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.