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Subaru Dealer Scam to get out of Added Security Plan Repair Protection

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9 replies to this topic

#1 mountainwalker


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Posted 29 January 2009 - 06:19 PM

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up on a scam Subaru dealership try to pull to charge you more for covered repairs/parts when you are limited to only a small deductible ($50 in the case of the New Subaru Gold Plus plan, the highest coverage plan). I’ve carefully reviewed the policy language line by line, and there’s no language to support what they are trying to do to get more money out of you. I’m following up with Subaru national and will let you know what I find out. I’ve already got an electronic voice recording of a Subaru customer care person saying that the dealerships can’t do this (of course the very same day the dealership tracked who I spoke with and yelled at that rep to squelch him).

This week I brought our 2003 Subaru Outback H6 VDC to one of the local dealerships for the 90K servicing, power steering flush and fuel injector clean and flush and replacement of the windshield because of pitting over time. The only reason I chose to do this at the dealership was because the dealership agreed to lower the cost to match a top local garage, AND while the car is running beautifully, there are a few problems to address, and with only a $50 deductible per visit no matter how many repairs/replacement parts, this was a good time to get those problems addressed.

I was able to demonstrate the first 2 problems to the dealer service people on the spot –1) the VDC and ABS lights coming on at highway speed and staying on until parked and ignition off (the lights would be off next time you start the car). 2) the HVAC system was doing some strange things, with the A/C coming on when the fan speed is adjusted, and the fan speed changing by itself when the temperature control dial is turned up and down.

I had 3 other problems that are inconsistent and thus difficult to always demonstrate, though those issues are very real:

3) This third issue is the most serious – and I wrote about it earlier on these forums – at times, when stopping at a light after highway speed or faster local road speed, the idle speed would drop too low, to about 500-600, and on about 4 occasions over about a 6 month period the car stalled right after it did this. Turning the ignition key brought it right back up. I cleaned the throttle box to address this problem, but it happened once even after I cleaned the throttle box. I haven’t seen the problem since the beginning of December, so it’s not a consistent problem.

4) Inconsistent seat heaters - the seat heaters always worked fine and consistently up until a few weeks ago. On our model year, you can press the toggle switch either forward or backward for different levels of heat. A few weeks back on a few occasions the seat heaters barely worked. On others they worked but were of inconsistent temperature – lukewarm or hot, without any connection to the position of the toggle switch.

5) Stereo jumping – least serious issue - the stereo occasionally will play music from one of the side front speakers but not the other, for just a split second. Could be a loose wire. The stereo speakers are OEM – the OEM Macintosh radio/CD player was pulled out and replaced by an aftermarket radio/CD/MP3 player after the previous owner of the vehicle said her local Subaru place could not repair the original Macintosh radio (which I still have).

The dealer service rep, deeply disappointed that their mechanics will have to do real work diagnosing and repairing the ABS/VDC system and HVAC system for only a $50 deductible, proceeds to tell me to be aware that if they look into a covered system/part that is malfunctioning but say they can’t replicate the problem, that he’ll charge me a around a $150 diagnostic fee. I point out that exclusion is NOWHERE in the Subaru policy language, which I’ve read line by line.

In other words, the dealership is saying – “if you are having a problem with a covered part/system that is malfunctioning, and you’ve seen it malfunction on many occasions, if we look into it, and we SAY we can’t replicate it, we’ll charge you a $150 diagnostic fee.”

I rechecked the language of the policy line by line and there is NO EXCLUSION OF ANY KIND granted to allow the dealership to charge you beyond the $50 deductible for diagnosing/repair/replacing parts for a failing system/part.

I called Subaru’s Customer Care line and got a Subaru rep on electronic voice recording agreeing that the dealership could not charge you a diagnostic fee in such a case.

Later the dealer service rep tells me on the phone that he spoke with the same guy I did (he searched by my vehicle VIN# to pull up the rep I spoke with) and says the rep is wrong and didn’t say that (even though I have him recorded saying exactly that). The dealer service rep yelled at the Customer Care guy to back off.

I had an attorney buddy take a look at the policy as well, and he agreed that there’s no exception for Subaru to allow the dealer to charge a fee for looking into a problem and saying they can’t replicate it.

Be aware that this is doubly absurd, as this means that all the dealership has to say is that they couldn’t replicate the problem, and they can extract $100-200 from you per issue. It’s a great way for them to get back some of the value for the service they have to give you under the policy, for items that you can prove on the spot they need to work on.

Now for the OEM stereo speakers, their claim is that since the radio itself has been replaced, and the radio controls the speakers, we don’t have to touch them. Not good service by any standard, but at least in this case it’s something to cover their butts. Note that the only reason the OEM radio was replaced was that a dealership told the previous owner they were unable to repair it. Since I still have the OEM radio, I should make them repair it under the policy...

This is some of the worst customer service and support I’ve ever seen, and I’m following up all the way up the chain and if the situation warrants will start a public online campaign to force Subaru to force their dealerships to comply with their policies. The last customer care person I spoke with recommended I speak with the Added Security Sales people, because he could not prove to me under the policy that the dealership can charge for this.

Has anyone experienced this nonsense?

Have you ever heard of something so inane? This would cause owners and policy holders to not bring in their vehicles for service for fear that the dealerships claims they cannot replicate the problem, leaving you with an unrepaired part/system, a $100-200 bill and lost time.

Edited by mountainwalker, 29 January 2009 - 06:28 PM.

#2 Durania


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Posted 29 January 2009 - 06:34 PM

Good luck is all I have to say. Grayson Subaru in Knoxville runs a scam where they etch the last 6 letters of your VIN into your door windows. They say they do this automatically and charge the customer $1200. I argued with the salesman for 1 1/2 with the fact that I am not paying for it. Then to beat it all, the car wasn't even etched yet. I followed up the case with SOA and they told me that they were unfamiliar with "VIN Etching" and said they cannot govern other dealership's policies. If I was making payments on my RS I would have followed up with the BBB.

#3 mountainwalker


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Posted 29 January 2009 - 06:44 PM

If that etching scam had taken place, you could have easily beaten them in small claims court, unfortunately at the cost of your time and aggravation. Forget about the BBB - a scam like that is a matter for court - also something you should post on Subaru and consumer forums like Yelp.

In this case, because the Subaru Gold Plus protection plan is a legal document, it's possible that I can hold Subaru responsible for any charges - I'd have to go after SOA (Subaru of America) and not the dealership, because the policy is from SOA. It would ideally be done as a class action suit because there are so many Subaru policy holders who have probably been scammed this way. The threat of a costly class action suit might be enough for them to follow through on their obligations. There are tons of lawyers who love to pick up on class action suits which affect hundreds of thousands of people.

#4 Andy FitzGibbon

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 06:58 PM

Of course, after you go through with this, you will probably have to find some other dealer to work on your car... not trying to discourage you, just pointing that out.

#5 mountainwalker


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Posted 29 January 2009 - 07:51 PM

Not a concern in this situation because it's SOA's responsibility as the party which granted the policy. It's SOA's responsibility to cover the cost of the repair and to enforce their policy with the dealer. I'll find out more soon.

I'd be interested in any USMB members with any information on similar attempts by dealers and ways in which they handled this.

Something to give you hope in dealing with similar consumer rights situations - We once had a serious problem with our Verizon landlines. We called Verizon with documentation - we went through over 30 Verizon people in over one year, calmly documenting a few lines here and there and sure that we would prevail. It's too long to recount all the details, but the Public Services Commission (a body in every state charged with making sure that monopolies don't take advantage of customers) forced them to pay us $5000 and fined them $50,000 and the regional manager had to apologize to us. Also, a large nearby business which Verizon had crossed our lines with investigated and found out that Verizon double-sold lines to them and then to us and other people in the neighborhood, and extracted brefunds from Verizon. Needless to say, Verizon treated us much better after that and any problem or concern was dealt with right away by an intelligent manager. That kind of justice is rare, but satisfying.

#6 RallyKeith


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Posted 30 January 2009 - 10:12 AM

I agree that what your dealership is doing is wrong. I would call SOA back and ask to speak with the supervisor of the person you originally dealt with. I have a friend that went through some issue getting a transmission fixed that was under warrenty, but once he called SOA directly it got taken care of.

One thought for you on the stereo. Asking them to fix it is like asking them to replace your transmission because it burned up after putting a viper engine in your subaru. Also, I personally don't think it's the speakers. You would most likely hear general distortion all the time if a speaker was bad. Intermittent cutting out of a speaker is usually a wiring issue (would be voided by the aftermarket installation also) or the stereo itself. Also, unless you can find water damage to the speaker, the only thing that can damage it is over powering it from the now aftermarket stereo. Kind of sticks, but something you have to accept. Like how I've accepted that I will never expect Subaru to warrant replacement of my alternator since I've installed a pair of 100W driving lights.

#7 mountainwalker


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Posted 30 January 2009 - 10:44 AM

RallyKeith, I agree with you in general about the speaker, but keep in mind that another Subaru dealership said to the previous owner they could not repair or replace the OEM Subaru radio, and recommended replacing it. I still have it. I believe it can be repaird, but it was probably something that dealership didn't want to do. The radio is a minor issue - the sound is fine - it's only a matter of one speaker once in a while cutting out for a split second. I'm much more concerned with the way

One thing that's very interesting - it seems that the only role of the service representative at the dealership is to be a fast-talking service salesman and to find ways to extract more $ from the customer. He's clearly hit a brick wall with me and he knows it, but it's amazing that he's willing to fight at the SOA level and push around SOA representatives. Prior to this car I've always worked with good independent garages I knew and could trust. I'm only using the dealership because of our Subaru New Gold Plus coverage plan.

I've got this under control and when I have the time next week I'll have all the info and backing I need from SOA.

Note that in a situation like this you have to try to get the information without using your VIN number, because they maintain a file with all your recent contacts and that's how the dealer was able to trace the SOA rep I dealt with and push him around.

#8 RallyKeith


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Posted 30 January 2009 - 11:01 AM

Note that in a situation like this you have to try to get the information without using your VIN number, because they maintain a file with all your recent contacts and that's how the dealer was able to trace the SOA rep I dealt with and push him around.

That's something good to kepe in mind!

#9 ShawnW


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Posted 31 January 2009 - 01:22 AM

Subaru has rules for their dealers to follow with both the factory and extended warranties.

For factory warranty there ares guidelines and a regional rep and a service manager at the dealer to handle any questions of what is covered.
It works well usually. The customer comes to the counter. They explain the problem they are having with the car. If its clearly covered, a ticket is opened and an appointment to fix the car is made.
If its not clear if its covered or not the service writer contacts someone internally in the dealer to check (service manager). If he/she doesn't know they contact the regional guy.

With the extended warranty you still go to the counter, they check the paperwork and open a ticket.

The extended warranty usually has a dollar limit on what they can fix without contacting the extended warranty people, after that they call in for approval on the hours of labor to be billed and the parts to be used.

You need to discuss this with the dealers service manager first. If policies and procedures aren't being followed properly he/she is supposed to make it right so that you and other people wont have to deal with somebody that doesnt know how to serve you.
If you don't get satisfaction from him, ask for the regional reps contact information or call Subaru to get the contact info.

For the speaker its either:
Wiring, most likely in the door hinge as this is the most stressed place in the car for speaker wiring.
For the seat heaters the switches may be bad is most likely. People spill stuff into them like soda, water, coffee, drool(comes from looking at good lookin drivers at stoplights usually), etc.

The climate control concerns you have, are normal. Thats one of the early automatic climate control cars and they have worked a few of the common complaints of the system out in the 08/09 model year cars but for the most part the car is using multiple temp and ambient sensors to try to keep you comfortable and it turns the fan up and down and the a/c on and off to do so.

No warranty can cover a stereo system with an aftermarket head unit installed. Put your Macintosh radio back in and go to another dealer to have it fixed. (there is a reman program where they order one, replace yours and mail yours back in. Takes a week or two for the radio to come in but they do nice work usually)

I see this everyday unfortunately. People think they are being scammed but alot of the time they either void their warranty themselves or they think warranty should cover things that it doesnt.
In the past month I have seen people want:

CD player warrantied because they shoved a mini disc into it after they had already put 6 discs in.
Wheels and tires warrantied because they slid on ice into curbs.
Windshield warrantied after they punched the inside of the glass.
Glass warrantied after they had a tint shop install tint.
Antenna receptiion warrantied after they had the tint installed over the antenna (tint typically has metal in it)--why the heck didnt they go back to the tint place and make them fix it since the problem started RIGHT after the tint?!?! They do make tint that doesnt have metal in it for this purpose and they do put tint on for a living!
Engine warranty attempt after 0 oil changes in 20K miles. The motor failed after she tried to pass a dumptruck going 85MPH up a mountain pass on ice in 3rd gear.
Trans warranty after they got stuck in a ditch and tried to rock out of the ditch.
Axle warranty after they jumped a median.
Clutch warranty on an STI with 8,000 miles.
Brake warranty at all within 36,000 miles is abuse in my opinion.
Sunroof warrantied after they drove their car with a mountain bike on the roof into their house without removing the bike first.

These fools YELL at times. They are freaks! I saw one bring an attorney in and even the lawyer started laughing at his own client for their stupidity. She put a mini mag light flashlight into the center console and the butt end of it unthreaded into the socket and shorted the power socket (cig lighter socket) out because its made of METAL. She wanted the 1/2 hour of labor charged to her to be covered under warranty. A $1 fuse and a 1/2 hour in this case might sound rediculously expensive to some of you but that console is dark and it was difficult to track down. The fact is Subaru didnt put a maglight into the console or flip the protective door up. She did. The $1 fuse kept her car from burning to the ground (I say let it!--its a silly TRIBECA.)

People need to remember that every time they file a warranty claim they are indirectly driving the price of the warranty or the sticker prices of the cars up. People think they are sticking it to the man or to Subaru but the service technicians are usually the ones to take it in the shorts. The little guys so to speak. The guys that get paid 1 hour to replace a seat heater element and take the entire seat out of the car, tear the whole seat apart and put it back in. With leather that is dried out no less.

A little advice. Be patient with the dealer. You are walking in with a bunch of problems and I see why with a deductible but offer to leave the car and ask for a loaner if they can. Its a hectic place at times and stressful. Warranty companies and Subaru don't pay very much to the technicians at times and its hard to spend hours diagnosing things only to have get paid at most a half hour to diagnose something. Get all the problems on one ticket but be patient and if they don't fix the problem hold them accountable for it but thats it.

What you are encountering is ONE dealer scamming you. Not all of them are bad. Find one that is and if it requires a 30 minute drive its worth it. Schedule in advance, get a loaner car and leave it for them to take their time and do a good job.

Good luck and I hope you get satisfactory service.

#10 Subarupusher


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Posted 31 January 2009 - 10:04 PM

I was thought I was the only one that drove their mountain bike into the top of their garage. No sun roof damage but I did put a small divot on the top of the back hatch. Never thought about claiming it under the warranty. I pay for my stupid mistakes and hopefully learn a lesson.

If are not satisfied with the repair process, try another dealer. It has taken me many years to figure out that their are dealers where you buy the car (best price) and different dealers where you get the car fixed correctly.

Definitely put the original radio back in and have another dealer replace it.

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