Dealerships are a pain in the neck. The salesman tries to convince you that they’re your friend (when you know damn well they want as much money as they can squeeze out of you), getting warranty work out of them is sometimes a nightmare and, if you’re buying used, you don’t know what the car has been through. You can write a letter of complaint, but will that really help*? You may get a discounted service as compensation, but will anything REALLY change? Well, BMW wants to shake the dealership experience up a bit. In the customers’ favor. Read More >
Category: Customer Relations
Born in 1977, Mr Goodwrench was a marketing brand used to sell GM parts and service at franchised dealers. Now, after 33 years in service to The General, Mr Goodwrench is passing on to join Pontiac, Oldsmobile and HUMMER in GM’s crowded brand graveyard. Automotive News [sub] reports that
GM marketing chief Joel Ewanick wants the vehicle brands, not corporate, to be the stars of GM, and that includes service and repairs
In order to honor the passing of this past-its-prime symbol of GM’s decidedly mediocre service reputation, we’ve assembled a few Mr Goodwrench ads below the fold.
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TTAC Commentator Detroit-Iron writes:
A friend of mine and I were talking about my last Piston Slap question, in particular several people’s dislike of Jiffy Lube. My perspective is that unless you have cars in the shop all of the time or live in one place for a long time, it is difficult to find a trustworthy mechanic. I also believe in general that a good process is less likely to harm a vehicle than trusting to individual diligence. At Jiffy Lube they really only do one or two things and they have a system. They always go for the upsell, but unlike some mechanics they are not likely to recommend any truly expensive unnecessary work (or deliberately break something) simply because they don’t offer it.
Bloomberg reports that a lawsuit accuses Toyota of a widespread coverup of unintended acceleration in its vehicles. The suit alleges that
“Toyota technicians” confirmed that vehicles were unexpectedly accelerating and the company bought back the vehicles, had customers sign confidentiality agreements and didn’t disclose the problems to regulators… In testimony about acceleration defects before Congress, Toyota Motor Corp. didn’t disclose that the technicians had replicated instances of sudden unintended acceleration not caused by pedals or mats… The company also didn’t report the customer agreements to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration… Toyota ordered employees to remove names of executives from acceleration related e-mails and to stop using specific acceleration terms in e-mails to prevent damage to the company in litigation
Steven Curtis, a spokesman for Toyota’s U.S. sales arm in Torrance, California, said today in an e-mail that no technicians for the company or field specialists confirmed unintended acceleration in vehicles. He said the plaintiffs’ lawyers are referring to service technicians employed by dealerships, which are independent businesses… the claims are based on anecdotes and fail to identify any specific defects in the vehicles.
Plaintiffs claim that dealer techs are “agents of the company” and that vehicle repurchases and confidentiality agreements are proof positive of a coverup. Toyota admits that it investigated and repurchased two vehicles after dealer techs found “acceleration events,” but says its factory technicians were unable to replicate any problems. If this sounds like a complicated mess of he-said-she-said, consider that this suit is just one of 300 currently pending against the world’s largest automaker. The lawyers will probably be busy with this one for decades.
The Financial Times reports that Anti-trust officials in Switzerland are investigating the Bavarian car maker due to allegations made by a Swiss consumer TV show. The TV show sent undercover reporters to BMW dealerships in Germany (Swiss and Germany share a border, you know) to try and buy a car. The show claims to have found that BMW is blocking its dealerships in European countries from selling their cars to Swiss residents.
What makes this particularly egregious is that although Switzerland isn’t a member of the European Union (they like to stay neutral), it does have Bilateral trade agreements which guarantee free trade with its neighbors. Restricting trade? Under a free trade agreement? Uh oh…
When I embarked on the Volt press launch, I made a public promise to keep my impressions of the car itself separate from concerns about its overall viability. My review of the Volt is coming on Monday, but a new issue is already raising its head to confront GM’s extended-range electric car. The Volt’s home charger costs $490 on top of the Volt’s $41,000 (pre-tax credit) price, and costs another $1,500 to install. But, according to BNet’s Jim Motavelli, money isn’t the only obstacle to obtaining the home charger that’s necessary to tap the Volt’s 40 miles of electric range. EV advocate and Volt Customer Advisory Board member Chelsea Sexton, of “Who Killed The Electric Car? fame, is one of the first Americans to live with the Volt, and despite enjoying the backing of GM, she’s run into a problem that she and other EV advocates worry will blunt enthusiasm for home-charged EVs like the Volt: she needs a “time of use” meter.
Welcome to Tinfoil Time. A public service for paranoids and their enemies. When the NHTSA went after Toyota for their runaway cars, some people (me, included) saw this as a transparent attempt to undermine Toyota in order to make GM and Chrysler (A.K.A new arms of the US government) more attractive both in terms of purchasing their products and the IPO’s. But now that the circus is leaving town, is the NHTSA looking for a new victim? Whilst searching the net, I saw (part of) an article (sub) which mentions how Ford’s North American market share is on the rise. Sure, Toyota’s market share in the U.S. dropped by 1.5 percent compared to September 2009. But GM did not pick up those sales. They lost 2.8 percent. The winners were Ford (+ 1.4 percent), and Chrysler (+2.1 percent).I also remember a poll that was taken which claimed that how 54 percent of people were less likely to buy a GM car because of their bailout. Rising sales at Ford and bad will towards GM? I’ve seen this scenario before! The next stage is now the NHTSA will tell us to stop driving our Fords. Trouble is, Ford doesn’t have any recalls of recent. So what can the NHTSA do? You recycle a recall. Read More >
What do you do when a company you own (through your trusty Treasury Department) won’t help you out over the phone? Out of luck with his dealer and pissed off at the “condescending” attitude of GM’s phone support staff, one former Marine and “lifelong GM customer” drove from Virginia to Detroit in order to get The General to take responsibility for chronic power steering pump failures in his wife’s Chevy HHR. His initial reward: more condescension, and the privilege of getting escorted from the premises of GM’s Headquarters. But Marines don’t quit that easily…
When I was a young whippersnapper and did advertising for Volkswagen, we had a rule of thumb: “Over the lifetime of the car, you’ll spend the purchase price again.” In gas, oil, taxes, insurance, repairs, parts, you name it. We kept that rule to ourselves. We didn‘t want to shock the prospective buyer. Now, Volkswagen changed their mind. They are going for full disclosure. Read More >
GM is announcing the arrival of the first “driveable Volt” in China, in a move that GM’s China boss Kevin Wale calls a sign of The General’s “long-term commitment to bringing our industry-leading technology to China.” And despite a distinct lack of Chinese demand for green vehicles, a recent survey that shows as much as 75 percent of Shanghai’s drivers plan to purchase an EV in the next three years (not to mention government plans for increased EV subsidies) is giving GM hope that its plug-in will take off there. But in order to achieve Chinese-market success with the Volt, GM will likely have to offer the vehicle at a price point well below its US-market MSRP of $41,000.
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We don’t just want it to be seen,” said Jeff Eggen, Ford’s car experiential marketing manager, speaking about the Fiesta’s appearance in “Diaries.” The idea is to “have a second element or a third element” rather than just a placement on a TV program, “where we can engage with the fans outside of the show with additional content
While AdAge raves over Ford’s “product placement plus” marketing scheme for the Fiesta, actual customers for the Mexican-built subcompact are starting to get testy. The Fiesta’s Facebook page is home to several customer complaints about slow delivery of Fiesta, and Ford has already sent out $50 Mastercard gift cards to waiting customers. But in the letter accompanying the gift cards, Ford blamed hurricanes for Fiesta delays… and it turns out there’s more to the story than that. The Freep reports that 6,000 Fiestas were delayed last week due what Ford’s Mark Fields calls “a part-quality issue.”
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Honda’s Civic Hybrid has always been something of an afterthought in the marketplace, as Honda’s “mild” hybrid system consistently fell behind the Toyota Prius in terms of mileage, electric-only range and green street-cred. Then, late last year, Honda settled a class action lawsuit alleging that the Civic Hybrid couldn’t hit its EPA numbers. And though the weak-selling Insight has replaced the Civic Hybrid as Honda’s problem hybrid of the moment, the Civic Hybrid woes are still piling up. The latest bad news comes from the LA TImes, which reports that Civic Hybrid batteries have been dying before their time, and that Honda’s software “fix” for the problem reduces mileage from 45 MPG to 33 MPG. Since the standard Civic is rated at 30 MPG, a number of Civic Hybrid owners are wondering why they paid extra for what amounts to a 3 MPG improvement on the highway… and they’re accusing Honda of refusing to replace batteries under warranty. In other words, this looks to be one of the first major battery warranty-related fiascos of the hybrid era… and it’s shaping up to be a nasty one. Electric car makers, take notice.
Do you remember when Saturn made a last ditch attempt to bring customers back to their showrooms? It asked us to “Rethink” Saturn. Whatever our perception was of them, we almost certainly had it wrong and we had to check them out once more. Ford did a similar thing with “Have you driven a Ford lately?” It’s quite a clever strategy, convince the customer that they had it wrong about your product and invite them to try them again. Well, Toyota seems to trying a similar tactic in order to woo customers back and polish up their corporate image. Now at this point you’re expecting me to unveil some hokey advert which asks us “Try Toyota” (if Toyota is reading this, give me a call and we can work out a licensing fee for my ad slogan). Wrong. It’s not their products. They are fine.
Toyota asks us to rethink the meaning of recall. Read More >
If you are under water with your car, will any friendly GM dealer bail you out? Of course. If you live in what was formerly called “East Germany.” Read More >
This week’s “Haggler” column in the Sunday New York Times was ripped from the pages of TTAC’s beloved Piston Slap series, with a Wendy Marek writing in to complain that
In July 2008, I made a huge mistake: I bought a Ford Explorer. It was a 2006 model with 40,000 miles, and it cost $17,000. At first I thought I got a great deal, but after a few weeks of driving, the radiator started leaking. Then the replacement radiator started leaking. Then the radiator that replaced the replacement started leaking. To date, six new radiators have been installed in this vehicle. Six.
After some research, The Haggler found that both carcomplaints.com and Consumer Reports showed a record of radiator problems in 2006 Explorers. Furthermore, Ford issued a TSB on 2006 Explorer radiators in 2009, which the automaker insists covers its liability. Since the Explorer in question is a used car, Ms Marek’s only real recourse would have been to file a breach of warranty claim, but the statue of limitations had already run out. Since so few protections exist for used-car buyers, one has to assume that the moral of the story is that buying used Explorers is a risky business… but is that the truth? Or is the outgoing Explorer a good value that’s getting a bum rap?