By on March 30, 2012

Selling overpriced “Original” parts can be like printing money. I know carmakers that generate 30 percent of their profits out of parts sales. How do you drive parts sales? By forcing customers to stay as long as possible with your dealer, a money pit the customer tries to flee as early and as quickly as possible. The golden fleece in the business are repairs only an authorized dealer can perform, using overpriced parts only the authorized dealer has. Countless attempts have been made to break this monopoly. Another attempt is on the way.

For decades, there has been a cat and mouse game between manufacturers and the law. In the U.S. and in Europe, repair information must be made available to independents. But there is always some special information for authorized dealers only. The computerization of cars swung the pendulum towards auto manufacturers and their dealers. Why does a car key sometimes cost hundreds of dollars? Because it can.

OEMs face off with independent workshops, and especially with parts suppliers. Suppliers typically don’t make much money selling part to OEMs, but make a lot selling to independents, even at prices much lower than those of OEMs. Mark-ups between 10 and 100 times the ex-factory cost are not unheard of.

The European automotive supplier body CLEPA is tired of playing cat and mouse with manufacturers. CLEPA says will take at least one carmaker to court if manufacturers continue to withhold repair and maintenance information, Just-Auto writes.

Said CLEPA’s outgoing CEO Lars Holmqvist:

“We have come to the point where we are fed up. We have talked to the carmakers for one year and we have not reached an agreement which is satisfactory. When you buy a car you just don’t borrow it – you should have all the necessary information.”

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68 Comments on “You Thought That Car Was Expensive? Wait Until You Get Fleeced By The Shop...”


  • avatar
    pb35

    I take my out of warranty Volvo to the dealer for service due a recent experience I had over the holidays. Sometime last year, the AWD stopped functioning on my XC90. Being about 4 months out of the manufacturers warranty, I took it to a local indie shop that specializes in Volvo’s. They proceeded to tell me that my AWD wasn’t working because I had replaced the OEM V-rated tires with H-rated. After telling them they were out of their freaking minds with that diagnosis, they looked into it further and determined that the issue was serious and recommended that I take it back to Volvo for analysis.

    I took it to the dealer where I purchased it (and always had it serviced), and they found that the angle gear was shot (at 40k mi.) so the rear wheels were not receiving any power. The issue was escalated and Volvo picked up the tab for the repair to the tune of $4k. Needless to say, I was pleased with the outcome and just may purchase another Volvo due to this.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-X

      pb35:
      A lowly ($20 piece-price at manufacture) Volvo angle gear goes bad at only 40k, and the bill is $4k to fix it and you “may” purchase another Volvo? Wow. Volvo-paid repair or not, I’d be shopping at the other 25 brands. Why take the risk? Risk of another expensive quality failure, risk of them not paying for it. This story is a perfect example of the ‘free ride’ many brands get on reputation.

  • avatar
    M.S. Smith

    I have a theory that the sub-par reliability of cars from the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes has less to do with an inability to make a car reliable and more to do with a desire to make money off after market parts.

    Seems like a nice business model. A big chunk of luxury car business is from people who buy a new car every 3-5 years, or lease. Take those trade-ins and lease returns, sell them for another nice chunk of change, then make money off repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I doubt that BMW, Audi, and Mercedes go out of their way to design cars to require more frequent maintenance. More likely they just don’t put enough weight on the importance of minimizing time in the shop relative to other engineering objectives. For unknown reason Europeans just can’t seem to understand how much Americans depend on their car in day-to-day life and how disruptive it is to put the car in the shop. It’s almost like they believe that Americans should change their car-centric way of life to have the privilege of driving their product.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo2

        Would they sell better if they were more reliable but more appliance like? Acura doesn’t seem to be doing all that well…

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Yes I believe that European cars would sell in higher volume if they spent less time in the shop.

        Hideously ugly styling, not appliance oriented engineering, is what’s killing Acura. Used to be that if you bought an Acura TL instead of a loaded Honda Accord, you got more attractive styling, a more powerful engine, and a longer warranty, but you got stuck with paying for premium gas. FWD 2004-2008 TL looked good, but it drove like a V6 Accord. Now paying extra for the base Acura TL just gives you ugly styling without more engine displacement.

      • 0 avatar
        jeffzekas

        My second-youngest son owned an Acura Integra… awesome car, fun to drive, not bad looking… which proves the Japanese CAN build fun, good looking cars… in fact, my son’s Acura was just as fun to drive as the BMW 3-series owned by my youngest son… and the Acura had WAY less maintenance than the Beemer!

      • 0 avatar
        jmo2

        Yes I believe that European cars would sell in higher volume if they spent less time in the shop.

        But, more resources spent on reliability means fewer resources spent on handling, steering feel, ride quality, interior quality, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @jmo2: “Would they sell better if they were more reliable but more appliance like? Acura doesn’t seem to be doing all that well…”

        Witness the commercial success that is Toyota.

        A steadfast reliable appliance isn’t right for everyone, but it really is winner for a lot of people.

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      You may be on to something with the high cost of service and parts with European makes, there’s probably nothing as lucrative to a dealership as a 5 year old Audi/Mercedes/BMW etc.

      What’s a shame is, up until the 1990s, if you wanted a non-disposable car that was built to last, you bought European. Now it seems they’re only built to lease. Unreliable and way too complex for even shops that have made hefty investments.

    • 0 avatar
      jimbobjoe

      While there are profits for the auto maker selling parts, the big money is made by the dealer selling those parts. Moreover, a lot of luxury manufacturers finance the vehicles themselves via their finance leasing arms, and so therefore are quite concerned with the vehicle’s resale value (these have been plummeting for the German automakers, with good reason.)

      I basically echo George B’s comments: Europeans love over-engineering. They orgasm at the thought of excessively complex but clever solutions. They smash gigantic engines and other accoutrement into too small engine bays. That’s where the ridiculous labor costs come from.

      My theory explaining the unreliability of the parts is that the European automakers have a more distant relationship from the suppliers than the Japanese do. Over and over again it seems that the reliability problems I hear about are due to some parts supplier dropping the ball. The name Bosch means jack to me now. I feel that the Japanese would see the problem and improve the part. The Europeans seem to be on the next engineering problem instead.

      • 0 avatar

        “Europeans love over-engineering” Do you mean Spaniard, Italians and French? Those who love over-engineering are not abstract “Europeans” – it is a nation and they are known as Germans. It is still sovereign country. “European cars” in America are German cars. So lets just talk about Germans do not attach labels to all Europeans whoever they might be.

        Another point it is not that they love over-engineering. For America crumbling freeways and driving habits German cars may be over-engineered, here I agree with you. But for German driving conditions they are engineered sufficient enough to stay stable on the road and withstand high speed for long periods of time.

      • 0 avatar
        jimbobjoe

        No, I don’t mean Spaniards, Italians and French, because the former and latter don’t sell cars in the US, and except for the Fiat 500, Italian cars are exotics. Nor do we have Romanian cars.

        For the purpose of this conversation, when we say “European cars” in America, we refer to Swedish and German cars.

        Admittedly, we do have British cars here, and I sorta overlooked that. But then again, the UK is a reluctant member of Europe. And I can say that..as an Irish citizen. :)

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    The trend is toward dealer-only service (I’m looking esp. at the German makes here, Mercedes and Audi for example). Automakers would make it possible for only their dealers to open your hood if they could get away with it.

  • avatar
    dvdlgh

    Back in the mid 1990′s I had an Audi 80. The heater core had cracked and was leaking. I called the local dealer and was quoted $750 to replace it. They wanted $275 for the heater core. I contacted an Audi parts distributor in New York and bought the core from them for $125. It was stamped with the Audi part number. I had heard stories about this dealer from a few other Audi owners but I understand “believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see.” Well now I did see for myself. They were making a killing on screwing people on parts alone. I did replace the heater core myself, had no leftover parts of any kind and not a rattle or squeak. I found out why mechanics hate changing a heater core!

    • 0 avatar
      bolhuijo

      I worked at a place where they make heater cores. Total cost of manufacture is somewhere south of $20. For a small one, perhaps half that. You’re sure right about accessibility down there though. I always envisioned car assembly as starting with the HVAC unit and building everything up around that. :)

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        As the owner of a 1997 Passat, I believe you are exactly correct – the heater core is installed first, and then the entire rest of the car is built around it!

        It’s a 17-hour-job to replace the heater core IIRC. I fear the day that it finally breaks and spews hot coolant upon the driver’s right foot.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        “I always envisioned car assembly as starting with the HVAC unit and building everything up around that”

        This is essentially true.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I do that today – I shop online, print out the prices and challenge my local dealers to match it. Usually works with my local Honda dealer. I do all my own repairs and maintenance. Their parts are then competitive to aftermarket prices and since aftermarket parts vary considerably – in experience – in quality, I’m happier buying OEM parts from Honda.

      I know firsthand that the local Honda dealer marks up his parts 100%, a relative that was the parts manager for a VW/BMW dealer todl the same story, and a friend who sold parts for a local Chrysler dealer told me the same.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The Swedes were the worst offenders in this. Both Saab and Volvo have proprietary “security” schemes where electronic parts are “married” to the cars, and cannot be changed out without security access via the Mothership. Sure, you can buy temporary security access, but it will cost you as much as just having the dealer do it. This extends even to things like window regulators.

    The Germans generally have not taken it to this extreme, even though the cars are very computerized. I have the aftermarket software and cable that lets me do anything the dealer can do to a VW or Audi, and I will be buying the BMW version. Actually, there are FREE tools for BMW, they are just harder to use. Mercedes I have no experience with, but I have not heard any particular horror stories about them in this regard.

    My guess is that the manufacturer refered to in the posting is Volvo.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      As the owner of a Volvo I think your right. This the first car I’ve owned where a software upgrade of $700 was required to active a “feature” by which the car displays the MPG on the fly. Its literally just a tiny download which (at most) costs $30 for a tech to plug in a cable and push a button. Several owners have gotten their dealerships to wave the fee, but mine wouldn’t. Thus I’m NEVER going back to them. Got the brakes done at a local Tires Plus place for like 1/4 the price Volvo wanted.

      Went thru similar BS with the ABS module on my VW Passat. $2000 worth of work and parts the stealership claimed. After some Googling I removed the unit, shipped it off to a specialist, had it rebuilt and back two days later. Put it into the car myself… all for only $200 bucks. Took maybe 20 minutes total, of which 10 were spent getting the fender liner out of the way so I could see what I was doing.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Bingo – expensive dealer, not necessarily an expensive car to maintain. Did the same with my VW’s cruise control. Yes the module should not have a problem (bad relay inside) but the dealer price was $500. I took it out (10 mins) and shipped it to a rebuilder in TN and had it repaired for $50 and reinstalled it myself. I wanted to break the seal and see what they replaced but I dared not risk the warranty.

        This married to the mothership problem – are you talking to about the CAN network?

    • 0 avatar
      jimbobjoe

      I was not given the impression that Saab was any worse than anyone else in this regard. People have the same problem with Lexuses.

      Someone out there is making a tidy sum having figured out how to close the electronic keys for the 9-3s.

  • avatar
    George B

    The main racket I run into is the manufacturer specific coolant. I doubt that Honda’s dark green antifreeze is worth the dealer price, but using something else would result in some ugly off-color mess.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Just don’t use something else in a VW/Audi product. It will punish you with years of coolant leaks. Mercedes seem to be tolerate aftermarket coolant. You can put any generic long life coolant in the Honda, it will be fine.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Yep – the local Honda dealer charged me $14 per gallon. I saw his invoice and his cost was half that. On the flip side in 230K miles I’ve needed a jug for a flush twice. I can live with that. Another item is the AWD double-pump oil used in the rear diff. Again $10 per quart. On the other hand I replace that oil every 80K miles so again the cost is negligible in the big picture.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Until recently, I’ve heard Ford ads telling people to buy tires from them, because ‘the dealer knows best’. They claimed to have competitive pricing, but maybe they gouged on labor or other side charges like balancing and disposal.

    I can’t imagine ever buying tires from a car dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      gettysburg

      I’m sure they also recommend/require that your tires be filled with nitrogen to further pad the bill.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      I cross shop the dealerships and their prices are typically competitive when it comes to tires. Occasionally they will have very good deals on what I suspect are left-over OEM tires.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      The local Ford dealer was pushing tires and batteries. A coworker with a big Ford pickup truck said their battery prices were competitive so he bought two from them (big diesel truck needed two). So far so good.

      FWIW a few months ago I bought a replacement battery from our Honda dealer. He too was within $10 of the discount store batteries and I’ve not had very good longevity from the aftermarket batteries. My original Honda battery lasted six or seven years and the replacements lasted about four or five years.

      Whatever you drive, give the dealer a call. They might surprise you.

      I think the Internet and the recession has leveled the field alot.

  • avatar
    graham

    Please provide your source for the “30% of profits” claim. I’m not doubting it, but that’s still a hefty percentage considering most dealer-serviced cars are under warranty.

  • avatar

    This is one of the most interesting and useful posts.

  • avatar
    Banger

    Your mileage with dealer service departments may vary.

    We’ve been generally pleased with our Nissan dealer’s service department. I keep a very close eye on our Cube’s maintenance needs, checking the oil frequently, monitoring tire wear on a monthly basis, tracking our fuel economy religiously, minding the fluids, etc. Never once have they tried to screwball us. Once with our previous car, a Sentra, they told us we needed new brake rotors and pads to fix a rattling noise we had. I didn’t buy that explanation, so they invited me back into the shop to look at the scored rotors caused by too-hard (and now glazed) aftermarket pads that had been installed, in all likelihood, by the Honda dealership from whose used inventory we bought the Sentra. Just for their honesty, I allowed them to do the job, even though it cost me about double what it would have cost if I had taken it home and bought aftermarket rotors/pads to do the job myself.

    Prices at this dealer have so far been reasonable. Typical oil change costs $35, which is as cheap as any quickie lube and a lot more thorough. We just got a quote on tire prices for our Cube, as it will likely need tires next winter (stupid factory Toyo A20s), and they’re competitive there, as well. They’ll price-match any tire shop on the brands they carry. Labor is only slightly higher. They *do* offer nitrogen fill on your tires, but it is in no way pushed on you.

    The local Ford dealer is somewhat different. Having changed owners three times in the last five or six years, it has gone from a down-home shop to a high-fallutin’ shop with prices to match, to now a more modest pricing model in the same nice shop facility. Recently had an oil change and 85,000 mile service inspection on my Ranger done at that dealer for again about $35 after a small discount coupon, and they’ll do every fifth oil change free of charge. Not horrible. Will see what they want to charge me to drain/fill my manual transmission fluid at 90,000 miles, which is fast approaching. It’s a nasty job to try to do in your driveway, even with the “spill saver” tube I have to connect to the ATF bottle. (Yes, the Ranger’s M5OD takes ATF. Stupid, I know.)

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    BMWs have been the catalyst for quite a bit of right to repair legislation. Carmakers have been swinging the repair equation more and more to dealer service required and will continue to do so. The free market is not going to help here because it is highly unlikely that any given manufacturer is going to use “serviceable by any independent shop” as a marketing tool. So having the government mandate access is the only option that is going to work. However, the fly in the ointment is what is fair and reasonable for that access and the information needed to program and repair. Left to their own devices, we have the $300 replacement key, and we will also get a ridiculous cost for information. As an owner of the product we have a right to the information to repair it. Setting a price for it is going to be the hard part.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Anyone seen the dealers stick it to the customer on the things only they can do -however simple- while being reasonable on the things they need to be competitive on b/c there are aftermarket solutions and independent shops to compete with?

  • avatar
    MBella

    The dealer has several advantages. The techs are familiar with the one line and the one line very well. The independent tech knows the big 3 cars well and may have some insight into other makes. I have worked with some very good independent techs, but if they were asked to fix a problem with the airmatic system on a Mercedes, they would not know were to start. We had an E-class wagon come in recently that a nearby independent shop tried replacing the rear air springs on. They were not aware of the special filling procedure required, and ended up destroying both the new springs. After several weeks of argument between us at the dealership and the independent, they finally agreed on some terms and we fixed the car. The customer was out of a vehicle for over a month total, and could have had it back next day if he would have come to us originally. Since the job payed 3.5 hours to do both rear springs, he would have been quoted $245 for labor at the independent assuming a $70/hour flat rate that seems to be average for an independent. At our $104 he would have spent $364 at our dealership. We can disregard the cost of the parts because the independent bought them from us at a discount wholesale price and he marked it up at least to our list if not more. So was the hundred dollars off worth it to be without a car for over a month. You can decide. Our tire prices are also competitive. The problem comes when we will not sell off brand tires. We only sell tires that are approved by MB. If the customer cross shops a set of Continentals from us and some Chinese GT Super Max Radials we will be more expensive. However he is getting a sub par product.

  • avatar
    dwford

    There’s a simple solution to all this: lease,

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Lease: a car payment for life with no equity at the end when it’s time to get another car. (Yes, no maintenance worries either)

      I haven’t had a car payment since 2004 and dread the idea of another.

  • avatar
    mikey

    As a life time GM employee I’ve had many new GM cars/trucks. The few times I took and out of warranty vehicle in, I got screwed.

    Along with an in warranty Impala, and Cobalt,I also own an out of warranty, Ford Mustang. I am trying to keep my Mustang completly original. Nothing but Ford parts, is my rule.

    The local Ford dealer just did my rear pads, and replaced the rotors. I was shocked at how well I was treated. The price was maybe 20 pecent higher than my regular mechanic.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Considering all the cars I have worked on during my lifetime, either for myself or for friends and family, I have found that labor usually is the biggest cost to any repair job. Parts can be sourced from many places, even parts for imports and exotics.

      There are several sources where you can get replacement parts and among them are junk yards that will sell you parts from wrecked cars. I have cannibalized many cars over the years and re-used those parts to refurbish or repair other cars.

      I cannot count all the VW Bug conversions and swaps I have done for people who wanted their Bug redone as a Dune Buggy. Parts is parts, even for exotics like BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and Porsche. The Internet just made it much easier to find parts on-line from nationwide wrecking yards.

      Factory-original parts are no better than those bought at NAPA, Autozone, O’Reilly’s, Kragen, CarQuest or whatever. I have bought from all those sources and never had any problems.

      The best parts I have used were actually made in Mexico and China, and I have used a ton of them. The worst parts were bearings made in Bulgaria. They didn’t last a year or 12K miles.

      But if you are dependent on others to fix your car then the cost of the repair is whatever the market will bear.

      That could be why more and more people choose to Lease and bug out after the lease ends.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        I replaced an alternator in a 10 year old Mustang with a new OEM only because the bearing was noisy and I was headed to Vegas. Six months later, that OEM alternator caught on fire. Stopped and disco’d the negative terminal before it damaged anything else but ended up buying a dirty junk yard alternator and drove it for another 10 years and it’s probably still in it. Most new waterpumps, alternators, power steering pumps/racks and A/C compressors aren’t new all, they’re reman’d and that includes dealer parts. I’ve had way better luck with junk yard orginal equipment than anything else.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        My LeSabre’s cruise control vacuum servo died at “only” 100k. I found another one in a junk yard I passed by every day (from a car with 165k), and enjoyed my cruise control until I gave the car away at 235k miles.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Highdesert: +1!

  • avatar
    Terry

    0 avatar
    Bertel Schmitt
    March 30th, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    “I worked for more than 30 years for a large OEM, specialty after sales marketing. Nuff said …”

    Bertel, how long ago was this?? Did you turn wrenches for a living??
    I’ll tell you straight out…I could have retired long ago fixing cars the independents TRIED to repair. Aftermarket parts–same deal.
    But it COULDNT be the alternator–it’s NEW–I just bought it from XXXBoys!”
    Try this: Indy shop is $75/hr, dealership is $120. The Indy shop takes 5 hours to do the job the dealer takes 2 hours. Do the math–YOU tell me who is more expensive.
    The indy says..”I’m sorry, we tried, but you’ll have to TAKE IT TO THE DEALER for that.PAY US” Ya see, we dont have, nor need a way out–we ARE the dealer. And we have the manufacturer, their techline, etc to back us up.
    And yes, before these last 30 years at the same dealership, and the several dealerships before that, I worked at an independent shop. The final step up was to work at the dealership, not to regress to an independent shop FROM a dealership.
    As for prices… One dealer charges $175 for a certain service. Another dealer–same make– charges $150. Having the work done at the 1st dealership, did you get “ripped off”? OF COURSE NOT!–YOU didnt shop around, didnt do your homework. Each dealership–like each independent charges THEIR prices.
    Parts prices: Yep–I get my parts at MY service department at employee pricing, but for my motorcycles, I buy online. Then again–I diagnose, I install the parts. The average person doesnt have that capability, and yes, there is a price to be paid for having needed parts in stock. Convenience is another aspect.
    It’s also humorous that we get calls from the independents on how to repair cars, but it seems we never have to call them for the same questions. Who would know the vehicles better than those that sell and service them daily? One of my former factory reps once told me..When you want the best steak, do you go to Denny’s?
    Speaking of which…next time you go out for breakfast, bring your own bacon, eggs, toast, juice, and coffee. If the management raises a hackle, just tell them that their prices are outrageous, and that you’re just trying to save money. Let me know how that works out for you!

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Your testimony just reinforces the commonly-held feeling that dealers can and will charge whatever they want for services ranging from routine to special, upon a hapless public. No, thanks.

      First, I do all my own diagnosis and mechanic work except changing tires and internal transmission repair, and have managed pretty well for over 30 years. I am a mechanical engineer by day, with some pre-college training on aircraft engines, so I have an advantage over most car owners.

      Second, the few times I’ve paid someone else to diagnose a problem, they’re often wrong, and this includes dealers. I don’t mind paying for the convenience of having a dealer do the work once in a great while, but I don’t care to pay for incompetence.

      Third, dealers are totally unnecessary for routine maintenance unless you’ve got some kind of exotic car. I’m really not interested in paying $10 for an oil filter, and $6/qt for mfr-labeled oil, when I can get the same stuff at WalMart for much less.

      Fourth, access to information will eventually wear down the dealer service monopoly, as seen already with new and used car buying power now in the hands of consumers. I recently changed a crankshaft position sensor on a 10-year-old Nissan with the help of an excellent video on YouTube. It was a job I actually couldn’t have figured out very easily because it’s done blind, essentially. But the dealer’s price would have been sky high, and much of it for labor.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        I agree.
        For my GM truck, I needed a front wheel bearing assembly recently. Dealer price $650. Independent shop price, $75 labor plus the $60 part I bought online and gave him (with double the warranty). In many cases, it does pay to not go to the dealer. The service writer’s job is to suck money out of you. They are on commission. They do not have your best interest at heart.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Not all independents are the same. A person has to look around and find a good one. I do my own work and have for 30 years. However I’ve helped countless friends and family with vehicle problems and shops. I’ve seen good shops and bad. I’ve seen honest shops and dishonest shops. I’ve seen shosp that were honest until they realized they could put one (or two or three) over on the hapless customer who believes anything they are told. And I’ve seen dealers do the same.

      The end result – trust no one but yourself. Buy the best quality parts – and the most expensive parts are not always the best quality parts and the cheapest parts sometimes demonstrate that you get what you pay for.

      Best choice: be informed about your mechanic, what your cars need to be fixed right, maintained right and what it takes to make one last and last. Don’t blindly write checks.

      But then everything I said should be obvious and applies to doctors, home repairs, lawyers, employers, etc.

  • avatar
    ajla

    If I can’t fix it on my own, it’s going to stay broken.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      If i can’t fix it on my own then I’m going to study it until I can. Factory service manual (not a Haynes or Chilton), Internet forums, YouTube, etc.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I have had all the service on my suburban by the dealer at which I purchased, tires included. I have never had any issues or felt I was taken advantage of.

    Loaner car when needed, warranty work etc. The tech speaks with me at every service, same one every time, makes me feel like he is the Dr. for the car that carries my kids around. If I paid $10 more per tire and $5 more per oil change so be it.

    I feel it comes down to how you are treated more than the ‘deal’. I want factory parts installed by factory techs. The burbster is no import so, going to the shop is a rare experience as is, but when it does go I prefer not to have any issues or brain damage.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-X

      “Factory parts” are the current low bidder to the manufacturer’s supplier chain. It’s not “Factory Techs,” it’s ‘Dealer-techs.’ The factory (manufacturer) does not own the dealers. While the “factory” may offer training courses, results and intelligence may vary. On the treatment and personality issues, I can get look past that if I can count on the shop to not rape me.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        But the lowest bidder to an OEM is still required to meet OEM factory quality standards. The aftermarket parts meet what standard? The rebuilder’s? The warranty claim target stats? Discount retailer target prices?

        I buy my share of aftermarket parts and OEM too. I’ve seen some really shoddy aftermarket parts along the way. FWIW none of the parts I got from the dealer were shoddy. If the factory part lasted 175,000 miles then I expect the replacement to last just as long. If you are driving a brand that is needing a bunch of replacements before 100,000 miles then I’d question the quality of the vehicle brand in the first place.

        I’ve had discount aftermarket parts fail again after just a few months. It taught me where to shop for quality aftermarket parts i.e. not discount stores where price is first and quality second.

        I don’t want to replace the replacement parts annually. When I worked for a discount FLAPS they sold a pile of parts that were designed to be primarily CHEAP. Cheap is important if a person has no budget and needs to keep getting to work. Some of these cheap parts were lifetime warranty and lasted on average a year.

        In fact they had rebuilt starters and alternators that were rebuilt using only good used parts – no new parts. A step up in price would buy a person a rebuilt starter or alternator with -some- used parts. The quality rebuild with ALL new parts was approaching fair dealer prices for the same.

        In that case I’d just prefer to patronize a dealer and build a business relationship where they give me fair prices to entice me to return in the future which one of our local dealers does.

  • avatar
    mopar4wd

    Like the dealer techs on here awesome! Here is my basic deal there are good and bad dealers out there as mentioned (and in some areas only bad dealers) Independent mechanics are even worse on good vs bad yes a good independent is worth his weight in gold. I largely do my own work and try to avoid anyone else touching my cars as much as possible. That said there are very few mechanics of any type I trust. The advantage the dealer has is that they are approved by the manf and will normally provide a warranty and some semblance of knowledge about your car a bad independent may screw you and leave you in the cold little harder for the dealer to do that. On the other hand an independent with knowledge of your car and a reasonable overhead is something to be cherished. My father has a good friend who used to run an independent shop for years but is now retired. He could handle most repairs with ease and very reasonable billing but when it came to the complex systems in a modern car (IE the climate control died) he would try but not always have the answer. He was working on my gold once with an intermittent idle problem. He could not find the issue but never charged me. So I called a VW indie that was highly recommended. He found an issue with the wiring harness fixed in the next day and only charged me $60 A dealer would not have even looked at it for 60$. On the other hand I go to work and listen to issues with the local dealers. Several guys had Subies for a while the all got so frustrated with all the local dealers that the group of them started taking their cars to a dealer 100 miles away ( this is in the northeast where there is a dealer every 10 miles or so to give you a reference) My favorite was rear pad and rotor change on a legacy for $850 I looked up the list OEM parts and I believe it came to less the $130.00 Thats one hell of a profit center. I worked as an insurance appraiser for a while and I can tell you that dealers are all over the place. Some are very fair and other are insane. Our local MB dealer for instance tage 20% onto the MSRP of all their parts (it’s MB who will care is their attitude). Parts are interesting as an example I will relate a conversation I heard while sitting in the office of a large body shop. Ford parts rep for large local dealer comes in “New program for ya” ” cool whats the new discount” Well standard pricing is 25% off MSRP we can then give you a preferred account discount of an additional 10% off and if you make $5000 in parts orders for the month we can add another 25% off.” So essentially the would sell to a Wholsale account for 60% off retail. Imagine what the dealer must make when they sell that part at retail. Mind boggling. And Ford is interesting too. The purchasing agent at the shop noted that ford seemed to be raising MSRP on fast moving parts twice as fast as other MSRP’s our guess was they were trying to add to the bottom line on crash parts (mirrors bumpers etc)

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Poor reliability and ridiculous upkeep is almost a European car selling point as it also shows you don’t care about such trivial things. Regular folks worry about stuff like that. The Euro OEMs knows this and win again (and again). That I understand, but buying VWs is what’s bizzare to me. But then I kind of feel sorry for the thirty-something guy in the 12 to 15 year old Mercedes or BMW on chrome 22s though.

  • avatar
    Terry

    avatar
    gslippy
    March 31st, 2012 at 12:42 am

    “Your testimony just reinforces the commonly-held feeling that dealers can and will charge whatever they want for services ranging from routine to special, upon a hapless public. No, thanks.

    First, I do all my own diagnosis and mechanic work except changing tires and internal transmission repair, and have managed pretty well for over 30 years. I am a mechanical engineer by day, with some pre-college training on aircraft engines, so I have an advantage over most car owners.

    Second, the few times I’ve paid someone else to diagnose a problem, they’re often wrong, and this includes dealers. I don’t mind paying for the convenience of having a dealer do the work once in a great while, but I don’t care to pay for incompetence.

    Third, dealers are totally unnecessary for routine maintenance unless you’ve got some kind of exotic car. I’m really not interested in paying $10 for an oil filter, and $6/qt for mfr-labeled oil, when I can get the same stuff at WalMart for much less.

    Fourth, access to information will eventually wear down the dealer service monopoly, as seen already with new and used car buying power now in the hands of consumers. I recently changed a crankshaft position sensor on a 10-year-old Nissan with the help of an excellent video on YouTube. It was a job I actually couldn’t have figured out very easily because it’s done blind, essentially. But the dealer’s price would have been sky high, and much of it for labor.”

    1st of all, GSLIPPY–you never answered my question as to why you made the statement that Skyactive technology is “rubbish”(YOUR word), nor did you answer if you had infact driven a Skyactive Mazda3.
    Now I’m glad you changed the CKP sensor on a Nissan, but YOUR AN ENGINEER–how many”laypeople” could have done that? How many would want to? And please, define “SKY HIGH” when it comes to pricing.
    Most dealers use Chilton’s Labor Times as a guide, some use Alldata Reynolds & Reynolds, Mitchells, or the supplied labor times from the manufacturer.
    There is incompetence in all fields of labor, ENGINEERING included.
    How many people do you see on the street that have pre-college training on aircraft engines?
    I can’t speak for other dealers, but our dealership’s conventional oil changes are $29.95–parts and labor. Synthetic is a bit more, but we supply a manufacturer’s coupon to bring the price back down.
    We take pride in our work, charge a fair price–many times less than the indy’s, and stand behind our work. We built our reputation on TRUST. If you–or anybody here has had a poor dealership experience, I’m sorry. If people can do their own maintenence and repairs, EXCELLENT. I deal with the other 98% of car owners.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @Terry:

      This is a blog; contributors aren’t obliged to answer each other’s questions, I am surprised you’d bring an unrelated subject (SKYACTIV) into this thread. But since you asked, I’ll answer…

      No, I haven’t driven a SKYACTIVE Mazda 3. However, its engine simply doesn’t distinguish itself from the competition. The Mazda 3 2.0L SKYACTIV is rated at 155 HP, 28/40 mpg in its best configuration. By comparison, the Hyundai Elantra’s 2.0L is rated at 148 HP, 29/40 mpg. There is no significant difference. The Elantra’s 200 lbs less weight probably nullifies the Mazda’s 7 HP advantage. So yes, SKYACTIV is a toothless marketing tool.

      I noted that my work on a Nissan CKP was aided by a YouTube video, which anyone could watch and learn from, and my point is that continued dissemination of previously ‘secret’ information (tips & tricks) will help level the playing field between consumers and dealers. I did the CKP job in about 1 hour (maybe 1/2 hour for research, and 1/2 for labor) for the price of the $25 aftermarket sensor which was made to OEM specs. The same repair by a dealer would have cost at least $75 labor and $45 in parts (being generous here), and it wouldn’t be ‘better’.

      I agree there is incompetence in the engineering field, and even I’ve made my share of mistakes. My company has even lost some business because of mistakes it has made. I have had some excellent dealer experiences, but decades of callous attitudes by dealers toward their customers leaves the public yearning for a more transparent, lower-cost alternative in both sales and service.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I am draining the Mazda 5 spd for my 94 Ranger as I speak. It is out on the floor sitting in a drain pan. The mercon ATF looks like a good burgundy and there was very little fuzz on the magnetic drain plug.

  • avatar
    skor

    The war over who gets to supply replacement parts is as old as the car. During the early days of the US auto industry, there was a court case about just that. The courts ruled that it was OK for independent parts suppliers to provide replacement parts. The auto companies were not happy since OEM parts biz was incredibly lucrative. Henry Ford stated that he would give away his cars if he could get a monopoly on supplying replacement parts.

  • avatar
    Terry

    GSLIPPY…I brought up the Skyactive because YOU called it rubbish, and outside of the numbers, you havent even driven the car. Are we drivers, or are we armchair automotive critics?

    Of course doing the job yourself–provided it is successful– would be less expensive than paying anybody to do the work. That is a given.
    But all too often owners–even technicians–make the mistake of getting into the “Get a code, get a part” diagnostic method. Yours worked out..but let’s say that P0340/345 code wasnt repaired after replacing the part. As an engineer with your experience, you could probably trace it down. But how many others could?
    You might work on your car(s), friends, others at times. Try doing this 8 hours a day from 3 to 10 cars a day, and we have to prove the part is bad before we replace it, and if it doesnt fix the issue, we take the part off, and re-diagnose at no cost to the customer. Our goal is customer satisfaction and “Fix It Right The First Time”
    My point is that there are 2 sides to every story, and the drift of this thread is that dealerships are “stealerships”. Dont paint us all with the same brush regardless of your personal experiences.
    As one who takes pride in my profession, I respond in kind to those that denigrate it.
    I apologize for my “tone” in my posts.

    Terry

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      We’re armchair automotive critics, most of us, since we don’t have the luxury of driving every car out there.

      If Mazda wants to distinguish its SKYACTIV technology, it needs to present something remarkable about it (maybe it’s cleaner?), instead of just trying to impress customers with a cool product name.

      • 0 avatar
        Terry

        GSlippy–as an engineer you would appreciate all the changes and technology that falls under the Skyactive umbrella. The engine, transmission, chassis, braking etc have well over 150 patents applied for. Ive been through all the Skyactive training, work on them and drive them every day. To say that the term ‘Skyactive”is merely a “cool product name” shows that you have not the slightest idea of what these cars are made of. Which then leads to credibility, or lack thereof.
        Armchair critics indeed.
        Carry on.


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