How to Resolve Problems At A Dealership

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People have short fuses when it comes to problems at a car dealership. Too many people assume a car dealer is out to “get them” 100% of the time. This simply is not true. Honest mistakes happen at car dealerships, just like they do with every other business, but nobody believes that when it happens at a dealership.

When I had my dealerships, I had a very open-door policy with my employees and customers. I can’t tell you how many times I had customers storm into my office and state “I’ll tell you right now, I’ll never buy another car here again” or words to that degree. Without fail, I would just calmly say “I am sorry to hear that, you just took away any incentive I have to help you”. Also without fail, they would retract their statement and we could almost always resolve the issue.
When problems occur at a car dealership, yelling and screaming will seldom get the desired results. Like any other business, the employees just want the yelling customer to leave the premises, and that doesn’t solve anything.

I empowered my people to make decisions to insure complete customer satisfaction. Not every dealership is like that, but most are. I preached to my people that they may as well make our customers happy, because if they spoke to me, I was going to do it anyway. I never questioned an employee on why they spent money to make someone happy. You see, I knew the cost of replacing the customer with a new one.

Understand that there are department heads for each department in a dealership and going through the chain of command is always a good idea. If it is a service issue, start with the service manager. Usually, there is someone above him or her with the title of Parts and Service Manager, that is a good second stop.

Sales Issues

If it is a sales issue, talk to the new or used sales manager depending on what you purchased. If you still have a problem, the General Sales Manager is overall sales operations including the finance department.
Then, if the problem persists, it is time to speak to the General Manager and ultimately the Owner. Sometimes that is the same person.

In some of the larger dealerships, you might get sent to a customer service representative, and that is OK, often their job is to fix the problem and make sure you are completely satisfied.

Whoever you speak to, try not to let emotions get the better of you. Have your facts written down, don’t make threats, and try to get the person to put him or her in your place. If there are documents, have those with you and organized. I think you will find most dealership employees to be reasonable people when someone has a compelling case.

Warranty Issues

If there is a warranty issue, remember your dealer has to work through the manufacturer of the car since it is the automaker paying the bill. Dealers have set in stone procedures they must go through. Remember too, the dealer did not build the car, their job is to sell cars and service them within the confines of your warranty.

Face-to-Face Is Best

I still believe that it if possible, talk with the dealership personnel face-to-face. It is too easy for the employee to forward an email to someone to handle, and it gets lost in the shuffle. Telephone calls are OK, but you don’t really know if you have their full attention.

My biggest fear as a dealership owner was the silent customer. Those are the ones who had a problem and instead of letting us know, they just took their business elsewhere. Give your dealer an opportunity to solve the issue. Going in person will generally yield better results.

The last thing a dealership wants is to lose your business. Be sure to let them know how to keep it.
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Hi Jerry, what is the best time of year to lease a new car? Are lease prices advertised negotiable, like buying a new car. From what I have read in some of your articles it would not be prudent to put down a large down payment to keep the monthly lease payment lower. Is that correct?

Thank you!

Dee Dubenezic
The Car Pro
Dee, typically December offers the best lease deals of the year. And yes, minimal down is best on a lease for sure, I recommend tax, title, and license. Whatever you put down is gone at the end of the lease.

If it is a manufacturer lease ad you are seeing, it is baed on MSRP so yes, it is very negotiable. If it is a car dealer lease ad, most of those are at rock bottom.

I hope this helps.

Jerry Reynolds
What a terrible article to tell us, the customer, we are wrong by bad dealerships. Jerry, you don't get it, and I am sorry, but you don't have credibility anymore blaming the customer for not putting up with bad dealership behavior!

The Car Pro
Gary, you might re-read the article. I wrote it to help people, based on years of experience and I hoped it would help people figure the best approach when they have an issue. Nothing said the customer was wrong, although I saw that more times than I can recall. That was not written about bad dealership behavior, that is an entirely different subject.

Jerry Reynolds
Jeff & Dorothy
I was helping a elderly friend leasing a car. We test drove 2019 Impreza and agreed on a lease price. However the color we wanted was not in stock and was told the dealer would locate one elsewhere. My friend sold her car privately and waited a few days until the dealer called to say the new car was at the dealership. Having received no other info we arrived at the dealership and was directed to the finance office to complete the paperwork while the salesman told us he was taking the car for a inspection sticker and fill it with gas. We still never saw the car. After everything was signed the salesman met us outside in the parking lot in a heavy rainstorm . While rushing to quickly explain the basics in the rain somehow we noticed the car was a 2018 not a 19. When questioned he said that is what we agreed on and he will check the notes. Told us the 18 and 19 were the same and similar features. In a state of shock, in the rain and having sold her car we were stuck. He told us he would get back to us to help explain features and never did. After some time because of gas explosions in our area and being without power and gas service for weeks and the holiday season we accepted the car issue but were still unhappy. A letter was sent to Subaru corporate in NJ and is essence they are prohibited from intervening in disputes between a customer and the dealership. Wow was I shocked to hear this response from Subaru's main office especially how you talk about how wonderful the Subaru car and maker are today. All along we have asked for the original paperwork my friend signed for the 19 but never have been provided. A valuable lesson is don't be so trusting, inspect the car before completing the paperwork and get receipts for everything. Also we still can't believe Subaru's corporate response to us. This still leaves us with a sickening feeling when we think of it.
Amy P.
I hate to hear stories like this. If there is any good news, the vehicle is leased and in three years, it can be walked away from.

Every manufacturer has the same stance on disputes, it is not Subaru. Dealerships are independently owned and operated. Corporate will get involved in issues regarding the car, service, warranty repairs, etc but no sales issues.

I am sorry this happened, clearly this is not a good dealership, but don't blame Subaru for that.

Jerry Reynolds,
Amanda .
I purchased a new Chevy Malibu 12/23/2016. I started having issues in 2/2017. Check engine light came on. Took it to the dealer. There was a re-call with no known fix at the moment. Recall work was completed 8/2017. since then I have had my car in the shop for numerous issues. I have had my car back in the shop for various issues and check engine light 8 times since then and I have it scheduled to go back in the shop this Friday. Wire harness has been replaced, oxygen sensors twice, catalytic converter, oxygen sensors on 2 different occasions, accelerator pedal and rear wheel bearings. Vehicle has 33,480 miles. All has been under warranty but a big inconvenience. In another month or so the warranty will have expired and repairs will be out of pocket. What can I do? I tried filing it with the lemon law, but seeing that it is many issues and not the same ongoing issue it didn't qualify. Suggestions?
The Car Pro
I would contact General Motors directly and let them open a case on your car. Hopefully they will have a rep look at your service history and make suggestions. It is not unreasonable to ask them to provide you with an extended warranty to cover you in the future. I hope everything works out.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Betty N.
Purchased my very first vehicle Sept of 2017, carfax at time of purchase showed no accidents. Aug 8,2018 on freeway when both rear bumper panels came loose flappin in the wind. Managed to safely snap in and get home. Called dealer who after 1 week finally checked to see if could help ( new bumper 877.11) was told would figure out what percentage they can do but as a used car and a 2nd carfax sent to Mazda in april 2018 thats 7 months After purchase saying 2 separate accidents , 1 front 1 rear. It's been another week and gorilla clear tape is holding the bumper on. Do I have any recourse with the dealer?any help appreciated.
The Car Pro

It?s hard to say if there is any recourse, but likely there is not since used cars are sold as-is. Carfax is VERY slow to report and it?s not unusual for someone to have a wreck and immediately trade their vehicle. The dealer can?t tell you what they don?t know. Hopefully they will take care of all or part of this.

I always recommend, they seem to post quicker and I think their info is more accurate. I hope all works out for you.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Jack L.
I have a 2014 Honda Odyssey van and the door locks do not open at times. After driving home with my family, I can unlock the driver side door. However, the rest of the door locks (passenger door, both sliding doors, trunk) do not unlock. They do not unlock manually, using the inside switch, or remote key FOB. After repeated attempts unlocking the doors with the key FOB and driver control switch, the doors finally unlocked. This can be after up to 5-6 tries.
This event has occurred less than 10 times in the last 4 years. Took the van to dealership several times and they say nothing can be done unless they see it malfunction. Although the van is under warranty, they say they have to charge for diagnostic and there is no guarantee they will find the problem. I worry more about a safety issue if they need to get out of the van and the door locks don't open. What can I do or you recommend? This is our second Honda Odyssey van we bought and this is the first time we've problems. Thanks.
Jerry Reynolds
I would call Honda and get them involved, they may know what the issue is or can send an engineer to try to figure it out. I think that is your best course of action.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
bob r.
I purchased a 2006 SLl500 from Mercedes Rockland in 2013. There has been a tire pressure problem from the beginnindog. They finally found that the rims were the problem. They are Asanti rims. Mercede says because they are not factory rims they will not replace them. Since they leaked from day one of purchase, what can be done. Please respond.
Jerry .
I would try to contact the GM of the dealership to see if he will help. Give the vehicle was bought used, and the wheels are aftermarket, they are not obligated to do anything, but hopefully he will assist you.


Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Brad H.
The biggest problem getting problems resolved at dealerships? A recurring problem that the dealer is unable to resolve due to a lack of expertise. The dealer solution to this problem is to pretend the problem does not exist. The Mfr. solution to the problem? Pretend the dealer is competent and "we have to go by what the dealer says, they are the experts". So, the mfr. built the vehicle and the dealer has to work with the mfr. Meanwhile the Mfr. listens to the "expertise" of incompetence from the dealer and the customer is alone on an island being lied to. You said recently on your excellent radio show that you suspect the reason people are hesitant to take care of recalls is a bad experience at the dealership. Hmmm
Jerry .
Brad, I am sure you are correct in some cases. Like every other profession, there are good dealers and bad dealers. The good dealers continue to look for problems, even when the factory is not reimbursing them. It is frustrating to a good dealership when they cannot duplicate the problem. You know the customer isn't crazy, but unless you can verify the concern, you can't just start replacing parts.

Luckily, most intermittent problems get worse over time, and when that is the case, it is much easier to isolate and repair.

I sure appreciate you listening to the show!

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Jerry Reynolds
[…] getting-satisfied-car-dealership GA_googleFillSlot("Sonic_guest_firstpost"); Here is an article at CarProUSA that may help with dealership problems. Getting Satisfied At a Car Dealership | Car Pro USA […]