Bill Kolb Jr Subaru
I hate reading articles about car dealerships and customers being "taken for a ride" by the New Car Dealership's Service Departments. Without a doubt, there are many car dealerships, as well as other repair facilities, that take advantage of their customers on a regular basis, I know, I worked for a group that it was the general practice. However, I have worked for a few others that prided themselves on taking care of the customers in any way possible. I have worked for 5 dealers in my 29 years in new car dealership service and parts departments, ranging from 1 location to 25 locations. I personally started sweeping the floors in a shop in 1987, and worked my way to the very top, vice president, 3 times. I have witnessed every possible variation of service management and customer treatment.
A few distinct notes to take away from this article;
An automotive repair facility, dealership or aftermarket, can only take advantage of the uninformed or uninterested consumer. My personal management philosophy is to educate the customer, until they can make their own, informed decisions that is best for them. I believe in a customer for life. Taking a customer down an expensive, needless, line of repairs or maintenance, is not a way to keep a long term consumer coming back. Just like any other field or even group of people, there are bad, ok, good, and even some great ones. I try to be great and a lot of others do to. We are just people, and our employees make mistakes and even occasionally do something wrong, but it is how those people and those mistakes get resolved , that tells the tale of what kind of people you are dealing with.
By the hour, dealerships MAY in some cases be more expensive, but in repair quality and accuracy, a lot of the time they far exceed the small additional expense of taking your vehicle to an outside shop, without the proper equipment, special tools and training, to know how to work on your specific vehicle. As an example I have witnessed a couple hundred specific vehicles brought into dealerships with a ruined engine and transmission due to an aftermarket shop draining the transmission fluid (thinking it was engine oil), and adding 5 more quarts to an already filled engine. I have witnessed customer coming into dealerships holding a receipt from an aftermarket shop having paid $135 to diagnose a check engine light, only to have the shop tell the customer they have to go to a dealership. Dealerships can have, and are forced to have, hundreds of thousands of dollars of specialized diagnostic and repairs tools. The aftermarket shop simply do not have the access to this equipment. Yes, many vendors sell "diagnostic equipment" to these aftermarket shops, professing it will do ALMOST anything a franchised dealer's equipment can do, but it just simply cannot. Basic engine codes is only the beginning of the long diagnostic trees, used to locate the correct problem, and properly repair the vehicle. Without throwing your money away on possible guesses or half of the available information.
I profess to all of my employees and customers, owners should read and understand their maintenance schedule, understand the repairs or maintenance you are being asked to perform on your vehicles. Ask to see the issue if it was not offered to. Just go look and ask to have it explained, try to understand what is going on.
If a repair facility is telling you should be doing more maintenance than can be intelligently justified, or is not specifically outlined in your owner's manual, you might be being taken advantage of. Simply ask for your repair facility to print you what is due according to the manufacturer, all of us have the access to it right at our fingertips.
I for one, have found easy, honest ways to make a profit without taking advantage of anyone- the technicians, the customers, or the owners. It is actually very simple idea that has not caught on big for some reason. Sell only what the customer is do for! Sell only according to owner's manual, nothing more and nothing less. Quote all labor hours according to industry standards, Motors, Mitchells, Chilton's, Alldata, and sell at your door rate. Sell all parts at MSRP. The services are much smaller without all the fluff, therefore much less expensive. A 30,000 mile service should not cost $900 or more, if you follow the owner's manual. It should be a couple hours and some minor parts, about $325 or so. I get full door rate, my technicians get paid according to the book, parts gets full MSRP, and the customer is on their way without the huge bill. I get 5 times as many service customers as anyone else around me, much happier customers, and much smaller bills. I get to service and gain customers every day.
So please try to remember there is bad, good, and great in every profession in existence. Saying "Car Dealerships" is grouping everyone in the business together, which is completely inaccurate. With a little research and education, I'm sure everyone can find a reputable, honest, and affordable service facility, educated and equipped to properly service your vehicle without taking advantage of the consumer.