The dealership is the last resort. When independent shops give up on a problem, they send their customers to the dealership. Those are the mechanics with the factory training, and all manufacturers have people they can call who do nothing but help with the diagnosis. I HAVE had some rather disappointing experiences though with some of the people on those hotlines. They were obviously reading from a script that is basically right out of the service manual. I have also learned of some really neat troubleshooting tricks from them. It all depends on the training and experience of the person on the other end of the line.
Some independent shops send their mechanics to high-level aftermarket schools like those put on by Carquest, and many of those mechanics specialize in imports or in one brand of car. You typically find them by their reputation and word-of-mouth advertising.
Running to a lawyer isn't going to get your car fixed. Judges and lawyers don't know anything about fixing cars. All they do is make one person give money to another person, then they take a cut for themselves. At that point you and the mechanic become adversaries. If they really don't know yet how to diagnose your car's problem, they sure aren't going to want to put in more effort in solving the problem. To avoid further involvement, they will just tell you to take the car somewhere else, but you're already at the best place.
At this point let me defer to my experience working for a very nice family-owned Chrysler dealership. They had a district representative who visited the dealership once a month to handle customers' problems that the dealer couldn't. The dealer is bound by very strict franchise guidelines. The district rep. Has a lot more leeway. Understand that these meetings involve cars that are still under warranty or just out-of-warranty, but you may still be able to schedule a meeting at your dealership. You also must realize that the dealer handles problems every day. They understand cars and how things go wrong, and they know the rules they have to follow, both from the manufacturer and the hundreds of government regulations. Most of the time their decisions are right, but often they do a poor job of explaining how they came to a decision. Be aware too, there is no benefit for them in failing to fix your car. They want it repaired as quickly as possible. For that reason, consider them your advocate, not your adversary.
The district representative will listen to your story. Before the meeting he will have already reviewed the previous repair orders, will have discussed the problem with the service manager, and will likely have informally interviewed the mechanic to find out why the problem hasn't been fixed. He needs that information before meeting with you so he doesn't have to investigate after the meeting, and make you wait for his advice. There were numerous occasions at my dealership where his decision was "repair it regardless of cost, and I'll take care of it". He told me over lunch one day that he has the authority to warranty anything regardless of cost or age. He even offered to warranty the seven-year-old battery in my Dynasty. (I thanked him and turned him down because there was no defect).
At the very least you deserve a better answer than "they don't have an answer". You probably didn't get that right from the mechanic. There's always a service adviser who doesn't really understand cars, but they understand explaining things in ways car owners can understand. They often mess things up unintentionally when trying to interpret what the mechanic said to what they think you will understand. If the dealership is bound by government and manufacturer rules and guidelines, the service adviser is further bound by the dealership's policies which are designed to reduce problems. As soon as you get an unacceptable answer, ask politely to speak with the service manager. He is there to solve problems people under him can't. A word of warning though; when a customer is angry and screaming, you can be pretty sure they aren't going to get much help. Service managers are busy all day investigating and solving problems. They usually take the biggest current problem, handle that, then move on to the next biggest problem. If they're in a meeting with the dealership owner and / or a customer, don't expect you'll be able to speak with him immediately. The last thing he wants to hear though is you left angry, so you likely won't have to wait more than ten or fifteen minutes, but at that point he may have no idea yet who you are or what kind of problem he will be getting involved with. You may need to explain the series of events just like you did here. At that point he is going look into the situation, and perhaps meet privately with the mechanic, then he will tell you how the problem is going to be handled. Remember that he is working for you and for your benefit. It was common knowledge at my dealership that it takes more advertising dollars to get one new customer than it takes to keep ten current ones happy and coming back. The service manager is going to do whatever he can to make you happy, but he still has to work within those manufacturer and very restrictive government guidelines. If you still do not get a satisfactory answer, that's the time to ask for a meeting with the district representative.
If the plan of action sounds reasonable, ask to be kept informed of the progress being made on your car. It is unrealistic to expect to receive a phone call at a specific time since that person may be working with another customer at that time. Most often service managers will call you at home in the evening when there's no other noisy activities going on in the shop, and they aren't pressed for time. You can be sure you're going to get a call when the problem is fixed. There's no need to call them every day for a progress report. You'll be talking with the service adviser who has to stop working with their current customer to run into the shop, find the mechanic, and learn what has been accomplished since your last call. That almost always leaves you knowing little more than before, and with a let-down feeling. Too many phone calls creates a feeling of pressure, and no one works better when they feel stressed.
Also be aware that good mechanics are in big demand and they get stolen by one shop from another one. At times there is no really experienced engine mechanic at a certain shop. A friend bought a new Ford truck last year, and he had it back to the dealership eight times for the same intermittent problem. Finally, out of desperation, he called Ford and was told to take it to a different dealership. They had it for about a week but they did manage to solve the problem. This was an unusual case though because the local dealership is owned by a well-known crook, and he has a hard time keeping mechanics. Most of the people he employs can't find work at the reputable dealerships.
As a final thought, remember that people tend to live up to or down to your expectations. When a student had a problem that I didn't know the answer to, my typical reply was "I have faith in you". Sometimes it took days or even weeks, especially with engine repairs, but in almost every case, that student researched and solved the problem on his own. I had a few kids too with really low self-esteem, (a term I'm sick of hearing about), but there was a visible change in their attitude once they solved a difficult problem. It's no different on the job. If you tell the mechanic you're disappointed in his work or unhappy with the results, the tendency will be for him to live down to your expectations. If you say "I know you can solve it", I guarantee his is going to work twice as hard to make you happy.
Saturday, February 1st, 2014 AT 4:22 PM