True Stories From A Former Car Dealer #18: Lemons

Cars That Are Lemons

No dealership wants to sell a lemon, but at the time of sale, you have no idea how well a car is going to perform down the road.  No automaker is immune to building bad vehicles.  It happens with the cheapest vehicle sold and many that will set you back six figures.

I’ve talked many people out of purchasing Ford trucks with the 6.0 Powerstroke diesel engines.  As a matter of fact, I did so on last Saturday’s Car Pro Show. 

I owned my Ford dealership when the 6.0 came out in mid-2003.  It was a disaster from the beginning.  Making it worse, many of the customers traded their 7.3-liter trucks, one of the best diesels ever made, for a new 6.0.

I can’t count how many good customers I lost, and a number of large fleet customers who purchased this diesel.  It was extremely frustrating for the customers to have to bring their trucks back time and again.  Many customers used their trucks for work, and loaning them a car or a half-ton truck didn’t cut it.

It was equally frustrating for the Ford dealers.  We tried so many different things to make them usable, only to see them pulling into the service drive once again.  I can’t count the number of these trucks I bought back from customers who were at their wit’s end.  Little did we know the replacement truck was likely to be just as bad.  Some customers were willing to go to extreme measures to get their issues resolved.

Enter Mr. Steve Symonds in 2006.  Steve had a 2004 F-350 with the infamous 6.0-liter diesel.  He installed flagpoles and was best known for installing a 338-foot flagpole in Wisconsin, which at that time was the largest in the world.  That record has since been broken, but an impressive feat to say the least.  He had owned Chevys and Dodges, but decided to try a Ford.

He had purchased the truck at a dealership called Leadership Ford in Dallas, which later became Troy Aikman Ford, and it ultimately closed.  Ironically, this was the dealership that I wrote about last week in The Sign, #17 in my True Stories From A Former Car Dealer series.

In the first five months of ownership, Mr. Symond’s truck had been in shop eight times in 20,000 miles, and the Ford warranty repairs totaled over $19,500 and it still wasn’t fixed.  He decided to take matters into his own hands. 

Ford Truck Lemon Decals

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lavin for D Magazine

Mr. Symonds had 30 large decals made in the shape and color of lemons and plastered them all over his white truck.  He chronicled his repairs on the lemons for the entire world to see and went about his business of installing flagpoles.

This got the attention of D Magazine, one of, if not the largest magazine in Dallas-Fort Worth.  The article was titled:  Truck you, Ford.  The story went on to say that Mr. Symonds parked the truck, with the lemons on it, in front of the Ford regional office while he ate breakfast and read the newspaper.  The story went on to say that nobody came out of the office, but one person did honk and flip him off.

The story also stated that others with the same engine would pull up beside him and tell their stories of woe, also.  This is not really surprising considering there were very few good 6.0-liter Ford diesels.  I often said there were only two kinds of 6.0-liters…those that were giving problems, and those that were going to.

I had been a D Magazine subscriber for many years and still am today.  I saw an article they wrote on Mr. Symond’s truck with the lemons all over it and immediately checked two things:  One, that we didn’t sell the truck, and two that we had never serviced it.  WHEW!  We were clear on both accounts.

A week or possibly two after the story ran, we had a caller on the Car Pro Show, wanting my advice on what to do with his problem truck.  After a brief history of the repairs, he mentioned he was so upset that he had put lemons on the truck.  UH OH, I thought, this is THAT guy.

I invited Mr. Symonds to come visit me the following week, which he did.  I was not sure what to expect, and much to my delight, Mr. Symonds was a really nice guy.  He was frustrated for sure, mainly because people were not listening to him and he was getting no answers.

I looked through his service file on the truck, had my assistant Judy make copies, got his contact info, and told him I would get back to him.  He left and seemed pleased that someone was at least going to try to help.

I called the Regional Manager at the Ford office in Carrollton, TX.  I sent the D Magazine article and picture to him and explained that although I didn’t sell the truck, it was a bad reflection on Ford and all the dealers in the area.  He agreed and told me to do whatever I had to, but to trade Mr. Symonds out of the truck and he’d reimburse me whatever money I lost on the deal.

I don’t recall the numbers or how I got to them, but we made a trade with Mr. Symond for a brand new F-350, like the problem truck, and he left the dealership extremely happy.

Photo Credit: iQoncept/Shutterstock

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9 Comments
  1. John Ehrle 5 months ago

    It is amazing that the 6.0 gets so many bad hits. I know I’m not in the majority but this is a good story. I had a Lincoln pick up. The paint was horrible. Started with roof then the hood finally doors. A great friend was GM at the Lincoln dealership on Lemmon Ave. They had one of if the best Ford body shop in DFW. They did a complete repaint and it went bad too. Finally Sonny put me in touch with Ford and the agreement was to find another vehicle. Jerry and Charlie made a deal so I could go to at that time a new Super Duty 6.0. Best truck I ever owned. 154K trouble free miles, traded for another and went 146K on that one. I remember the Service Director telling me that whatever I was doing “publish it”.

    • Amy Plemons 5 months ago

      John, you were one of the lucky ones, but glad you were! Sonny is a dear friend and a good guy! I don’t remember the transaction to be honest, but so glad we could help you too. We had a soft spot for 6.0 owners.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  2. Denny 5 months ago

    I had a 2005 F350 with the 6.0. At 500 miles I was towing my 5th wheel south on I-55 when it went silent. We were racing a snow storm to beat it south to Oklahoma. We spent two nights at the Ford dealer in Litchfield, Illinois while they repaired the engine problem.

    When I got back to my Ford dealer in Illinois after our trip, I explained what happened. He looked at me and said, ” I will check it over and reprogram the engine and guarantee you that you will have no further problems.” He was right. I sold the truck last year with 60,000 miles to a dealer in Illinois and he was glad to get it. It looked and ran better than new. I had a GREAT experience with the 6.0 and cannot bad mouth it although I knew of many people that had problems. It ran terrific, had great power without add-ons and performed flawlessly towing all over the central part of our country. Just thought I would share this with you as I felt this truck could go 300,000 plus miles.

  3. Robert E. Hays 5 months ago

    This is the kind of dealer you want to go back to!

  4. Sewell Keeter 5 months ago

    I bought a new 1985 F250 with an IH diesel engine that was “…not going to need major service for 250,000 miles…” A cracked block at 80,000 miles and a new engine at my expense. The Ford dealer speculated the engine block was cracked when it rolled off the assembly line. Worse yet, immediately after the engine replacement by a Sacramento Ford dealer; I had a diesel fuel leak that required a complete replacement of the injector pump—again at my expense. The Ford dealer denied having done anything that would have caused a diesel injector problem. Just a coincidence…???

  5. Leonard 5 months ago

    My dad bought a lemon from MCMahon Chevrolet in Houston . 1978 dually crewcab 454 auto. That thing ate starters Dozens of trips back to dealership until warranty ran out Pops carried spare starters with him so he didn’t get stranded. On 1 road trip the flashlight was dead and he replaced the starter in the dark by feel no big deal he had done it many times before He loved that truck but the treatment he got from the dealership was beneath contempt, like you said Jerry everybody puts out a lemon

  6. David 5 months ago

    I have a 2017 F-350 with the 6.7 liter diesel. It was a year old on April 4th. It now has 13K miles on it. I bought it in Nebraska at a dealer there. I grew up in Nebraska and moved here after college in 1982. This is my 3rd Ford diesel including a 2006 with the 6.0 that went 170k with minimal problems. My 2017 spent 87 days in the first year in the shop with fuel pump and other fuel sensor problems. Ford itself has been less than helpful. Nebraska lemon laws apply since I bought it there. On the bright side it’s running great now. Even though I didn’t buy it there, Five Star Plano has stood by me with loan pickups, etc. They are a class act and will get my future business. They are great and very close to home in Plano.

  7. Keith Fox 3 months ago

    Back in 2007, I decided to buy a diesel pickup. Being as I’ve only owned Ford trucks prior, the decision was clear, I’d buy another Ford. I had selected a very clean, low mileage 2004 F-250 Superduty Powerstroke from a Ford dealer in the Kansas City MO area. I live near Chicago but since I wanted an extra-clean 4 wd, regular cab and 8′ bed, the selection of real nice used trucks required I might have to travel to get what I wanted. Prior to buying the truck I’d selected, an Oasis report was obtained though my local Ford dealer, thanks to Jerry’s good suggestion. I was happy the truck came back clear of any major issues, and had the required Ford updates performed. So I jumped in a one-way rental car and proceeded with the purchase which was a 7 hour drive away. All went well at the dealership and I drove my new 6.0L Powerstroke home with a big grin. I had not done my homework before I bought! It was only after owning the truck a while did I learn of the horrors of the 6.0L Powerstrokes. Yes I was a little concerned, but I considered the fact many people that write a post have had problems and don’t tell the whole story, happy owners do not write. Ok advance to today, and the unexciting conclusion to my story. I ended up keeping the 2004 F-250 for 3 years, never having any trouble with it. I sold it just under 90k miles, other than a couple front ball joints, no repairs. One point to note, the truck was built past the initial roll out of that 6.0L engine, so the early problems had been corrected in production. Also, no tuners or fancy performance upgrades were added, and I don’t drive like I’m in a speed competition. Overall the 6.0 ran very good and had more than enough power to get up and go, even when I was occasionally pulling a heavy trailer. I felt the vehicle provided good fuel economy on the highway if kept around 65 mph, and not terribly bad in the city, driven with a light foot. I didn’t want to sell it, but felt the risk of costly repairs was growing so it was sold, after I had purchased another F-250 without that ticking time bomb 6.0L engine. I still own a F-250 Powerstoke today, and God willing I will continue to do so for quite a while. More importantly, most Saturdays The Car Pro Show is playing out of the speakers in one of my Ford trucks. We love Jerry and Kevin, they are like a part of the family now.

  8. Richard Haller 6 days ago

    Every time I listen to you and hear the problems about the 6.0 I get real nervous. I have a 2004 Lariat 350 and never had a problem at all. Maybe I am on borrowed time . 80,000 trouble free miles.

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