how TO DEAL WITH ROGUE CAR DEALERS

I WOULD like to know where to report car dealers who don't keep their promises on service delivery, such as quality after-sales service care. And why do companies like Peugeot not see to it that their dealers have courtesy cars available?

I WOULD like to know where to report car dealers who don't keep their promises on service delivery, such as quality after-sales service care. And why do companies like Peugeot not see to it that their dealers have courtesy cars available?

Hendrik

Hendrik, I wish I had an easy answer for you, but the reality is that wherever you turn, you are going to come up against a brick wall.

There are a few organisations that you can approach, even the motor industry ombudsman (www.miosa.co.za). But I think they are all snowed under with complaints about malpractices that they will probably regard as more serious than unsatisfactory service.

No doubt they will ask you to put your complaint in writing, and this will be the last you will ever hear of it. You might as well save yourself the trouble.

Here I can only give a few basic bits of advice regarding the motor industry:

l Be very sceptical of glib promises that sound too good to be true. Even better, never put a salesperson in a position where he will feel obliged to make such promises.

So, instead of asking him, "will I get a courtesy car when I bring my car in for a service?", rather ask him how many courtesy cars his dealership has available, and whether customers are allowed to book one in advance or whether the cars are allocated on a "first come, first served" basis.

l Never ever give an open-ended instruction to a dealer. The car that comes in with the instruction, "fix engine misfire" is a gift from heaven to a rogue dealer. He can now go wild - even replace the engine if he feels like it - and you will have to pay.

Rather see to it that the instruction "investigate misfire, and contact owner before doing anything further" is written on the job card. You can also add "please leave all replaced parts in the car".

l Accept that a manufacturer (and Peugeot is by no means alone in this regard) will very seldom act against one of its dealers, especially if the dealer has a good sales record.

l Try to pick up a modicum of technical knowledge of your particular car. Once a service adviser notices that you are not completely ignorant, he will think twice before trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

You don't have to become an expert on your car, you just need to know enough about it to ask intelligent questions and to know when they are trying to baffle you with impressive-sounding jargon.

So, there you have it: if you fall among the wolves of the motor industry, nobody is going to rescue you. And it seems inevitable that the situation will get worse in the foreseeable future. We are facing a serious shortage of skilled and experienced technicians in the automotive industry and the staggering proliferation of car makes and models on the market means that the available manpower is spread ever more thinly.

The quality and proximity of after-sales service is therefore bound to become a major consideration for new car buyers.

In all fairness, I should add that not all car dealers are big, bad wolves.

Amid all the horror stories, you also hear of dealers who honour their obligations, and are more concerned with service than enrichment.

If you find one like that, you are indeed a lucky person.

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