Posts Tagged ‘cars’

Warranty “Problem” Stories – and Advice – From a Retired Factory Rep

October 21, 2014 Leave a comment


by Steve Lehto

If you don’t change the oil in your new car, the engine will explode. I interviewed a retired factory field engineer to hear about how often that happened, and other warranty “problem” stories from the manufacturer’s side.

I’ve known Dave (not his real name!) for more than a decade. He handled claims in a different part of the country from where I practice and somewhere along the line our paths crossed and we became friends, even though my job as a lemon law attorney was kind of the opposite of his. I asked him for some of the more memorable cases from his 30+ years of handling warranty claims for a national manufacturer. I cherry-picked a few he told me about.

A woman filed a claim on the van she owned with her husband, complaining of a noise which no one in the service department could hear. Dave was asked to inspect and report back to the manufacturer. After riding in the van and not being able to hear anything, he pulled the husband aside and asked him if to describe the noise to Dave. The husband lowered his voice, “Man, I ain’t heard it either. But she’s my wife and I gotta back her up on this one.”

Another time, Dave was called when a customer complained about a dealer wrongfully denying warranty coverage for her van. When Dave went to look at the van, he saw that the rear bumper was caved in. He asked her, “How can I help you?”

She pointed at the bumper: “There.” She had backed up in a parking lot and had run into the cement base of a light pole. “That should be warrantied.” When asked why the manufacturer ought to pay for the damage, she said that the vehicle “was supposed to have five mile per hour bumpers, and I hit it at less than five miles per hour.”

Another customer complained when the dealer suggested his crushed roof wasn’t covered by warranty. When Dave saw the car, he could still see footprints visible on the hood of the car where someone had jumped on the hood, walked to the roof and jumped up and down on it a few times. The customer said that the damage had occurred while he was in church and his fellow churchgoers were too honest to have done something like that.

One woman came in with a car that was out of warranty but the paint was coming off in sheets. Dave decided it would make sense for the manufacturer to pay for the paint job out of goodwill. She accepted. A few weeks later, Dave stopped by the shop and was told that the job had just been started but the customer’s “representative” was there to “talk to him” about the repair. Dave went to the conference room and was greeted by a hulking man who looked like a marine drill instructor – because he was one. He demanded to know why the customer had not been given a rental car and without waiting for an answer, suggested Dave was intentionally mistreating the customer.

A little bothered by the fact that the customer had not asked for a rental – which he would have given her if she had asked – and that the “representative” likewise had not asked, Dave told him. “She never asked for one.” Rather than picking up on the hint and simply asking for one, the man leaned in close to Dave’s face and began berating him for how poorly he treated his customers. Dave let the man vent and then left. No rental car was given. The free paint job was however, primarily because the job had already begun.

One customer complained about how the warranty claim had been denied on her vehicle’s transmission. The car was out of warranty so Dave was called. The dealer told Dave that the woman was a good friend of one of the dealer’s employees. The two sat down and the woman launched into a tirade about what a piece of junk the car was and how she was never going to buy another car from that manufacturer ever again. After insulting the manufacturer and its products for a few minutes she caught her breath and demanded that Dave authorize the post-warranty repair.

“Ma’am. Could you give me any solid business reason – after you telling me you would never buy our product again – for me to extend any help to you?”

She had no answer. Dave declined to give her the goodwill repair – which he probably would have given to her if he had thought it might help keep her as a customer. A few days later the husband called the dealership to find out what happened. When he was told the repair was declined he responded, “Don’t tell me she opened her mouth?!”

One customer complained that several of the controls in her car were hard to operate and the center console in her vehicle could only be accessed if she unbuckled her seat belt and moved around. Dave got in the car and found that he had no problem working the controls or accessing the console when he sat in it. The customer came back to talk to him and he realized what the problem was: She was substantially, how do we put this, larger than Dave was. This customer had filed a claim with the manufacturer and Dave had to write a report of his findings. After determining that there was nothing wrong with the situation except for the way the client fit into the car, he submitted his report and noted the customer’s “girth” as being the primary factor. But it was not a problem covered by warranty.

A short while later, Dave was asked to write an apology letter to the girthy customer who had taken offense for having her girthiness noted in Dave’s report. Dave had been careful to not criticize the customer and asked how such a thing could have been addressed otherwise. The proposed language was, “The interior dimensions of the vehicle do not match the exterior dimensions of the customer.”

One of the most common things Dave saw was engine failures where the customer had not properly changed the oil – sometimes with cars coming in with their factory-installed oil filters still in place. One customer told him it was a factory-defect and she was certain: Her last two vehicles had the same problem with their lousy engines and for some odd reason the company kept trying to blame her.

Dave told me, “I couldn’t even count the number of times – hundreds of times – where people didn’t change their oil.” One time, another factory representative drove his executive car for 35,000 miles without changing the oil and the engine failed. And on those cars, the oil changes were provided for free. The warranty claim was denied and a dealer was paid retail to replace the engine.

Not all the cars came back in with the factory filters still in place but they often came in at 40 or 50 thousand miles with sludge-filled engines. Because it is theoretically possible for other causes to lead to a sludge problem, dealers routinely ask to see receipts or records for oil changes to prove that they were performed. It was extremely rare for the customer to have evidence of the oil changes. One customer filed a small claims action and brought to court a whiteboard he had filled out with Magic Marker claiming it was how he tracked his extensive oil changes. But he had no receipts. Dave saw engine failures based on failure to change the oil on a weekly basis. If the customer could not come up with evidence of oil changes, the claims were denied.

On the other hand, Dave also routinely overruled adverse decisions when he felt that the manufacturer was at fault, going so far as to call up his superiors and tell them to buy cars back after a lawsuit or an arbitration case had already been filed. “Guys, you don’t want me testifying in court on this one. We need to buy this one back.”

Dave says he considered himself a customer advocate. When he was asked about the standards he held his decisions to, he referred to his Family, Friends, Neighbor Filter. “If this vehicle was owned by a family member, a neighbor I like, or a friend of mine – somebody I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my life – I want to feel comfortable with the decision based on that criteria. Not somebody that I’ll never see again. And that’s how I made those decisions.”

There are lessons to be learned from my talk with Dave. Change your oil and save your receipts. If your vehicle breaks down out of warranty, appeal to the manufacturer for a goodwill repair. Just don’t scream and yell about how much you hate the company – at least, not before you find out if the repair is going to be made.

via Kinja

Categories: auto Tags: , ,

How Does Information Get On a CARFAX Report?

August 13, 2013 Leave a comment


Via Broken Secrets

By Chad Upton | Editor

It’s not unusual for somebody to completely destroy their car and walk away unharmed.

This happens because newer cars are designed to crumple on impact, just like a bike helmet made from dense foam. The frame, hood and even the power train components absorb the energy from the impact in order to help protect the occupants. Of course, air bags may also deploy, which protect the occupants from hitting hard surfaces inside the vehicle.

When an insurance company declares a car as a “total loss” it means they are not going to pay to fix the car; although, they may sell the vehicle to somebody who plans to use it for spare parts. That person may then fix the car and try to sell it.

Unfortunately, a car that has been in a major accident may have hidden safety and reliability problems. So, if you’re buying a used car, you’ll want to know its history.

If you’ve ever looked at a used car, you’ve probably come across CARFAX.

It’s a service that provides historical information about used cars. For $35 or less, you can enter the VIN (vehicle identification number) of a used car and get a report about its ownership, accident history, mileage discrepancies, lemon status, flood damage, fleet use (taxi, police…etc) and many other things the seller may not want you to know.

I think this is a great idea, but I’ve always wondered how they get all the information.

I was talking to a guy that runs an auto body shop, so I asked him. He said that he has done work on cars that were nearly totaled and the information did not show up on CARFAX; he had also done minor work that has shown up.

He said that CARFAX buys info from insurance companies and other sources. Some insurance companies have a non-disclosure agreement, where they will not disclose information about your car and its accidents while other insurance companies are willing to sell that information to make money.

I verified this information with CARFAX and it’s true. CARFAX gets information from thousands of sources and has over 6 billion records on file. They have deals with motor vehicle bureaus in every US State and Canadian Province, where they get information about mileage, flood damage, titles, lemon buybacks, accidents, thefts, liens and ownership transfers.

They also get information from auto auctions, car dealers, repair and service facilities, rental companies, state inspection stations, fire departments, law enforcement, car manufacturers, import/export companies and many others. That’s not to say that all companies of these types provide this information, but many do.

In some cases, they have mutually beneficial relationships. For example, car dealers may provide information about vehicles they service, but they may also request information about used cars that they want to take as trade-ins, buy at auctions or sell to their customers.

In any case, CARFAX warns that they may not always have all of the information, since there are many sources that they do not have access to. In 2005, they had 6,100 sources of information. Now, they have grown to over 34,000 sources.

CARFAX does provide a couple of free services that may be worth while if you’re purchasing a used car. The Lemon Check is one of them. This free service, will tell you if the car you’re about to buy was ever declared a lemon, meaning it was serviced for the same problem 3 times and bought back from the owner by the manufacturer. You definitely want to avoid a lemon.

You can also perform a record check with CARFAX for free. This will tell you how many records they have on file for the VIN you entered. If you’re thinking about buying a CARFAX report, you should try this free option first to see if it’s worth buying the report about the car you’re interested in.

Sources: CARFAX (Data Sources) MSN, MyVin

Photo: Ian Hampton (cc), jasonbolonski (cc)

Categories: auto, insurance Tags: , ,

A History of the Car Cup Holder


“Cup Holder” (Credit: US Patent  2628054)

Ever since George Washington crossed the Delaware  to go sign the lease on his new pickup truck (with 0 percent APR!), President’s  Day has been associated with getting a good deal on a car. And while some people  buy cars based on gas mileage or sporty looks, we all know that the most  important parts of a vehicle are its cup holders.

They need to be plentiful, sturdy, and capable of holding any beverage ever  created by man, preferably with those little spring-loaded gripper arms to keep  your coffee or Big Gulp safe from pothole jostles. Cup holders aren’t just  essential for our constant hydration, they’re also the source of our  psychological well-being on the road: Clotaire Rapaille, a cultural  anthropologist, has theorized  that having warm liquid close by in the car brings our subconscious back to the  safety of early childhood, and the food-love of our mother’s milk.
But cars weren’t always such happy places. In the dark  days of early automotion, designers presumed that drivers would actually stop  driving to eat or drink something, so cup holders had no place in interiors.  From the get-go, though, aftermarket innovators sought to connect mobile  Americans with food. If you were a Model T owner back in the ’20s, you were  expected to modify your jalopy with as many doodads as you could afford to order  from the Sears catalog, whose Ford gadget section, as  E.B. White described it, “was larger than men’s clothing, almost as  large as household furnishings.” You could add a flower vase to your dashboard,  transform your car from a convertible to a hardtop, fiddle infinitely with the  inner workings of your engine–and strap an  entire kitchenette to the running boards, complete with a fold-out  table and labeled compartments for flour meal, eggs, and ice water.
Real demand for the cup holder didn’t pick up  until the 1950s, when drive-ins and drive-thru windows became mainstays of  American eating. The very earliest evidence of complete cup-holding comes from a  1950 newspaper clipping that describes a “snack tray for car” that “hangs from  dashboard.” The cups were held by metal discs hanging on chains from the tray,  and seem to actually be fairly secure.
A few other ideas were floating around, too. Some were bad, like the Automobile  Seat Article Holder, patented in 1953, which trusted a hinged plate wedged  between the seat cushions to keep your drinks from sloshing around, but one  Clyde W. Morgan of Dallas patented a precursor of the modern slide-out cup  holder, the Refreshment  Tray for Automobile Instrument Panel, which included two wells for  beverages.While inventors tried to fill the cup holder void,  manufacturers started including proto-cup holders on the back of glove  compartment doors (the earliest documented model with these is a 1955 Chevy).  They weren’t anything more than little indentations in the plastic, unsafe for  sipping at any speed, but they were a step in the right direction.

The best beverage security system of the era, though, belonged to the 1957  Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. Plenty of ultra-luxurious limousines had had  built-in bars, but the Brougham was the first to come with a magnetized glove  compartment door and a set of four metal tumblers, perfect for keeping your  cognac stable while you’re passing the jitney on the way to the  Hamptons.

In the ’60s, trays that would hook into the window well of the  door became available, and were fairly commonplace as aftermarket accessories by  the ’70s. Patents from the time exist for a more  advanced version of Clyde W. Morgan’s pull-out tray, but customers looking  for a car with a built-in cup holder were still stuck in the wilderness, or more  likely in traffic, trying to turn left and shift into second while balancing  their hot mugs of Sanka.

But that all changed in 1983, when Chrysler invented the minivan. The Dodge  Caravan and Plymouth Voyager (which were the same car, for the most part) not  only saved the company while creating a whole new category of car in the  American market, they rolled off the assembly line with two serious cup holders  in sunk into the plastic of the dashboard. In the next few years, more and more  cars started including cup holders in their interior design–but it would take  at least another decade for them to become ubiquitous.In 1989, US  News and World Report was still  calling “crannies for drinking cups” an unnecessary “future frill,” but the  life-or-death necessity of the cup holder was proven in the infamous 1994  lawsuit, Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants. If you’re too young to remember the  hot coffee case (or happened to spend that year renting a nice cave in the  Poconos), Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman, sued McDonald’s for damages after  spilling 180-degree coffee on her lap in a stationary car. She got third-degree  burns from the spill, and was awarded $2.7 million (reduced to $640,000 on  appeal) by the jury. The case became fodder for endless Leno monologues and a  national argument about tort reform, but it was also a strong argument for  industry-wide adoption of the cup holder–if the car she’d been sitting in, her  grandson’s Ford Probe, had had even one single cup holder, the whole ordeal  might have been avoided.

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Categories: auto, history Tags: , ,