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When the dealer insists, you can resist

March 19, 2014
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The nice lady had just stopped in to pick up her friend who was leaving her car for service. "Oh, I see you do oil changes, can you change the oil in my new car?," she said, shyly.

"Certainly." said I, confidently.

"So you have that special oil that my car needs?," she said, hesitantly.

"We carry Penzoil, at whatever viscosity your car requires," said I, a little less confidently.

"Oh. But my dealer told me I had to use only the car manufacturer's oil that they carried," she said, assertively.

"Actually, the car manufacturer doesn't make oil. They buy it from oil refiners and have their logo put on the bottle. I assure you Penzoil meets every requirement under your new car warranty," said I, reassuringly.

"Oh, that will be great, if you can do it. You're much more convenient for me," she said with a satisfied smile.

"Absolutely no problem, call for an appointment anytime." said I, smiling, while seething inside. I've been hearing these stories for 40 years. People are warned by new car dealers that their cars will be ruined if they let anyone but a dealership do their service, or if they use after-market parts. Baloney.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 makes it illegal for them to say this, but they do it anyway.

Many years ago, we did a tune- up on a car, and it ran fine. Later, the owner took it to the dealer for a recall job that was to be done at no charge, nothing to do with a tune-up. The dealership mechanic noticed the Champion (brand) spark plugs in the car and told the owner that those plugs would ruin his engine. He would have to have the manufacturers' brand plugs installed to save the engine. The owner let them do it, paid them for it, and then brought our spark plugs back to us in a bag, and wanted his money back. The plugs were not defective, so we couldn't return them to our supplier. They were used, so we couldn't sell them to anyone else. We gave him his money back, eating the loss ourselves, not making a future customer, but just trying not to make an enemy. You've heard of a win-win situation? This was a lose-lose for us, and it was all from a bogus claim by a dealer mechanic who was pressured to find something to sell on each car on which they had to do a no-charge recall repair. There are millions of engines using Champion spark plugs with no problems.

Last weekend a lady called in a panic. "That battery you put in my car last month has died. I had it towed to the new car dealership and they say the battery is no good."

"Ma'am, don't worry, that Interstate (brand) battery is completely guaranteed, with hundreds of dealers all over the county who will replace it for free."

"But they say I should have a dealership brand battery instead of this one," she said. Now I get it. Another dealership pressure tactic. I reassured her that the battery will be taken care of, and she does not need to buy a dealership battery. She got the car to us. Testing showed the alternator had failed, so the battery was not being recharged. Not the battery's fault at all. The invoice from her dealership actually said the battery was faulty, and that the charging system could not be tested unless a good battery was installed. That is complete poppycock and balderdash, pardon my English. The car only needed an alternator, and the battery is fine. I think we made a future customer out of her, and an enemy in the dealership camp. Call that a win-win.



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