Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the dealership.
The service manager smelled her now, and the vibrations – erratic and sharp – signalled distress. The manager began to circle close. For the first time, the woman felt fear, though she did not know why. She had only brought her car in because the battery warning light had come on – $200 to $350 tops.
The manager was about four metres away from the woman, off to the side, when he turned suddenly to the left, dropped entirely below the service counter, and with two quick steps, was upon her. It was that quick. There was no initial pain, only one violent tug on her wallet. To get the car running again the gearbox would have to be replaced … at a cost of approximately $14,000. (Apologies to Peter Benchley.)
It was only 13 words last week: “I’m researching a column on car servicing. Love to hear your experiences.” But it brought an explosion of emails that made Vesuvius’s eruption in AD79 which took out Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, Stabiae, Stepney and Peppermint Grove, look like a fizzer. Even persons who are not part of the tight (as in the Ernest Hemingway meaning of tight) motley crew of 20 readers, one friend and my eldest son wrote in. Readers and non-readers, this is clearly a bigger issue than I thought. At some stage all the research, including your firsthand experiences, will form part of a special investigative report that will win our team a Walkley Award, a Pulitzer Prize, a Nobel Prize or the Miss Australia Award.
Just to give you a sense of what’s to come, let’s look at the most common rorts in the car service caper.
1. The do nothing but charge you plenty rort
Rob from Queensland took his Toyota to the local dealer for a regular service including rotating the tyres. (Helpful hint: if you are driving an older car please rotate your tyres regularly, it’ll save you money and keep you safer.) He paid the invoice, which itemised the fees including the charge to move the wheels around.
Let Rob take over from here: “I rang the service manager and set up an appointment with him for the following morning. I showed him the service report and invoice and asked him how his mechanic rotated the road wheels. Looking at me like I was an idiot, he then patiently explained the procedure used. When he had finished, I asked him how this was done with my car’s wheels having anti-theft wheel nuts and the key nut was sitting in my pocket during that time. I had forgotten to hand the key nut over to them prior to the service. A very red face and lots of fluster on his part. He then requested we return the Camry and he would personally see that the full service was carried out again. This made me wonder what else they hadn’t done.”
Reader JH tells us: “As one young apprentice said to me: ‘When it gets to 4 o’clock and there are still three cars waiting in the service bay, what do you think happens?’. One very big multi-brand car dealer prided himself on never servicing 60 per cent of the cars that came in.”
2. The nothing needed but I’ll sell you something anyway rort.
3. The extended warranty rort.
“Ring. Ring” “Who’s there?” “Not the extended warranty people if there’s something wrong with your car.” The only good thing about extended warranties is they used to be really bad. Now they’re not as bad. Reader Graham says he bought a Jaguar Epace Diesel new with an included extended warranty of two years above the standard three years at the time. “The extended warranty was clearly shown on the sales invoice. In early June this year, a fluid leak developed and I took the car to Brisbane City Jaguar. They found a leaking bung on the timing cover and quoted $260 to fix. I said the car was under extended warranty, but they said it wasn’t registered with the insurer Allianz. So now the dealer and Land Rover Australia are in dispute over who has to register the warranty. Meanwhile, I had to pay the $260 to get the car fixed and back. Subsequent emails to both parties have not made any progress in fixing the issue.”
More on service soon. But, at the risk of being sexist, can I say women are a particular target of service sharks. Look for dealerships with women in management.
Moving back to that other circus: the Hamster had a great third on Sunday in Canada; Red Bull’s reserve driver, Estonia’s Juri Vips, has been suspended for using really nasty racist language; St Kilda has kept the Australian GP; Madrid wants one and Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, who Haas flicked because his dad (also a major sponsor) is a close mate of Mr. V. Putin, 70, autocrat, Pres of Russia and invader of Ukraine, is suing his old team for back pay and morning tea allowances. All of this together with Shane Robert van Gisbergen’s solo rocket ship voyage to the moon, is on Foxtel and Kayo and on the big screen at the Kensi.
Finally, the ultimate car porn.
Thanks to RM Sotheby’s, the video of ‘The best Ferrari ever built’, the 1955 Ferrari 410 Sport Spider, raced by Carroll Shelby, Fangio, Phil Hill, Michael McMichael and other legendary drivers, is on the RM website.
The Feezer can be yours for $50m at the RM Monterey sale in August, but the two-minute video will keep you up at night thinking impure thoughts of 12-cylinder noise, petrol and red cars. Don’t forget the $50m not only gets you big red but the first (1956) and last (1958) trophies won by Shelby driving the Feezer, along with the original 1957 Nassau racing licence plate.