How To: Head off or appeal dealer service problems

| December 12, 2008

Many longtime owner-operators have had at least a minor conflict with a dealer over a repair. Whatever the problem, never underestimate the need for effective communication. As long as you’re talking to someone, there’s a good chance of achieving at least a compromise.

BASIC STEPS

  • Don’t just show up and demand instant service. Making an appointment is ideal.

  • Bring complete service and warranty records.
  • Never tell the dealer what to fix. Instead, explain all you know about the problem and, if possible, take a service person on a test run.
  • If diagnosis is a problem, ask dealer personnel to discuss the issue with factory service people. If local techs are too busy, call the factory reps and ask them to assist the dealer or allow you to relay relevant information.
  • When a problem is not readily identified, authorize an hour or two of labor for diagnosis. It’s cheaper than experimenting with repairs and more likely to yield results.
  • If speaking to a service representative is a dead end, appeal to the service manager, dealer managers and ultimately the owner.
  • Failing that, a factory rep might be able to influence the outcome. Understand that the manufacturer cannot force the dealer – an independent business entity – to do anything.
  • Even if all else fails, suing can be expensive and is not likely to succeed unless the dealer clearly is violating the terms of a warranty, disobeying an applicable law or acting in bad faith.

TIPS

  • Work through the selling dealer, who has a greater motivation than other dealers to do warranty work or go to bat for you with the factory.

  • Demonstrate a positive attitude. No one wants to cooperate when they’re treated rudely.
  • A good long-term relationship with dealer personnel always helps. Your best leverage is the ability to take your steady business elsewhere.

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