Last week, we had a regular customer call us very concerned about her Asian model car. This was a 1996 vehicle with over 193,000 miles. The owner was on a limited budget.
Recently, we replaced a broken timing belt and timing chain (Yes! This car has both.) The customer stated that within a few days after she picked up the vehicle, it started to run rough and had a loss of power when the air-conditioner was on. Not sure what to do because she was in another part of town, she took it to the Asian car dealership. The dealership said her distributor was bad and recommended a new one. In addition, the dealer said she needed new plugs, plug wires, an oxygen sensor and crank sensor– all for– gasp! A lot of money.
There was only one problem. We had replaced most of what they were recommending five months ago.
We asked her to bring the vehicle back to us and offered to tow it at our expense. She chose to drive it and waited while we made a thorough examination. What we found saddened us. It was not because we found defective parts or problems we had caused. It’s because this dealership was about to take this young woman for a $1700.00 ride.
The distributor, spark plugs, and plug wires were all fine. They still looked brand new. In addition, when we checked the estimate from the dealership, we were shocked that the dealer was going to charge $330 labor just to install these parts. That was nearly two times more than what we had charged the customer several months ago. Inflation must be out of hand, huh!
So, what was the problem? Well, the insulation coating the wires connecting the crank sensor had rubbed off, so the crank sensor circuit was not working. We taped the wires and fixed the problem. At no charge, I might add.
The dealership had been right in one aspect – she did need an oxygen sensor, which we informed her of and gave her an estimate on replacing.
Our customer will need to replace the oxygen sensor eventually, but hopefully with our care, we’ve improved the road-worthiness of her vehicle and made her a more loyal customer.
Not all dealerships are this bad, but over selling is a general problem. Dealerships don’t make money selling new cars any more. Over half their profit for the entire dealership comes from the service department; yet they have to honor recalls and warranty work which pays them very little. In addition, their overhead is so much higher than a typical repair shop, they have to charge a higher labor rate. So their real way to make money is on customer-pay repairs. Sometimes, some places sell unnecessary repairs in their hunt for work.
At Adolf Hoepfl Garage, we have been serving customers since 1946. We believe that repairs are a matter of trust. When we tell you something is broken, it is broken. If we make a mistake, we stand behind our work and fix it. We take pride in taking care of each customer and their vehicle. So, while we may not have marble floors, chandeliers and lattes, we believe our principles will outlast this dealership model.