Monday, September 29, 2008

The Joy of Auto

My wife's minivan had 110,000 miles on it - and it was "making noises." I knew that most of the noise came from an exhaust leak that made the van sound somewhat like a Harley (not a bad thing to a guy - but causes concern in the mommy-cool club). So we took it to the dealer (we've had some bad experiences using non-factory mechanics) - and they proceeded to keep the car for 6 (six!) days.

There was no callback, no update, no nothing. Every time we tried to get in touch with our "customer care representative" - all we got was voicemail - and no call back. Same when we tried to call the Service Manager directly.

So last Thursday we drew a line in the sand. We called the Service Manager and left a message saying - we're coming at 1:00pm to pick up our car - period. And we showed up, and of course our "customer care representative" was no where to be found.

In fact, no one could actually FIND our car in the first place. It was "in the system" (a HORRIBLE green screen thing from the 1950's) somewhere begging to get out.

After escalating into DefCon 4 - I was finally able to get the Garage Manager to get his ass out to the garage, get the car. So, he comes in and says - yeah, you have an exhaust leak, but the real problem is "rod rattle."

Yeah, I won't go there - but the recommended action was basically rebuild the engine for $8,000. Oh, and that'll be $75 for diagnosis, please. Yeah, right!

Anyway, we got the car back in all of it's Harley glory - and then our other car (a "hot" Chevy Impala) - started to make power steering noises. Of course! When it rains it pours.

Since we've basically owned Japanese cars - our expectation of when a car goes to "auto heaven" isn't until around 180,000+ miles. But this was an American car - which, apparently, is a whole different story. When my wife pulled into the Dodge service bay and they saw that it had 110,000 miles on it - the first thing they asked was "You want me to get a salesperson for you?"

Yeah, nice.

Needless to say we started to do some research on minivans on the web. I was able to find magazine reviews, price comparisons, crash test ratings, customer reviews, JD Power & Associate quality ratings, NTSB Safety ratings, side-by-side listing grids, get an appraisal of how much our HarleyVan was worth (NOT MUCH!), etc. all in about 2 hours.

On Saturday evening, my I had my wife go to a Toyota dealer on her way out to her scrapbook party - just to have a look at the Sienna and see what she thought (since she was the one that would be driving it the most). Well, when she got there - they REALLY wanted to sell her a big, V8 Sequoia for a "good price."

They kept pressuring her into the Sequoia until she just left them in the dust. She was able to find out that they had a 0% interest promotion going (only until Monday, of course!). So, that meant that we either had to go to another dealer and try to get an '08 (for 0%) or just wait until the car totally exploded and do it then.

So, I set off on Sunday after church with my daughter (my son and wife were off peddling Boy Scout popcorn) and before her softball game - on a search to see what we could see.

It was a "tent sale" (gawd - that is the MOST hideous thing ever invented!) at the other Toyota dealer. I was met by Hamid and we took a look at what they had in stock. After my heart restarted from the sticker shock - we were able to pick out a vehicle and come to terms (so I thought).

After getting the keys to our HarleyVan and some other information - they came back about 25 minutes later and Hamid was replaced by "Lou" (from Florida - but I SWEAR this guy was born in New Jersey) - Hamid's boss. This was the "closer."

Nice. I had all the print outs that showed the SRP (Suggested Retail Price), the Dealer Invoice (what they actually paid Toyota for the car) and what the average price people in that zip code had paid for the car. THAT was the price I was going to pay (plus a little more for a couple of upgrades).

I told him my payment, that I wanted the 0% and how much the trade appraised for online. So "Lou" came back with a payment that was 75% higher than I said I wanted and his math was totally off. I stood up to walk out and "magically" he realized "his error." The final deal we negotiated was about 10% more than I had told him I wanted to spend (but that was really 20% LESS that I could afford) - so we had a deal.

SUCCESS! I had to pick up my wife and son - and did so in the "new car." Then I dropped everyone off at home and went back to "finish the paperwork." Riiiiiiiiiight.

I got back and was handed over to "Maxwell" (the Finance Manager). He's the one that did all the paperwork, etc. Oh, and then in the sales cycle he's the "upseller."

Sure enough - we just sat down and he started into gap insurance, extended warranties, premium package this, and protectant that, and optional pre-paid maintenance, etc. etc. etc. I politely declined most of the stuff, and made it through most of the paperwork without too much other hassles.

Once I was done being upsold, spindled and mutilated - Hamid was back with the keys to my newly washed and prepped car.

It's sort of like going to the dentist for a root canal. You need to do it. You research the procedure. You intellectually know it's going to suck. Then you go through it - and it does basically suck. Then you are done with it - they hit you with a bill that makes you feel bad. Then it takes a few days for the pain to go away.

That's basically where we are now. We took the van back to the dealer today so they could add the couple of things we were promised, and they got us a rental car (for the next "3-5 days"). The folks over at Enterprise took 1/2 hour to come pick us up (about 1 mile from the Toyota dealer) - and then took another 1/2 hour to process us (you'd think we were the first people to ever rent a car!).

Then all they had was a bunch of... wait for it... DODGE MINIVANS and crappy, stripped down ones at that. My wife wanted to just drive something other than a van. There were no convertibles (what she really wants), the PT cruiser but that was going into the shop. She was going to go for a Toyota Carolla (AH!) but I put the kibosh on that.

There was one other car they had... a BMW 325i. I hope she'll be willing to drive her van once we get it back from the dealer...

1 comment:

i.n.kazar said...

But don't forget to check the power steering fluid in that poor Impala (usually why you get that noise). As someone who drove my VW wagon for 16 years I can ID with having to give up a car before disaster strikes. Living where I do, though, I was able to "trade up" to a silent two-wheeled model that takes 0 gallons of fuel to travel the 10 miles or so per day I cover.... for $50!!

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