apologists pretend that these experiences occurred decades ago, with cars like the Vega and Pinto, and that at this point Detroit deserves to be forgiven. This simply isn’t true. Operating TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, I continue to learn of new horror stories. And in the past five years I’ve had the misfortune to experience both Ford’s and Chrysler’s “customer care” first hand.

In one case, a 1996 Ford Contour V6 lost compression in three cylinders at 66,000 miles. I learned from an insider that the most likely cause was a known engineering defect. When engineers had learned of the defect a few years earlier, they had recommended recalling the entire model year. Management had balked because of the potential cost; instead, they had authorized only a partial recall. My car fell outside the dates of the recall. As a result, the recall was not performed, the known failure occurred, the engine was badly damaged, and I took a big hit when I traded the car.

In the second case, the wheels on a 3.5-year-old 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser (wife wanted one) required replacement because they corroded so much they could not form an airtight seal with the tires. Then the torque converter grenaded, taking the transmission pump with it, with only 52,000 miles on the car. Then the control arm bushings failed. Chrysler picked up half the cost of the wheels, and none of the cost of the other repairs.

Of course, neither company had a legal obligation to pick up any of these repair costs. After all, the warranty had expired. But, when a warranty is strictly enforced, the implication is that the car buyer accepts responsibility for any design or manufacturing defects that reveal themselves after the warranty expires.

Put another way, the car buyer is forced to bet on the quality of the manufacturer’s work. It has not served Detroit well to force car buyers to decide whether or not to place this bet. More and more Americans have “left the casino” after losing this bet a time or two. When speaking with Ford’s and Chrysler’s “Customer Care” people, I presented this logic. I asked them what they’d do if they had to choose between picking up the cost of the repair and losing a customer. Both said they’d rather lose the customer.

Customer care deserving of the name wouldn’t mean paying for any and all repairs indefinitely. But whenever a known design or manufacturing defect results in thousands of repairs, it’s time for the manufacturer to accept responsibility and cover the costs. And not on a case by case basis—they already do this much—but as a matter of publicly-stated policy. A reasonable trigger might be a failure rate of 10 percent before 100,000 miles, or 20 percent before 120,000 miles. As long as cases are decided arbitrarily rather than by such a clear, publicized rule, confidence in the manufacturer won’t receive much of a boost.

Now, it’s not clear that Detroit’s customer care is significantly worse than that of foreign manufacturers. Horror stories exist for any model, foreign as well as domestic. Oil sludge in Toyotas and failing transmissions in Hondas come to mind. But Toyota and Honda aren’t desperately in need of car buyers’ loyalty at the moment. General Motors and Ford are. (Chrysler’s independent existence is all but over at this point.) Pretending that horror stories are all in the distant past isn’t going to do the trick. If Detroit wants earn forgiveness for its sins, and regain the loyalty of American car buyers, it must put what little money it has left where its mouth is and provide customer care that can be counted on.

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68 Comments on “Editorial: Customer Care...”


  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    Now, it’s not clear that Detroit’s customer care is significantly worse than that of foreign manufacturers.

    I purchased a 1983 Celica GTS new. One of the defects was a poorly designed lift type door handle. The Toyota store handed me new ones every time I asked for them. I could replace them in 15 minutes. This went on for over 10 years and 200,000+ miles.

    My wife purchased a 1983 Trans Am at the same time. This POS leaked water through the T-tops, the cam failed at 5,000 miles, rear disk brakes froze up, emergency brake cable broke, tranny failure, radio failed-twice, window regulators broke, tach failed, Pontiac couldn’t have built a worse car if they tried. She’s driven Hondas since. If GM offered her any car they built for free with the condition she MUST drive it, she would turn it down.

    I of course thought that was a touch harsh until I purchased a 1999 Suburban. I honestly felt GM should have been sued under RICO for this travesty of a vehicle.

    I can’t even begin to describe my feelings towards the government taking my money and giving it to GM. I feel like a gun is being pointed at my head while being mugged. I’d rather take my tax money and burn it versus giving it to GM.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    If the Detroit-3 were confident they have exorcised their quality, reliability and durability shortcomings they would provide and honor lengthy warranties. Rational consumers will not underwrite their risk when quality alternatives abound. The issue is moot. Companies that will not honor warranties when solvent are even less likely to do so in bankruptcy.

  • avatar

    “if they had to choose between picking up the cost of the repair and losing a customer. Both said they’d rather lose the customer.”

    And lost the customers they have. In droves. For decades.

    Now they want to get our money by another method, extracting our tax dollars from the Government. I’m sorry, they CHOSE to lose their customers, through deliberate action. They have chosen the path of failure. They have chosen their own demise.

    I would love to have a stable, thriving domestic auto business. I would happily buy domestic cars, BUT ONLY if they weren’t being sold by people who make choices like those outlined above. Detroit has never offered a car that suits my needs. I’ve bought a few trucks from Detroit, and every one of those experiences produced some regret …(and trucks are about the only thing Detroit can build well.) But every car I’ve ever driven from Detroit has been a complete POS.

    Just being domestic is NOT deserving of our loyalty. Quality keeps customers, not origin.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    ronin

    My concern is that it was bad enough when Detroit kept extending payment terms with its suppliers, to the detriment of the suppliers.

    Now Detroit is unilaterally announcing that its dealer network can expect reimbursement delays.

    Detroit is alienating not only its suppliers, but its ‘customers-’ the dealers who sell cars to consumers.

    When I bring my “US” car that was probably made in Canada or Mexico to the dealer for warranty work, I will start now to wonder how much Detroit is balking at timely payment to the shop for warranty work. If the dealer shop is worried about repayment, I wonder what shortcuts, hurry-up work, or cheapness of parts will be substituted.

    Thus the death spiral. This dedication to bad customer care has taken decades to play out. And now confidence in even bad customer care is about to take a hit. It is too late now to make a difference.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    If you build it, they will come. It, being a car that will last 100k with only routine maintenance. It, being a dealership network that prides itself in keeping customers satisfied so they will return in the future.

  • avatar
    mcs

    My neighbor just bought an 09 Jeep Liberty. She only had it a couple of days before she discovered that the roof was leaking. Recently, I rented an 08 Chrysler mini van and there was an loud annoying squeak coming from somewhere in the interior trim on the passenger side that drove me crazy.

    Next rental was an 08 G6 that when I was rushing to an appointment, decided to report that the right rear tire was under inflated and wasn’t showing a reading in PSI (a blank line) like the other tires. Go off the freeway and found a gas station. The tire looked ok and I even topped it up with air. Got back on the road and it was still reporting a problem. Next day, the pressure reporting was just fine.

    Compare this with BMW who replaced my brakes and rotors for free at 38,000 due to normal wear under their maintenance plan.

    Another factor is depreciation. We bought a BMW and a Ford mini van (against my wishes) at the same time in 02 at almost the same price. The Ford’s depreciation was at least triple the BMW and repair costs exceeded $5k (not counting maintenance) vs. about $600 total for the BMW (with many years of free maintenance.)

    The Ford was sold this summer because we were quoted $1200 just to change it’s spark plugs. I was able to change the BMW’s plugs myself in less than 30 minutes compared with having to remove the intake manifold (beyond my skill set) in the Ford. The BMW still looks good, runs great, and amazes me every time I switch from a relatively new rental (business travel) to this almost seven year old car and it reminds me of how good a car it still is.

    I have D3 horror stories from the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s as well. Hopefully there won’t be a horror story from the next decade. The wife refused to test drive the new Malibu (I tried) and went straight to a Toyota dealer. She ain’t goin’ back.

  • avatar
    pleiter

    i

  • avatar
    pleiter

    Here is what Detroit might do differently, they might get their entire enterprise to develop and implement a Product Reliability Plan. Featuring 1) reduced complexity (simple = reliable) witness the i-drive fiasco, 2) reduced variants within a model, hopefully by increasing standard content like the Koreans do (consistent = reliable), 3) shoot 3 of 4 marketeer salaries, and port those funds over for engineering to making tiny (cost) but effective improvements in reliability. By keeping the vehicle intrinsically reliable and thus out-of-game with respect to the dealership, customer word-of-mouth satisfaction and CR April-issue data will slowly reflect the plans’ effectiveness with respect to the Japanese.

  • avatar
    Adub

    The gambling analogy is a good one, especially when you consider GM’s powertrain warranty is only good for 5 years. My mom gambled on a GM vehicle while I bought a Honda.

    My car has required no repairs, while she has unfortunately spent over three thousand dollars in repairs on her car. She has vowed never to buy another domestic…

  • avatar
    John Horner

    My experience with our Honda is that the company has indeed done as Karesh suggests. There is some kind of a voltage monitoring circuit in the fuse/relay box which effects charging voltage. Honda noted that these were failing much too often and put a TSB out on it. Our car, though 18,000 miles over the warranty period, indeed had too high of a charging voltage due to this problem. I took it to the dealer, they checked it, they called Honda and Honda said no problem, fix it. They replaced the entire fuse/relay box. This is a $418 part, not including labor. It was replaced at no cost to me and with no hassles. I didn’t even have to call Honda “Customer Care”.

    Similarly, the same car had a small but persistent transmission leak from the day I brought it home. The loss was minimal, maybe a cup every 10,000 miles. When I brought it in at 34k miles (just before the end of the warranty) and it was still seeping … the dealer got Honda to authorize a complete replacement transmission. The service adviser said: “you are really close to the end of the warranty and I don’t want you to get stuck with this after the warranty is over, so I called Honda and got their approval to replace the entire transmission.”

    When it comes time for a new car Honda will certainly be high on my consideration list because they have always treated me right. I will not repeat the nightmares we endured with not one but two late 90s, early 00s GM products. Both were traded in early (with horrific depreciation) due to the vehicles becoming costly to keep on the road after the warranty expired. I finally joined the never again club after those two.

    A year after I bought my Accord, a friend bought a Chevy Impala. He has already been out over $2,000 for premature repairs and his car’s transmission is slipping again. It has about 60k miles on it. Typical.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    ”But, assuming General Motors and Ford survive the current crisis, it’s not too late. Let’s focus on car buyers. What might Detroit do differently to deserve our loyalty?”

    If the big-3 do not restructure with Chapter 11s then they will never be profitable again. They will beg from the government until the government owns them outright. Eventually the government will sicken of dealing with the UAW (if you think they are bad now wait until they are government employees) and parasitic dealers, and the government will sell off the brands in shame. Just like British Leyland.

    So, ”What might Detroit do differently to deserve our loyalty?”

    Stop whining to Congress and declare Chapter 11. If they are not willing to use Chapter 11 to get rid of their huge debt, excess dealers and brands and oppressive labor contracts to make themselves viable, and instead just add to the government debt indefinitely, then I will never buy a big-3 car again, no matter how good it is.

    I will buy a Camaro from a Chapter 11 GM. However, there many other good choices if GM becomes a sickening leach on the country, when they have no future with their current employees, brands, dealers and debt.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Michael Karesh: “When speaking with Ford’s and Chrysler’s “Customer Care” people, I presented this logic. I asked them what they’d do if they had to choose between picking up the cost of the repair and losing a customer. Both said they’d rather lose the customer.”

    It’s amazing how bald-faced they are about this. I was told exactly the same thing when I’d gone as far up the food chain as I could go. And I wasn’t asking for a repair; it had already been done. I was asking for coverage beyond warranty on a 3rd-time repair. We sold the car and never went back.

    What surprise me isn’t that GM, Ford and Chrysler have lost so much market share in the last few years but, rather, that they have any market share left at all.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned pretty much nothing but American cars my adult driving life. I have never had any major issues with any of them, mostly GM, mostly outside of their warranties and bought second hand and mostly with very high miles. Mind you I didn’t gamble on buying a known shoddy GM product like a Cavalier or Grand Am or anything like that. Mostly larger cars and trucks.

    The last one I put major miles on was a 92 LeSabre I bought at 67,000 miles that went 310,000 miles before I sold it, no issues with that car whatsoever. My immediate family also owned a few of these same big, FWD, 3800 V6 cars and they were the same. I currently have a 06 GTO and 08 G8, I’ve only had one warranty claim with the GTO since buying it new.

    The GTO did have front strut failure occur the month I bought it. It was a common problem for 06s because Holden’s supplier, Monroe, changed the viscosity of the shock oil they used in the struts causing a rash of them to fail. I called the dealer, new struts were ordered and I was given a new Silverado to drive until they arrived, when they did they were promptly replaced and I was treated extremely well. I have since put 30,000 miles on that car and it has no other issues whatsoever. And it is a fantastic car in every respect that I got an exceptional deal on. It’s the same with the G8.

    A friend of mine has driven nothing but Hondas all his life. His last Honda product was a 02 TL he bought new. To make a long story short, this car went through three transmissions at different times in it’s life during the warranty period. That’s mentioned in Michael’s article, but it was enough to put him off on Honda products. The transmission design was also known to be faulty but why risk Honda not paying for their own mistake outside fo the car’s warranty? He replaced the TL with a new 300C in 2006 and never looked back.

    Another friend of mine had a TSX (a Honda I would buy) that suffered A/C condenser just outside of it’s warranty. Guess what? Honda refused to pay for the repair and it cost him a load of money to fix it. The car was promptly traded after that.

    I agree with the gist of the article. I’ve believed for years that a big thing American manufacturers can do to change perception is offer longer warranties like Hyundai/Kia has used to instill confidence in buyers.

  • avatar

    We had an early 90s Dodge Caravan AWD with the POS 604 transmission. The dealer’s service rep at Galeana Dodge was very helpful every time it failed. Chrysler replaced it 3 times, the last couple times way out of warranty. The last time they charged us $300, I think, for the labor, which we thought was fair considering the car was long past the warranty.

    The customer service was so good that when we went to replace the minivan we gave serious thought to buying another Chrysler product. We were weighing the merits of the customer service vs the downside of them having made a crappy transmission, so crappy that dealers, despite the fact that warranty service is profitable for the dealer, hated them.

    Every manufacturer of consumer items has defects. Smart companies realize that resolving a problem can yield a more loyal customer than if their hadn’t been any problem at all.

  • avatar
    volvo

    Since 1969 always imports (mostly euro) except for two Ford products. No known “issues” with Euro products. The Ford products had known “issues”.

    The 89 Mustang had the peeling silver paint. Ford repainted entire car in 1994 outside of warranty without a hassle. A/C failed at 12K and Transmission failed at 70K.

    Notorious 95 Windstar with 3.8L V6. Transmission went at 30K and was replaced under warranty (used plastic part rather than metal in tranny to save a few cents). Head gasket went at 60,500K just 500 beyond warranty. Considerable effort on my part but 2 years later Ford reimbursed me the price of the engine replacement.

    I like to think that the multi thousand dollar repairs I needed on the Ford products were covered because I had a dealer who was on my side and I worked with him. It was a lot of work on my part. Multiple letters and detailed documentation including TSB and recall information I had to dig up.

    In my experience the reliability of Detroit product was much poorer than that of the imports.

    Current vehicles are Honda and Toyota. Bought these hoping for good reliability but mostly because they offered vehicles that met my needs better than Detroit offerings. I can’t imagine what Detroit could do to draw me back. Only a 10-20 year track record of good products they stand behind. I don’t think they have that long.

  • avatar
    crackers

    I am absolutely convinced that since dealers make very little selling D3 cars, the D3 value chain demands expensive repairs at some point in the life of the car so that dealers can survive. When you are selling uncompetitive vehicles solely on price, these are the games you are forced to play. D3 business plans are all based upon this. GM’s intake manifold gasket fiasco is a classic example of a planned defect that was allowed to continue for years. They got it so that the mean time before failure (MTBF) was after the warranty expired, which explains the hard-line on customer care that Michael is describing.

    Unless you are a monopoly, this type of business model is doomed to failure as we are now seeing.

    I believe the Internet, with its ability to disseminate the experiences from a vast population of consumers, has really put the last nail in the coffin of the typical D3 business plan.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    Compare this with BMW who replaced my brakes and rotors for free at 38,000 due to normal wear under their maintenance plan.

    mcs. That’s considered “normal” ? Not on any American car i’ve had.

    Car owners from every maker have horror stories of some kind, with most i’ve heard coming from VW dealers. My coworker had so many problems with Toyota Corolla, he vowed to never buy a Toyota again, so it can happen to even the best. Although on average i suppose it doesn’t. I personally have owned almost all American cars and have never had any horror stories. My 00 Mustang GT, outside of normal maintenance, has only had the alternator replaced, and my 05 Escape has been trouble-free for 90,000 miles now, well except for just replacing squeky outer tie rod ends ($200). I wouldn’t hesitate to buy American again, but i would also consider foreign if i was in the market for a type of vehicle that American car companies don’t produce. I’m looking at a Honda Fit if i decide to buy before the Ford Fiesta makes it here.

  • avatar
    Morea

    The big problem with most methods to compare auto manufacturers’ reliability is that they only present averages of the data. (Foreign and domestic have the same AVERAGE reliability.) What I really want to know is what is going on at the extremes of the distribution, specifically the low reliability extreme (“it was repaired 3 times”, “it failed at 23,000 miles”, that kind of thing). This is where the gambling goes on and where the internet horror stores come from. These are the cases people remember. The ones that make people say “I’ll NEVER buy brand X!” Better for manufacturers to knock down the cases of extreme unreliability and let the average take care of itself.

  • avatar
    928sport

    I think what we are hearing on this web site and many other’s is that the percentage of owners with problems is greater then those without.And that my friends,we don’t forget.And if buying a foreign car is some how unamerican to some,lets now talk about all the things you own that are made in China or ?

  • avatar
    rudiger

    For far too long, the domestics have operated with a business model that stresses “there’s a sucker born every minute”. Losing a customer today due to poor service meant nothing since a new, less knowledgeable replacement is always waiting in the wings tomorrow.

    Unfortunately for them, the American consumer today has much better, customer-oriented choices from their substantially more business-savvy foreign counterparts. We’re all not quite the “suckers” we once were and the domestics had depended on so heavily to stay in business.

  • avatar

    Denny Hecker of the Twin Cities is closing six dealerships and selling three.
    The comments thread over at the Star-Tribune article on this makes it clear that customer relations and after-sales service have not been high on the GM agenda.

    You’d think GM has been running a concentration camp, and the inmates have finally been released and are voicing their ire.

  • avatar

    Morea:

    With TrueDelta’s research, I’ve been planning from the beginning to report the odds of getting a car at either extreme, perfect or lemon. Problem is, this requires a larger sample size than estimating the average does.

    Anyone who would like stats on the extremes–I hope you’ll help get the word out. Once TrueDelta has enough car owners involved we will provide this information.

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    ljwhitmire

    I quit buying D3 cars in 1991 when we bought a Camry. Drove it until is had 225k miles and it finally had it’s first serious repair. I bought a Lexus IS 300 and have driven it since (almost 8 years). The IS developed a leak this summer and filled the passengers floorboard with water.

    Lexus initially suspected a replacement windshield, but subsequent tests showed it wasn’t leaking. It took them 3 tries and around 10 full days to find the leak. It was damage to the firewall caused by two nasty pothole hits (I’m surprised I didn’t lose any fillings). 10 days of Lexus time is quite expensive. They finally found the two leaks and fixed them.

    The final charge? $550. They felt embarrassed that it took them that long to find and fix the problem! Can you imagine a D3 dealer eating two weeks of labor?

  • avatar

    As stated in the editorial, there are horror stories with every brand. One thing I can add is that there are cases where the customer was treated well with any brand.

    What no brand, foreign or domestic, currently provides is certainty that the customer will be taken care of when a known engineering or manufacturing error causes common problems.

    As discussed in the editorial, I’ve been in the position of seeking customer care a few times. I don’t like the feeling of placing myself at the mercy of the dealer and manufacturer, because they screwed up. As if they’re the ones doing me the favor. And I don’t think anyone else cares for this, either.

    This isn’t just a matter of extending the warranty–a warranty would cover any repair, no matter how rare. And I don’t foresee anyone providing a bumper-to-bumper warranty for 100k+ miles. (100k probably isn’t enough anymore for major common problems; an increasing number of people seem to expect 120k.)

    In this editorial I’ve proposed what seems a reasonable compromise: a pledge by the manufacturer to cover common problems up to 120k.

  • avatar
    davey49

    The Saturn dealer paid for my repairs on the front suspension of my ION when it was out of warranty.
    I’m sure I could find the same percentage of “good” and “bad” dealers for every brand. This isn’t an import vs domestic debate.
    Remember “import” doesn’t only equal Toyota and Honda.
    I doubt there’s perfection for any product.

  • avatar

    davey49:

    If the imports provided flawless customer care, then the strategy I propose would have a limited impact.

    It has great potential because this is an area where Detroit could actually have an advantage. And they need advantages, not just parity, to regain their former position.

  • avatar

    Here’s the problem….

    BMW picked me up when I had electronic problems with my 330i Satnav system… I was out of warranty, but it was clear that the system had issues. BMW was excellent in taking care of my problem and I’d go back in a second.

    The other issue is that the service manager told me a story about a guy with an M3 who clearly ran it over a curb or parking lot buffer. He expected the dealer to pick up for the “defective” front suspension…….

    Once you deal with the public, you are in the hands of crazy folk. Now, combined with the one person in the company who knows the “intake gaskets”, the “differentals” or the “air con” system is below standard, but then management decides to stonewall……

    I’d go back to BMW in a second.

  • avatar
    ponytrekker

    I asked them what they’d do if they had to choose between picking up the cost of the repair and losing a customer. Both said they’d rather lose the customer.

    K. Bye.

    I had one mid 1990s Grand Am. That’s enough for me to swear off.

    And don’t forget: when you’re buying Honda, Toyota, Subaru, and a BMW X5 or Z4 you ARE buying American.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    I’ve had the 70′s American cars (Aspen/Volare etc) that were subject to final assembly by the dealer and then the owner when the dealer gave up.

    Still, I stick with American iron, partly out of patriotism. Right now, have a 2000 LeSabre that has only had a tune up, power steering pump and one set of brake pads replaced at 100,000 miles. Still has the original front rotors. Gotta love that 3800 engine too.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The quality, reliability and durability issues that permanently turned me away from domestic cars include prohibitively costly to repair oil-sludged Chrysler 2.7 V-6 motors that often result in prematurely scrapping the car. The plastic intake manifold gaskets in GM’s 3.4 V-6 motors that crack leaving owners with a $1,000 to $3,000 repair bill and often a ruined motor. Ford V-6 motors with Mattel quality plastic intake manifolds and defective head gaskets. Ford V-8 engines that spit spark plugs at $5,000 per cylinder bank. Production economies resulted in hundreds of thousands of 1999 and later GM V-8 and I-6 motors with damaging piston slap . Morally challenged GM denies warranty coverage saying it is normal.

    It wasn’t the lousy cars and unethical corporate behavior that killed Detroit. After all, they got away with it for decades and hundreds of millions of cars. Most owners paid the bill and sucked it up. They suspected but couldn’t reach out to the millions of fellow cheated and abused travelers. The Internet and sites like TTAC let them effectively communicate, organize and loudly proclaim their angst. Detroit’s dirty little secrets are not secret any more, and it’s killing them dead!

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    I’ve exhaustively detailed the reasons for my personal GM boycot in many posts already.

    But there were a few mentioned by Bill that I had forgotten!

    Bill Wade :

    My wife purchased a 1983 Trans Am at the same time. This POS leaked water through the T-tops, the cam failed at 5,000 miles, rear disk brakes froze up, emergency brake cable broke, tranny failure, radio failed-twice, window regulators broke, tach failed, Pontiac couldn’t have built a worse car if they tried.

    I had all of these, plus the typical GM water pump, computer, motor mount, and other failures that were so timely that you could set your watch by them!

    One other person mentioned that all the talk of bailouts, thinly disguised as “loan guarantees”, makes him feel like he’s being robbed at the point of a gun.

    I most definitely can relate to that sentiment. The unjustness of it all makes me angry and sad.

    And it defeats the purpose of a market-driven economy, by reducing my power as a consumer. How can we expect GM’s behavior to change if every person like me has decided to never buy GM again, yet we are forced (yes, at the point of a gun), to give our hard-earned money to them with nothing given to us in return?

  • avatar

    One of the ways Toyota established the Lexus brand was by offering a better customer experience than BMW and Mercedes did at the time. (I don’t know that BMW and Mercedes have gotten any better — I doubt it — but anecdotal evidence has suggested to me that Lexus is no longer holding up their end as well as they once did.) It helped them build a brand identity pretty much out of the air, which is an impressive feat.

    By contrast, the last time I was at the dealer (a Mazda-Lincoln-Mercury dealer in Glendale), I overheard a vicious argument between a customer who’d had a serious problem with his Lincoln Navigator less than two months and a thousand miles after the end of the warranty and the service manager, who was telling him that they couldn’t possibly help him, even though the customer had scrupulously performed all maintenance at the dealer since buying the truck.

    If I were inclined to buy a L-M product (and really, who is?), that would immediately have soured me, and it would take an awful lot to convince me that that was an isolated incident that I should overlook.

    Multiply that times…hundreds of thousands? — and you have a mass exodus from a brand.

  • avatar
    Bridge2far

    “And don’t forget: when you’re buying Honda, Toyota, Subaru, and a BMW X5 or Z4 you ARE buying American.”

    And sending those profits straight to Japan and Germany while the home teams suffer thank you very much!

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Both said they’d rather lose the customer

    After head gaskets, transmissions and numerous nickle/dime problems with a F150 I obliged. I’ll take my chances with Hyundai because they cover the whole car for 60 K and the driveline for 100. Even if there are exceptions, for them to at least offer such a warranty shows they are prepared to stand behind their engineering, assembly and product.

    I don’t want to give them one flipping dime of my tax money. They are lucky we don’t get to vote on a bailout in a referendum. All we can do is sit back and watch our grandchildren’s income be appropriated for the betterment of the UAW and a few choice executives.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    And sending those profits straight to Japan and Germany while the home teams suffer thank you very much!

    And what did GM and Ford do with profits from cars here? They bought foreign assets only to sell them at firesale prices. Hechto en Mexico doesn’t help the home team very much either.

  • avatar
    tib

    I’ve certainly had different experiences than many here – for the last 17 years nothing but Fords and very few problems. Whatever service I’ve needed has been minimal and has been very well performed. I bought my first Ford in 1991 because I was tired of the expensive to buy and repair imports and haven’t regretted any of them. My current car, a 2004 Marauder hasn’t been in the shop for anything other than oil changes in 4 years, 70,000 km.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    A bad dealer makes any problem with a car about 1000x worse. If people are well taken care of by their dealers, I think they tend to overlook even serious problems and would probably consider buying from the brand again. An unreliable car plus a bad dealer though is a lethal combination for customer loyalty. I’ve been to a lot of car dealers, and almost all of the domestics are really terrible. Combine that with domestic depreciation thanks to a gazillion rental cars competing with your car on the used market, and there’s little reason to buy domestic.

    A car is generally the biggest purchase a person makes short of a house, and buying a lower quality product that is more expensive to run, more expensive to sell, and is a hassle at the dealer to support “the home team” is being stupid.

  • avatar
    tech98

    And sending those profits straight to Japan and Germany while the home teams suffer thank you very much!

    Profit is a small portion of vehicle purchase $ compared with manufacturing cost.

    The location of the assembly plant isn’t a perfect proxy for economic benefit, but it comes close. Workers are hired, and parts suppliers and services tend to migrate to the vicinity of the plant. The economic multiplier for manufacturing is higher than other types of economic activity.

    Throw in the major US design and engineering, financing and marketing operations of the foreign-brand US transplants, and the economic benefit to the US dwarfs profits sent to the home country.

    It works the same way for the operations of the Big 3 overseas. If they design and manufacture in Europe for the European markets, little of this economic activity benefits the general US economy.

    That’s before we get started on ‘American’-perceived vehicles assembled in Mexico, Canada or elsewhere, and/or with engines and major components made in China or Brazil.

  • avatar
    1169hp

    Argentla:
    Don’t shoot the messenger here…but.

    Since when is a car dealership obligated to “eat” the price of a repair once the vehicle’s out of warranty.

    Also. If the customer came in there making a scene and acting like an idiot, I’d probably tell him/her to hit the bricks.

  • avatar

    1169hp “Also. If the customer came in there making a scene and acting like an idiot, I’d probably tell him/her to hit the bricks.”

    I don’t know spending 15 to 30 k on a vehicle kinda does allow a customer to have certain expectations.

    Hell I once made a scene in a taco bell after being told five days in a row that they were out of beef. Once I made a scene at a Mcdonalds’ after two days in a row at noon time being told that they didn’t have any salads as they were all still frozen.

  • avatar
    1169hp

    Sherman Lin : “Hell I once made a scene in a taco bell after being told five days in a row that they were out of beef.”

    Was this during the Great Mad-Cow beef scare of 2001?? If so, the friendly Taco Bell team members were simply trying to protect you and yours.

  • avatar
    ronin


    And sending those profits straight to Japan and Germany while the home teams suffer thank you very much!

    Detroit thought nothing of outsourcing IT and sending those profits to the home teams. They thought nothing of buying foreign steel and allowing American steel plants to close down. They thought nothing of building factories and assembly plants in Mexico and Canada, costing American jobs.

    But those workers without jobs as a result can rest easy. At least profits went to the home teams.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    If Detroit wants earn forgiveness for its sins, and regain the loyalty of American car buyers, it must put what little money it has left where its mouth is and provide customer care that can be counted on.

    This is so simple, yet so important it’s amazing it hasn’t been picked up on by low-ranking makes. Pay for warranty work an acknowledge defects, and customers will return in droves. People will accept a defect, recall or repair if they’re treated well; hell, fix something and show outstanding service while doing it and you’ll likely bag the customer for life.

    It’s like they’re either lost in cost-control (Mitsubishi, the Americans) or so unwilling to admit fallibility (VW, MB). I have to say that, in my experience with recall and warranty work, Volkswagen makes the domestics look like saints. I’m suprised VW dealers even both with warranty work, what with the pain VWoA makes them go through. As a customer, you want your dealer on your side and you might get this from a domestic or Asian dealer. With VW (and to a lesser degree, MB) you’re screwed.

    There’s a reason why Alfa, Renault, Peugeot and the like were chased off this continent, and it’s not just quality. The average eighties Alfa has as many problems as a contemporary American car, but the dealership experience was so bad it was terrifying.

    It’s also an interesting comment on GM and their continual harping on “the Perception Gap”. The Perception Gap is not, as GM thinks, a customer problem–it’s a GM problem, and one they’ve failed to fix. Hyundai, who was far lower down the scale in perception than GM ever was, pulled themselves up by improving customer care and standing behind their products in a way GM has singularly failed to do outside of Saturn. And it’s also interesting that Saturn has GM’s highest customer satisfaction and retention metrics, yet they’ve outright refused to implement the Saturn model at Chevrolet, where the bulk of the customers are.

    I don’t think that, even today, they think they have a problem.

  • avatar
    barberoux

    A Ford I bought in 1983 was the biggest POS I ever owned. I traded it in at 70K and it was shot. I have bought Hondas or Toyotas since then and EVERYONE of them has gone 100K miles without any problems. A co-worker bought a Taurus in the ’90s and told me that anything that could have gone wrong with a car went wrong with his. He dumped it before 100K and has bought Honda since then. I buy a new car based on how the previous car performed. If my Toyotas cause me any problems before 100K I will switch brands in a minute. So far I have 115K on one car with NO problems. My loyalty towards Toyota was earned by good products and good service. Detroit has lost me as a customer and I would vote for no bailout money. Let them go into chapter 11, dump current management, limit executive compensation to just outrageous, and reduce their product line.

  • avatar
    Bridge2far

    “I don’t know spending 15 to 30 k on a vehicle kinda does allow a customer to have certain expectations.”

    But no amount of money spent licenses one to be loud, obnoxious and disrespecting.

  • avatar
    TaurusGT500

    Interestingly… when Honda, Toyota, et al opened stores in the US they imported thir cars but not technicians, service writers, parts or service managers, dealer principals, etc.

    They gave franchises to the same Americans that owned domestic dealerships who in turn hired the same techs, salespeople, etc that worked in the domestics.

    And yet… and there are exceptions to every rule … decades of anecdotal evidence, and possibly statistical evidence as well … point to overall better “customer care” at the hands of the imports.

    Quality obviously plays a role… quality on Day 1, quality after 3 years …. manufacturing repeatability quality (roughly meaning all the cars have the same high level of quality), etc.

    But the OEM field operations departments responsible for the dealer body; implementation of warranties, recalls, owner notification programs, “goodwill” budgets, etc. has done much to set the tone of customer treatment over the years.

    Bottom line… the dealers get their direction and take their cues from their manufacturer.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Bridge2far :

    “And don’t forget: when you’re buying Honda, Toyota, Subaru, and a BMW X5 or Z4 you ARE buying American.”

    And sending those profits straight to Japan and Germany while the home teams suffer thank you very much!

    In a market-driven economy, they have the right to send those profits wherever they damned well please.

    Your sentiments are misplaced. This is NOT the customer’s fault!

  • avatar
    findude

    Both reliability and the dealer experience are key. I’ve had mixed experiences with dealers of several import brands (never bought a domestic since I remember the 1980 Olds Diesel my folks bought . . . )

    One thing that would be an interesting change would be to stop paying commission to service writers/advisers (dealers as well as many independent shops to be fair). These are sales people as well as the customer interface with the dealer/manufacturer, and are the face the public deals with.

    I am constantly amazed that people do not know these advisers have incentives to increase the customer’s cost by selling stuff that is unnecessary or maybe could be covered by warranty. I once watched a MINI service adviser sell a hapless customer an overpriced runflat tire because hers had a nail puncture. I had the same problem solved free by my local Goodyear dealer under their manufacturer warranty.

    I agree with earlier comments that the availability of information, mostly via the internet, has been a game changer that the auto industry has not taken in to account. I always check the forums for insider information before approving any surprise work on any of our cars.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    A year after I bought my Accord, a friend bought a Chevy Impala. He has already been out over $2,000 for premature repairs and his car’s transmission is slipping again. It has about 60k miles on it. Typical.…

    This seems to be a common thread here, but why is my (large) family’s experience so different? Collectively, we have no brand loyalty, with a mix of “domestic” and “import” vehicles. Some did get caught up in true defects (Toyota engine sludge and GM 3.1 intake gaskets – both dealers initially said tough luck-Toyota eventually did come through; class action suit for GM) but all these horror stories. Naturally, the personal biases here are slanting the mix toward spilling the beans against Detroit, and it seems that an average domestic vehicle is, by these postings, good for 100K, not much more, and you better plan for some big repair bills. Most of our extended family members run their cars well beyond the arbitrary 100K mark, some (myself included) push beyond 200K. Costs and frequency or repair for long term operation don’t seem to be much different between our domestics or imports. I am talking cars built from late eighties on. I really would like to see a scientific study on this, as the topic becomes colored by personal biases or isolated cases of extreme failures.

    When it comes to service departments, however, I couldn’t agree more. Far and away, the typical domestic dealer is much worse when it comes to service. And this is based on mostly routine service. I can’t imagine what it would be like for a serious repair. And to add a final note, i am steadfastly opposed to a bailout. Detroit made a ton of cash in SUV’s. They should have plowed those profits into making a balanced portfolio of product.

  • avatar
    cleek

    I did well purchasing a ’04 Mercury Monterey minivan including the no-deductible 75K warranty. I bought a mule, but went in with my eyes wide open. The price was ~$10K less OTD than a comparable Honda Odyssey. I also found that the service I get at the Lincoln-Mercury/Volvo/Audi dealer is far superior to the Ford stores, I have had a few niggling repairs done under warranty and had a wheel rim crack, but that’s it. Having experienced enough Jacque Nasser “customer service” I expect a transmission repair on or before 60K, so the extended warranty was always factored into the plan. I now have 55K on the clock and am awaiting the torque converter to frag, and take out the tranny ( a known issue with the Ford vans of this era). But with with a year and 20K left on my extended warranty, I’m prepared.

    My thesis: Ford products + extended warranty, purchased at a significant discount relative to the Japanese products, provide good value.

    If the consumer can pay an extra ~2.5% of MSRP at retail for a no deductible 5yr/75K mile extended factory warranty, can’t the mfg or even the dealership bundle the package up front? Just think of what it would do for residual values.
    Why doesn’t this happen? Is it because the back of the house is where the real money is made? A Finance vs. Sales issue?

  • avatar
    cleek

    Some did get caught up in true defects (Toyota engine sludge and GM 3.1 intake gaskets – both dealers initially said tough luck-Toyota eventually did come through; class action suit for GM)

    Actually Toyota lost a class action suit for engine sludge.

    http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070207/AUTO01/702070349/1148

  • avatar
    NickR

    Every time I think about giving a D2.8 vehicle I am reminded of how the clearcoat peeled off my dad’s Crown Vic (the current iteration). Another known problem about which Ford did as little as possible. Pity, because the drivetrain was solid. But the car looked like it belonged in a junkyard 4 years after it was new.

    My boss’s Chevy Trailblazer is a lemon of epic proportion’s and if GM had any decency they would have bought it back ages ago. Instead, they waste countless hours of his time and drive him crazy. I think the ‘threshold’ rule is a good one; along the same lines, the D2.8 should have their own lemon law, rather than forcing mortal enemies, er, customers to pursue them through the courts. At some point, just take the damn car back, and at the very least provide an equivalent vehicle at an equivalent price. Then the manufacturer can dissemble the car, figure out what is wrong, and part it out (do not, under any circumstances, let it back on the road).

  • avatar

    1169hp regarding my Taco Bell experience, the store served beef before 10 PM and after 10 PM always said that they ran out of beef.

  • avatar
    cleek

    Sherman Lin :
    November 24th, 2008 at 11:30 am

    1169hp regarding my Taco Bell experience, the store served beef before 10 PM and after 10 PM always said that they ran out of beef.

    What substance drives a man to aggressively demand to ingest Taco Bell beef after 10pm?

    You must possess a cast iron constitution

  • avatar
    threeer

    Perceptions may be a tricky thing to quantify, and all have stories going either way (domestic vs. import)…but the bottom line is this, when I go out and look at the interior build quality of my 2006 Fusion compared to the build quality of my son’s 1997 Toyota Tercel, I’d pick the Tercel every time. Everything is still in place and functioning with no hassles or issues. In my much newer (and much more expensive Fusion)the steering wheel is already delaminating (foam seperated from the metal ring, now I can twist the top to my wheel around the interior steel ring) and the “chrome’ trim on the interior door handle is bubbling due to poor adhesion. There’s my “perception gap.” My son’s 200k Tercel? No rips or tears in the interior…anywhere. It really is hard to argue when you can see it face to face each and every day. Will my Fusion make it 5 years without major issues? I’m not convinced it will…and that’s a MAJOR problem for Ford.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    There are always miracle stories, one offs, but they are statistically insignificant.

    For instance here is my miracle story. I purchased a 1994 Mercury Sable station wagon in 2003 with some 100k miles on it. On my way home after I bought the car it overheated. But because I was on a highway, it was very cold outside (-15C) and I had my 2-year old son with me I decided to drive on home for another 10 miles with the engine temperature going beyond red. In the evening I took the car to my mechanic. He said the transmission was gone and he thought the engine was most likely gone as well. He also told me that if I asked him before I bought the car he would have told me to stay away from this model and engine type because it was well known for engine gasket failures. In fact he thought that the car had the failed gasket already that’s why it overheated.

    After that I read up on the issue on the internet. It confirmed what my mechanic said; Ford 3.4 engines gaskets always fail, it’s just a matter of time. When they fail and the engine overheats if only for a moment, the engine would crack with 100% certainty.

    It turned out that in my case neither the engine gasket nor the engine itself failed during this journey. I kept the car for another 60k miles until the replaced transmission (purchased as rebuilt) failed. The fact that the engine didn’t crack despite being driven for at least 10-15 miles while being overheated goes again everything I read anywhere but it’s true.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    a fnd who owns a early 90′s Pontiac Sinbird.
    Everything under the hood is failing, timing belt ( a routine maint) , rear brake seize on wet days, water pump, engine mount, trans mount. The estimated bill would be close to $2500-3000
    Should he pour money in, the car would still worth no more than 250 as much as the catalytic converter worth a mth ago.
    So we looked and found a 87 Merc 560 sel for him < a grand with 220,000 km or 130,000 miles.
    SO far it has some minor issues, using small amount of motor oil, heater fan doesn’t work, we by pass the circuit with resistors. As fixing that would cost a big fortune. Is computer controlling the fan speed.

    Last night we went out to the autobahn for a drive, hit 160 km it was still purring fine, going straight as an arrow except front wheel may need balancing or new shocks.
    Only real complain was high costs for fuel, average 10 MPG in city driving.
    But he got more enjoyment out of driving this, reminds him of the muscle car eras, the power plus fine handling at 60 MPH plus, better brakes, handling altogether. This things can climb up to 160 in very short time, although is not going to run 8 secs at the brackets. Not long ago a small Honda thought this was a has been decided to out run me from the right lane at the stop light, little that he know these Panzer wagens can still move pretty fast.
    His old Sunbird cannot let him drive for more than 1/2 hr without some serious cramp to his legs.

  • avatar

    Cleek I work 5 PM to 1:30 AM so 10 PM is my normal lunch time. I don’t think its too much to ask a major fast food chain that closes at 2 AM to not run out of beef five days in a row four hours before they close.

  • avatar
    cleek

    Sherman Lin :
    November 24th, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Cleek I work 5 PM to 1:30 AM so 10 PM is my normal lunch time. I don’t think its too much to ask a major fast food chain that closes at 2 AM to not run out of beef five days in a row four hours before they close.

    ic. lunch. makes perfect sense.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    I guess we should count ourselves lucky with our cars, our last three were a ’93 Ford Ranger 4×2, bought new, and driven for 9 years with nothing more than a driveability problem that went away when the ECU was reinitialized and sold when the second kid was on the way.
    The second car was another Ford, ’95 Escort bought used and slightly more trouble, the only design issue we had was tendency to spit the rubber insert out of the harmonic balancer every few years, which served as a reminder to change the timing belt. This car also had a transmission that was rebuilt several times after ingesting some crud. The dealer who did the second round of transmission rebuilds was quite good, eating all of the rework costs and lending us a Focus for a week. We still have this one and the joke is that we triple its value every time we put our bikes on it.
    The last car was a ’97 Saturn SL2 we got from Grandma when she quit driving, and again pretty reliable apart from one alternator. On the other hand the ergonomics of the Saturn are horrible and we are waiting for the day when we can sell it and buy something more fun.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Cleek I work 5 PM to 1:30 AM so 10 PM is my normal lunch time. I don’t think its too much to ask a major fast food chain that closes at 2 AM to not run out of beef five days in a row four hours before they close.

    Do you not have Tim Hortons where you are? When I started as a network operator and moved to datacentre supervisor post-2am meals at Tim’s comprised a big chunk of my salary.

  • avatar
    thoots

    “Detroit” lost me 30 years ago.

    Oh, yeah, sure, I’ve read about a half-dozen reports from people who have had a bunch of Detroit iron but no problems whatsoever. I just figure that these people have very poor memories, or are just lying through their teeth.

    Hehehe. Not really, but it’s “anecdotal at best.” In the end, the news about Detroit (er, quite often “Mexico” these days) vehicles remains utterly abysmal. There is just no way on Earth I’m going to spend that kind of money on an almost-guaranteed piece of junk.

    “May the ‘big three’ continue their swirl down the toilet,” and I have contacted my Congressional representatives to register my belief that the utter morons in charge will just piss my tax money down the toilet, should they give any of it to them.

    These companies have FAILED. Let’s just get on with it, and stop paying the freaking morons who have driven them straight into the toilet the millions of dollars they’ve been paying themselves. What rubbish!

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    After that I read up on the issue on the internet. It confirmed what my mechanic said; Ford 3.4 engines gaskets always fail, it’s just a matter of time. When they fail and the engine overheats if only for a moment, the engine would crack with 100% certainty.…

    Uh, the 1994 Sable you refer to only came with a 3.0 V6 (The Vulcan- makes 200K w/o issues) and the 3.8 V6, known for weak head gaskets…I still use a 92 Sable 3.0 for a station car…

  • avatar
    geeber

    golden2husky: Uh, the 1994 Sable you refer to only came with a 3.0 V6 (The Vulcan- makes 200K w/o issues) and the 3.8 V6, known for weak head gaskets…I still use a 92 Sable 3.0 for a station car…

    Very true – friends who have the 3.0 V-6 have had no trouble hitting 200,000 miles with those things. Unfortunately, it is a coarse, unrefined beast.

    Another problem was that the transmission couldn’t handle the additional power put out by the 3.8 V-6. So unlucky buyers who shelled out the extra money for the 3.8 V-6 were guaranteed to experience a blown head gasket AND a faulty transmission. This didn’t happen on cars equipped with the 3.0 V-6.

    Our experiences with domestic cars have been mixed. My wife had a 1999 Cavalier before while we were dating, and the air conditioner died at 50,000 miles (which seemed to happen regularly with Cavaliers), and the engine was shot at 113,000 miles. It also left her stranded twice.

    Her 2005 Focus SE has been very reliable so far. It now has 77,000 miles on the odometer. It has had two problems – a faulty wiper motor, and a blown accessory outlet fuse. The first, however, may have been related to the time my wife hit someone from behind, and did about $4,000 worth of damage to her car. So, based on this car, and validation of Ford’s improving reliability in Consumer Reports, we will definitely consider a Ford when it comes time to replace the Focus.

    We would not, however, trust GM cars. My friend’s Cadillac Seville wasn’t especially reliable, even though he swears it was perfect. I’ve also heard too many stories of Northstar V-8s croaking at around 100,000 miles. My mother-in-law’s two Malibus – a 1999 model that was basically shot at 99,000 miles, and her current 2004 model – haven’t been too impressive, either.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    I’m not so sure about BMW anymore. You see, BMWNA is actually two divisions; Canada and the United States. I hear good things about BMWNA(United States) if problems occur after the warranty, that can be identified as manufacturing defects. BMWNA(Canada) not so much. After the warranty expires, Canadians are S.O.L..

    BMW’s Customer Relations department in Canada clearly confirmed my suspicions. When the warranty is up, you are on your own regardless of what happens with American customers.

    Free dash pixel repairs for U.S., $1500 charge for Canadians.

  • avatar
    Old Guy Ben

    Sadly, our local Toyota dealer (there’s only one, smallish town) has started to adopt service department policies that I’ve only seen up till now at Chrysler and GM places (I haven’t owned a Ford since my 65 mustang)

    Most recent – we have a bad weather seal on the sliding door of our Sienna that is three years old. It’s past the 36,000 mile mark, and the wonderful extended warranty we paid through the nose for doesn’t cover “cosmetic” items like weather seals, so their attitude is “It’s your responsibility as the owner to pay for any repairs.”

    Flat out will NOT discuss it with us, that a three year old car (regardless of mileage, since the door seals aren’t a drivetrain component) shouldn’t be falling apart. In fact, they wouldn’t even give us a price, but they recently charged my wife $300 for a spark plug change, so I don’t think we can afford it.

    Our next car will not be a Toyota. We can’t sell this one soon enough, no telling what else won’t be covered due to the fine print on our warranty. If we want to get verbally abused by the service manager, we’d have bought a Chrysler.

    I think as car sales continue to decline, we may see more of this, regardless of “import” or “domestic” label put on a dealership. They’re only human, after all, and need to make their money somehow.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    Michael Karesh: In the second case, the wheels on a 3.5-year-old 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser (wife wanted one) required replacement because they corroded so much they could not form an airtight seal with the tires.

    It’s not even a new issue. I had the same problem with a ’96 Dodge Dakota when it was three years old. I went round and round with Dodge with no luck. Several other issues with that little truck led to it being traded in disgust in ’02 (for a Nissan Frontier that was worse…). I’m disturbed that they were doing this for at least six years though.

    My current ride is an ’01 Windstar (ex wife’s choice, not mine). I’ve had the heat fail twice, in 70K miles, from a poorly designed part. Ford covered the first failure under warranty (42K miles) and told me to pound sand when the heater failed again at 65K. I fixed it myself and used some redneck engineering to ensure that it won’t break again. If a backyard mechanic can do this why can’t factory engineers?

    While I’ve had some very good domestic products (’84 Cutlass, ’85 F150, and a ’96 Crown Vic P71) most of them have been a poor investment. I’m counting the months untill I get rid of the Windstar (home of many wayward electrical gremlins). I’m going to have to think long and hard about buying another big 3 product.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    While I haven’t read through all of the posts, I do agree (as others have) that the owner is taking a gamble on the car. Even with a warranty, the dealership has to accept the car as having a warranty related problem. This is one of my biggest issues with the system. A few years back, I took my ‘certified used’ nissan w/ an extended warranty to my mechanic after the power steering went out. The broken part was a pulley that was claearly listed as warranty work. However, the dealership argued it was a pin holding the pulley that broke and, thus, they wouldn’t honor that agreement. I followed up with Nissan USA, who stated that they had to go on the word of the dealership. Faced with bills to to tow the car elsewhere and to be without the car longer, I paid the bill. However, I informed Nissan USA that they had lost a customer for life (and at 25 that is a long life). It wasn’t till afterward that I found out that Nissan corporate doesn’t like to pay for dealership work. Thus, the dealership finds ways to wiggle out of claiming it as warranty work. As I have been to several dealers and can’t find one that I even remotely trust, no more Nissans in my future. The big 3 have to learn that treating everyone else badly will eventually get you burned.


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