Auto Dealers and Mechanics Top Consumer Concerns Of 2010

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Auto dealers are often said to be the face of the industry… and if that’s the case, the Consumer Federation of America may have shed some insight into why so many Americans opposed a bailout of the industry. In a survey of 31 state, county and municipal consumer protection agencies from 18 states in 2010 [ PDF here], the CFA found that auto dealers, suppliers and service garages were the number one source of consumer complaints for problems such as

Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes

As if car dealers didn’t have reputation problems already…

According to the report,

Auto repair problems were the fastest growing complaints at the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Its Bureau of Auto Repair shut down five Purrfect Auto Service shops after finding evidence of repeated fraud. In addition to information from complaints, the consumer agency obtained declarations from several former employees about the company’s practices and used undercover vehicles to gather evidence. Among other violations, the company allegedly charged for parts and services that were not needed, and that in some cases were not provided.

Other auto-related issues include a spike of complaints in Massachusetts about Toyota Tundra frame rust, “car buying companies,” unexpected towings, car title loans, online car sale fraud and defective tire sales. Here are a few anecdotes:

When a Virginia woman had her car towed to a repair shop because it was vibrating violently, she was informed that it was probably the transmission. She agreed to pay $3,000 for the work, and two weeks later the car was ready. But when she drove it from the shop, it shook worse than before. She brought it back, and after keeping the car for a month, the shop said that it could not find the problem and suggested that one way to stop the vibration would be to remove some of the bolts that attach the engine to the frame. But another shop that the woman consulted advised her that removing the bolts could allow the engine to fall off. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services tried but failed to convince the first shop to take the car back for further repairs or return the woman’s money. Now she is looking into other options such as small claims court – and a new mechanic.

A Massachusetts woman placed a $1,000 deposit on a used car, but when she returned to complete the purchase, the dealer talked her into buying a different car on condition that a problem with the brakes would be repaired. But when she took the car through the required safety inspection it failed because of the brakes and an exhaust problem. Apparently the mechanic at the dealership had removed a fuse so that the brake warning light would not come on rather than actually repairing the brakes. After the Consumer Assistance Office – Metro West got involved the car was repaired correctly.

The moral of the story: even those in the most basic customer service positions need to understand that their behavior reflects not just on them and their business, but on the larger auto industry as well. And no matter how much things improve on the OEM side, if the servie isn’t there, the entire industry continues to suffer from a bad reputation.

Join the conversation
2 of 15 comments
  • Highrpm Highrpm on Jul 28, 2011

    My experience with any car, even a Lexus, is to avoid the dealer if possible. The techs at a Lex dealer are the same ones that were working at a quick oil change place or a Suzuki dealer. Your repairs will vary widely.

  • Relton Relton on Jul 29, 2011

    I've heard all of the horror stories about dealer service, also. However, my own experiences have been quite the opposite. Erhardt BMW has provided excellent service to me with my BMW 335i, at reasonable, for BMW, cost. I've shopped at other well respected independant BMW shops, and their was little or no difference in prices. Plus, they have gone the extra mile for me in a persistant warranty problem with the fuel system. Actually 2 problems intertwined. My wife's Ford has also had excellent service at Palmer Ford, where we bought it. Again, excellent service at competitive prices. Not that the Ford has needed much service. 1 real repair in 85,000 miles isn't bad. Unfortunately the dealer went out of business. Fortunately, the service department took over the facility and continues to provide service. I guess that makes them an independant shop, now. Your experiences may vary. Bob

  • Dukeisduke Parts of the second picture look like CGI or airbrushing, especially the side of the seat showing the power seat controls, and the edge of the door with its latch and screws. I'm not convinced this is all real. Maybe none of it is.Also, the background with the enbankment with the green grass and cedars or junipers doesn't make me think of Austin - maybe somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic I was thinking of the VW Chattanooga plant. But, yes, the Pennsylvania eventually failed. Too much of the European flavor was lost.
  • Kat Laneaux @NormSV650 not all companies got monies from the gov. Focus and Fiesta were being produced way before this mishap in the gov. At least Ford did everything it could do to NOT get the assistance. GM got a huge payout and they really didn't deserve it. As for banks...don't really care because I don't bank with huge corporates that are in it for the money, so to say. I deal with credit unions. This isn't the point. Any company that are manufacturing their products out of the US, gets what they deserve, unfortunately. Bring it home and I will gladly put them into consideration when it comes to purchasing their products. I don't want to find out later that the product that was manufactured in China now has all of my personal information and is hearing my conversations that I am having in my car because they bugged the car. China is sneaky and I don't buy Apple products because if that reason alone.
  • Alyssa Johnson Searching for a supplemental source of income? This is the easiest way I have found to earn $5000+ per week over the internet. Work for a OOw few hours per week in your free time and get paid on a regular basis. Only reliable internet connection and computer needed to get started…Thanks a lot GOOD LUCK..………… 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐡𝐬.𝐜𝐨𝐦
  • Alyssa Johnson Searching for a supplemental source of income? This is the easiest way I have found to earn $5000+ per week over the internet. Work for a OOw few hours per week in your free time and get paid on a regular basis. Only reliable internet connection and computer needed to get started…Thanks a lot GOOD LUCK..………… 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐡𝐬.𝐜𝐨𝐦