Feb 12 2007

Auto Dealerships Are The Same All Over

Published by MsQ at 6:41 am under South Africa, Tales From The Road

Shirley drives a Renault. It’s a nice little car. It’s the car that she and Laverne used to pick me up at the Cape Town airport.

As we headed toward their home, Shirley remarked that she was glad the weather was a bit cool – her AC had conked out. Again.

We all had so many plans that she didn’t have time to deal with the car for almost a week. Laverne and her family were off on some shopping expedition to load up on nappies, baby formula and whatall.

Ms. Q is not so into shopping.

I join Shirley on her journey to do battle with the Renault dealership. The dealership had repaired the AC. Twice. The saga doesn’t even start at the dealership we were going to. Shirley had given up on a nearby Renault dealership because the service was sorely lacking. We were heading out of town to another dealership that was now 0-2 with getting the AC working.

Shirley was beginning to get irritated about the entire thing. She had already called the service manager and he had promised to Take Care Of It. Shirley didn’t want to be without a car and he said he’d have one ready for her to use for the day while her AC was being repaired.

We show up at the dealership. It’s a nice looking place. New. Clean. Stylish.

All bright and shiny. Including the bathrooms.

The manager is not in. Shirley queries one of the women at the service desk and Gee, did he promise you a car? Really?

Shirley is polite, never raises her voice. We hang around, waiting for the promised car. La-la-la. We’re-waiting-for-the-promised car.

The woman finds a car. Shirley and I drive off and we end up exploring the town of Stellenbosch. We visit the university, walk through the botanical gardens, and have some tea. Shirley calls the dealer and yes, the car is ready. Off we go.

As she drives back, Shirley tells me that the service manager had said that he suspected an electrical problem. When the AC first broke, diagnostics indicated a broken or burnt out part. They replaced the part.

Based on Shirley’s description that the AC broke after driving just a short distance, he suspected that an electrical problem was causing the part to burn out so he’d have an electrician look at the car.

We’re back at the dealer. Shirley is speaking with the same woman from before and the woman mentions that all they had to do was replace a part.

Shirley asks, “Wasn’t the car supposed to be checked by an electrician?”

The woman had no idea what Shirley was talking about.

Shirley is not so happy with this news. We get in the car and drive out. Shirley turns on the AC and asks me to see if it’s working. We both feel cold air. She recalls that the last time the AC died, it died after about 5 km. I’m waving my hand in front of the AC as she concentrates on getting back on the freeway.

We’re now on the freeway and I say, “I think it stopped working.”

“KAK!”

Shirley didn’t say this but she was thinking it.

She shifts gears and she’s U-ing it back to the dealer. She’s once again speaking to the woman at the service desk. The woman goes into an office. Out comes the manager. He’s spiffy and pink.

I wandered around while all this was going on. Based on the body language, I think Mr. Spiff was em-ceeing himself and making promises.

Shirley walks over to me and tells me that Mr. Spiff was indeed taking full responsibility (mea-culpa-mea-culpa). She was going to leave her car and now we had to wait while they found another car for her to drive.

I asked, “What about the one we used earlier?”

She shrugs, seems like someone was already waiting for it.

We spend enough time in the small waiting room for me to ponder how the dealership service was no better and no worse than what I get back home.

Cleaner toilets, but other than that…pretty much the same.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Auto Dealerships Are The Same All Over”

  1. HMTKSteveon 12 Feb 2007 at 8:25 am

    I try to avoid auto dealerships at all costs. My wife and I try to get every last mile out of the cars we own and we use a mechanic my wife used to go to school with. He used to date her sister too, not sure if that is good or bad…

    I had an Integra once with an AC problem. I remember driving away from a mechanic’s garage only to get three miles away when I saw gray smoke coming out from under my hood. The AC stopped working within in seconds…

    Turned out there was some sort of leak in the system that only showed up under high pressure.

  2. MsQon 12 Feb 2007 at 8:49 pm

    I used to go to the dealership. I knew it wasn’t the best but it felt “safer” until I could find out about other shops. I then took it to a friend-of-a-friend who used to be a mechanic for one of the dealerships. He told me to fughettabout many of the “standard” maintenance numbers. I had to insist he change my transmission oil because he thought “it was too soon” – I could get another 5K outta the thing. I just wanted to do a bunch of maintenance all at once.

    I rarely drive my car. I pretty much only use it to go to the airport. I change my oil once a year. I’m not looking forward to the day when it starts hitting the high numbers. I intend to get every mile out of my car as I can, too.

    Your mechanic used to date your wife’s sister? So he’s like an ex-boyfriend-in-law? Could be good, could be bad…sounds like it’s good so far.

  3. the frogsteron 10 Feb 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Yeah, I think there’s some sort of cosmic balance with car dealerships, whatever state/country/planet they are on. It’s as if there is an agreement from the big auto makers that they will only provide the bare minimum without getting in trouble with the law. That way, they don’t have to waste time actually finding people who are really great to fill those spots.

    I’d go for the guy who used to date my sister over the dealership any time. Uh, unless they had a really ugly breakup that involved police and restraining orders…

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