Sunday, March 28, 2010

"You get treated better when you buy American"

  That was the comment laid on me when I wrote about my new 2009 Kia Rio. But I had bought GM Cars for the past 15 years. When I was commuting 110 miles a day to Des Moines from 1994 to 2008, I would put 30,000 miles on my car every year. I had a Honda Civic when I moved from New Jersey and when it broke down, I found out that there was only 1 mechanic at Ken Wise Honda in Marshalltown, Iowa that could service my car. It took a week to get a simple repair done (although I was assured by the customer service rep that it was worked on by the best Honda mechanic in town!). That convinced me that it paid to buy American in the heartland so in 1996 I bought a bare-bones (not even a radio) Geo Metro at Bob Brown. The car was cheap, got good mileage (40mpg) and never broke until the dashboard panel lights stopped working. By that point, I had 80,000+miles and the dealer was happy to take the car as a trade in on a new Metro. The 1998 Metro had a CD player and air conditioning. I bought the extended service warranty and when my new Metro’s dashboard lights stopped working at 40,000 and 80,000+ miles, it was replaced at no charge. I was so happy with Bob Brown that when it was time to buy a new car, I bought a Cavalier from them (Metros were no longer being made). The Cavalier was a great car and when it was time for a new car, I kept it to give to my son, who uses it now. I even bought 2 Chevy Ventures from Bob Brown as family cars. Including my 2005 Aveo, I had purchased 6 Chevy cars from Bob Brown over 10 years and never spent more than 90 minutes setting up each purchase. I even got my oil changes there. The dealer was a half mile walk from work, so I would drop the car off in the morning, walk to work, and then walk back to pick it up when they called me to say it was ready. Everything was working smoothly or so I thought…

  Around 2006, I started having a lot of problems with the service department. My favorite rep had transferred to another office and the new guys wouldn’t call to let me know my oil changes were done. My salesman had retired so my years of purchases weren’t remembered as fondly as before. I brought the Venture in because I had a sensor problem and was told it was not under warranty (I had bought a 6 year no deductible warranty). I called GM to complain and was told my problem was covered, but I was not feeling like a valued customer any more. I put my key in the Aveo one day and the lock fell in the door. I had a $100 deductible on my extended warranty for that car and the service rep seemed extremely happy at how they managed to fix the lock for $98. The lock fell out again the next day, so I suppose I had the last laugh that time. That was the end of my oil changes at Bob Brown. The last straw came when my Aveo’s clutch went out at 60,000 miles and I was told by the dealer and GM that it wasn’t under warranty because it was a wearable part. As if all parts aren’t wearable. I didn’t know at the time that GM was broke and probably screwing over all their customers, but I said I’d never get another GM car. Whenever GM or the GM Card or GMAC or GM whoever call to sell me something, I tell them I’ll be happy to talk to them once they reimburse me for my clutch. I would buy a Ford except I still remember being able to outrun my dad’s 1973 Pinto wagon up hills. The Pinto wagon was found to have a defect that could make the gas tank explode if it was hit from behind. Ford sent my dad a warning sticker to put on his visor informing him of the danger should he be rear-ended. So, Ford is out for me.

  I’d like to buy an American car out of loyalty to my country, but GM needs to be loyal to me also. Given the bad first impression the Kia service department gave me, GM may get a second chance sooner than later.