Road to Nowhere

Posted: September 18, 2012 in Dummy Spits

A number of months back, I wrote a bit of a spit and spray about my car, and in particular the level of service that I receive from the manufacturer. Service levels that make James Hardies treatment of asbestosis sufferers look generous.

Anyway, as my relationship with the manufacturer has regressed even further, I thought it may be time for an update.

I do have a thing for cars, maybe it’s a midlife crisis thing, I dunno, but I particularly like small convertibles. If this makes me a wanker, I can live with that.

However, this blog is not about my masturbation habits, as I’m sure you don’t have all day. What it is about, is the level of service that one would expect when handing over hard earned dollars in mass abundance.

My ride at the moment is the current BMW Z4, a great looking little car that goes like the clappers, and hangs onto the road like the tyres were coated with Supa Glue. However, at $130,000 they aren’t exactly cheap.

My car, in its glory days…

Still, after spending $130,000 you would be safe in the knowledge that they will look after you, and show you a level of service that you just don’t receive from the average Daewoo dealer right?? You would be wrong, majorly wrong…

Within a month of picking my car up, it went back to the dealer twice as it was stalling for no reason, during this time I was without my new car for 3 days and given a Mini to drive around in.

This stalling issue turned out to be due to a magnet facing the wrong direction, and I was pleased to have the car back once the magnet had been pointed in the right direction. This however was just the beginning of my drama’s.

A couple of months later, a moment of madness overcame me, and I decided I wanted to hear what drivel was been promoted as fact on 2GB. Going through the entertainment system I wound up absolutely nowhere, I tried the AM band and there were no stations at all to be picked up. I tried FM, figuring I must have done something wrong, and was greeted by the familiar FM sounds of McDonalds commercials, whacky morning DJ’s with lame jokes, and ringtones promoted as songs, so once I again tried the AM band, and was once again was greeted by the deafening sound of silence.

I gave BMW a call, and was told to bring the car into a service centre yet again. I stood waiting for about an hour whilst 5 service guys pulled things apart and put them back together again and stood around scratching their chins with puzzled vacant looks on their faces. In the end I was given a Mini again, and sent on my way…

Three working days and one weekend later, I was told it was all fixed and to come and pick my car up. So off I went, hastily back down to the dealer once again.

I climbed in and tried the AM radio, great, it worked, a bit crackly in the underground car park, but working. I thanked them and drove up the ramp to leave. Hmmm, I thought, the crackly sound was still there, so I drove around the block, listening to the soothing sound of static the whole way. I changed the station, thinking that may be the issue, well at least the static disappeared, unfortunately though, it was along with any other reception, once again, deafening silence.

So after waiting five days, my car was back in the dealer with the same problem within 5 minutes of picking it up. I was given the Mini again and sent on my way feeling frustrated and more than a little pissed off.

It was not until over a month later, after numerous phone calls, a couple of meetings, and a lot of grief, that I finally received my car back. In that time the dealer had been forced to wait for approval for the new entertainment system to be installed under warranty by Germany, and then to be shipped from Germany, as it was a new car, apparently there were no spares here. Germany would not allow for one to be taken from another car that was in stock, I was not an important enough customer apparently, much better for me to wait for months.

Now, at last, my radio works fine, and the stereo is actually a lot louder than it was originally. This is because it turns out the amplifier hadn’t been working before and now it does. Both the service department and I were oblivious to the fact that I had been driving around with an amplifier that wasn’t working.

Alas though, the Bluetooth phone system which worked well before, is now totally unusable. I have had this looked at several times since by the service department, but to no avail.However rather than go through the whole sorry saga of my car in service for weeks on end, I have resigned myself to the fact that Daewoo can manage a Bluetooth kit that works, and BMW can’t.

With that in mind I purchased myself a bluetooth headphone set for $79, it works well, unlike the one in the $130K car.

Should read, The Ultimate Disfunctional Machine

The service manager at BMW Paramatta, told me I was due compensation for my troubles and assured me he would let me know what they would do for me within a week. Well I chased him for approximately a month, and never heard a peep back I just gave up in the end.

I have to say, eventually though, after I named him in the aforementioned blog post, he did come back to me, and I received a free service. Alas, this did not fix my bluetooth or repair my impression of BMW’s customer service.

Approximately a year ago, I needed to change my tyres, something I thought would be reasonably routine, even for my car. Alas, with BMW there is no such thing as routine, unless routine disappointment counts…

The tyres themselves were quite pricey, as they are low profile run flats, $650 a tyre. These tyres also only last around 30,000kms and cannot be rotated to extend life, but that is not my issue. I expected the tyres to be expensive.

Upon removing the tyres, it turned out my rear rims had about 4 cracks in each wheel, these would clearly need repairing. It turns out that the rims don’t like Australian road conditions, as our roads are not quite as smooth as the Autobahn’s of Germany.

Anyway, the tyre place sent my rims away to be welded at a cost of $500, in the meantime my tyres were picked up and disposed of at the tip along with the stores other old tyres.

The rim repairer called the tyre store the next day and said that this cracking is a common problem with BMW rims and should be claimed on BMW’s warranty. So I once again contacted BMW with a broken car that was undrivable to seek some customer care.

I was told by BMW that I would need to take the car to them, exactly as it had been when the damage occurred. Unfortunately, this would mean getting the tyres back from the tip somehow, putting them back on car, then having the car towed to the dealer, so that they could hold onto the car for a few days to run tests. After these tests, they would make up their mind regarding the warranty claim, and I could have the car towed back to the tyre shop to have the new tyres put on.

This, of course was so far beyond ridiculous, I decided to pay the $500 and cop it on the chin.

However, it is worth remembering that the reason BMW needed to check my rims before approving a warranty claim, they told me, was to check that I had not driven on the tyres whilst they were flat. Also they needed to see for themselves that the rims were cracked.

In order to do this however, all they need is the rims, and my car key. The rims to see the cracks obviously, and my key as it stores information from the computer, there is a chip inside the key apparently that stores the previous few days data. Given that the Z4 computer warns you if the air is low in your tyres, there would have been a record on my key, of any warning of a flat tyre. If there was no warning showing on there, then that would have meant that I did not drive on flat tyres. Alternatively if I did indeed unwittingly drive on flat tyres, then surely the computer warning system is faulty for not alerting me. Either way, it is a warranty issue, and having my car towed back and forth is unnecessary, as the car should not be required to check any of this.

BMW would not send someone out to look at the wheels, as they do not have reps on the road apparently. The 15km someone from the dealer would have had to travel to see for themselves was also to far it would seem.

That left me stuck between the familiar rock, and a place that is not so soft.

To cut a long dramatic story short, I got my wheels back welded, had the new tyres put on, and chalked it up as a bad experience.

Two weeks later my back wheels cracked even worse, unfortunately whilst I was a six hour drive from home. Luckilly a rural BMW dealer took pity on me and gave me 2 wheels that had the same rolling diameter so I could continue to drive, as my original ones were now totally useless.

I am still driving on these spare wheels from another model of car.

Since then, I learnt that in order to have less stress in my life, I needed to find an independent mechanic that had the sheer bravery to try and service a BMW. Fortunately I found such a dealer, and have enjoyed stress free motoring since.

Until now.

You see, a couple of weeks ago I had to have the tyres on the old spare wheels changed. Unfortunately the tyre dealer had a lot of trouble removing one of the wheels, and totally sheared the metal on the lock-nut key flat. This meant that the lock-nut key was useless, and the wheel was stuck on.

4 hours later the job was finished, they had welded another bolt to the lock-nut to remove it.

Last week my car was due for another service, and I had it booked in to my local mechanic, however this time my front brake pads needed changing also. This would mean the front wheels would have to be removed, and of course, these have the same lock-nuts for which I now have a useless key.

Thinking ahead I asked the mechanic to check out the sourcing of a lock-nut key, however this proved futile for the mechanic. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I thought I’d have a shot myself, and dialed BMW’s head office.

I was transferred through to the spare parts department at Artarmon who assured me they could help, they had every lock-nut key in stock. Around $6 in road tolls and a half hour drive later, I pulled up in the driveway at Artarmon to purchase my key.

Showing the manager my car, I was dismayed to hear him say “Oh, you have the new lock-nuts, we can’t get those”. What a surprise…

Apparently BMW stock all the old ones, but none for the current models, how clever and convenient.

The only solution apparently was to order in a new set of four lock-nuts with a key to suit, however that would not help me to remove my front wheels I pointed out. To do this, I was told, I would need to book in with a dealer and pay for them to undo the two bolts.

Instead of this, I thought I’d ring head office again as I needed something done within two days as my car was booked in.

I was told that Justin, at the Artarmon service centre would remove the bolts for me the next day.

The next day, I headed over to Artarmon again, and handing my keys to Justin was pleased to hear it would take a few minutes.

An hour later, Justin returned looking far from pleased. I was told that he couldn’t remove their own lock-nuts, and they would need to weld a bolt to them to remove them, he told me this was likely to damage my wheels, leaving me with two more wheels to replace.

Dismayed, I left, returning soon after to return Justin’s phone which he had left in my car.

Once again I contacted BMW head office, and was told somebody would return my call within half an hour.

About three hours later I was called by possibly the rudest and most arrogant person I have ever had the displeasure of dealing with. I cannot remember his name, nor can I find the bit of paper I scribbled his name on.

Mr Arrogant was ringing to tell me that if I went back to Artarmon, for what would now be the fourth time in two days, Justin would remove the offending bolts. I explained that Justin had told me that he would likely damage my wheels, and was told by Mr Arrogant that he had contacted Justin, and was assured this was not the case as Justin had a “special tool”.

When I asked why Justin didn’t use that “special tool” of his when I was there earlier, I was left with a puzzled silence. Needless to say, Mr Arrogant’s call was ten wasted minutes of my life that I will never get back.

I have only dealt with two people from BMW’s customer relations department. Both have been painful experiences, I am sure that BMW send their staff to the Eric Abetz, and George Brandis school of personality development.

I would have a better chance negotiating a peace deal between Israel and Palestine, drunk and in drag, than I would negotiating a reasonable response out of BMW’s customer relations department.

In the end my mechanic took the wheels of himself, with the help of two other bolts, a welder, and a fair whack of elbow grease.

How to remove a BMW lock-nut

So, my car is back on the road, no thanks to BMW. It still has two mismatched wheels on the back, and although BMW have offered to replace one wheel, I will still have to purchase another wheel, as well as purchase another two tyres. The last time I spent $1300 on tyres, my wheels lasted only a couple of weeks.

So, the moral of this story is, if you, or anyone you know is thinking of buying a car, do not consider BMW in any way, shape or form, you will get better service and reliability from a push bike dealer.

And don’t go thinking I copped a dodgy dealer, the dealer I was going to, and purchased my car from is Trivett Classic BMW in Parramatta. They were the proud winners of BMW’s 2010 Dealership Of The Year award. So if this type of treatment is the best BMW have to offer, then I hate to think of the service levels at other dealers.

My advice, if you want a German car, would be to purchase from a manufacturer that looks after its customers, Audi, Volkswagon, Porsche, or Mercedes. Any car from any country, and at any price, will give you better service levels then BMW.

I am now taking this up with the Department Of Fair Trading. I hope that BMW are forced to address the issues that they should have fixed long ago. I believe they have a duty to honour their warranty, even if they don’t.

If by some fluke of nature, BMW have a change of heart and help me out, I will let you know, but I’m not gonna be holding my breath.

  1. David Fawcett says:

    I’m sorry mate that really sucks. 😦

    I have to say though every-time I see someone in a Beamer, especially one like that, I simply wonder ‘Why?’.

    Sure it looks good, handles well and goes quite well (at least when the magnet is the right way around) but there are plenty of convertible cars in that class that will do that for half the price, or less. Nissan 370z (~$65k), Mazda MX-5 (~$50k), Toyota 86GTS (under $40k!).

    I’m not *trying* to rub salt in the wounds btw! Thanks for the warning.

    • wixxy says:

      I had a TT previously it was miles better…. And the service was great

      I once had an MX5 also, they ate a lot of fun, but much smaller….

      I won’t make the same mistake again…

  2. Ben C says:

    I drive a VW. After my first service with the dealer, I didn’t want to go back. Horrible customer service, expensive and the feeling that your car is being worked on by first year apprentice mechanics…..things like tires being pumped up to 50% over recommended pressures, tools left in the engine bay. Fortunately, after being hung up on after being put on hold three times, I decided to look around for my next service. Lucked out and found a real mechanic, great service and a feeling of confidence that they know what they are doing (and warranty remains valid). An added bonus is that they are 15-20% cheaper than the dealer!

  3. jaycee says:

    I ride a horse..never answers back!

  4. wrb330 says:

    Oh my god, the dream is dead…
    For so long its been my ambition to drive Gemanys finest, alas no more..
    I shall take the hard earned $$$ and give serious thought to indulging my other passion, Mustangs. A nice Mach 1 Mustang will suffice, because after this read I can catagorically say “to hell with BMW’s” coz Wixxy has fairly scared the interest clean out of me..

    Luck mate..(-:

  5. Ross Barber says:

    Dear Wixxy, my advice dump the car at the dealers and keep the complimentary Mini. Ill bet it didn’t break down once and the radio worked during your long frustrating waits for service. And don’t get me started on BMW a manufacturing failure to put non return valves in the fuel lines of my two wheeled version ended up in a barbequing of me

  6. DP says:

    Sadly, I have heard a similar story with a friend who couldn’t tell her friends quickly enough about trying to replace the first tyres on her new BMW. Her gripe was the fact that she had to wait till parts came from Germany, PLUS she was asked to pay for the shipping. She thought BMW was a big enough firm selling enough cars to warrant common parts already being stored in Australia. I thought it was a one off, maybe its not. I’ ll let them all now of your story, Peter.

  7. DP says:

    opps * now is Know

  8. StJohnSmythe says:

    Feel sorry for you mate, it’s a shit go. Unfortunately it is now the kind of customer service one comes to expect with any purchase these days. Everyone seems keen to help, until they have your cash in their hands that is, then you’re on your own. Don’t expect too much from fair trading either mate, sorry to say, my last experience with them had them just repeating the same drivel that the company was who was dodging obligations. Maybe the consumer & tenancy tribunal might get you somewhere? Good luck with it anyway, and let us know how you get on.

  9. fleasworld says:

    I thank my lucky stars I took Peters advice and bought an Audi A3 convertible instead of the BMW series 1 convertible!!! Had nothing but joy from Audi and Lexus before that. Peter sure isn’t exaggerating the Z4 has been a dog I can’t remember how many loan card he bought home while his car was being serviced..never buy a beamer it sure shattered my dream

  10. deknarf says:

    Moral of the story: Don’t buy a European car!! ;-O

  11. Mr White says:

    As a proud owner of a 1971 300sel Mercedes, I can say that the original Becker Mexico is working fine. This attests to the quality of the marque. But Peter, a $130k BMW, bit of a Jacksonville problem don’t you think? What would the HSU members do?

  12. pete says:

    No wonder you haven’t posted for a while, you’ve been to busy playing with your beamer, but your story explains to me why most beamer drivers speed, they’re trying to get to the dealership before the car totally dies. Try Skoda, built like tanks and excellent service.

    • wixxy says:

      It’s been a while between posts as I have been quite busy actually… I had a lot of catching up to do after I spent a couple of weeks doing a fair bit of campaign work for the council elections.
      The councilor I campaigned for got in, with a record result for the ALP in this electorate…
      Sorry I was absent though… but all worth it

  13. gold price says:

    We have been asked a few time about if can we even remove the locking wheel nuts from a Vauxhall with the security ring ??The answer is YESWe have a selection of nut/studs, flat, tapered and radius washers for replacing old locking wheel nuts on most vehicles.Please note: These bolts are only use for an emergency and as a temporary replacement after removal of locking wheel nutWe can supply a new set of after market locking wheel nuts on request As we are a professional service we will require proof of vehicle ownership before work will be carried out.

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