4x4

Running repairs that give you the run around. Can you do it yourself?

Our regular commentator Geoff Lines has another story for you about dealer repairs….

I remember reading an article many years ago written by the RACV or some other automotive magazine about the price of spare parts for cars. The outcome of the article was that spare parts frequently cost 5 times more that the actual expected retail price. Based on building a car out of spare parts an average $30,000 Toyota Corolla would cost $150,000.

Now I know the Toyota Corolla is a very good car but $150,000 is a bit much. It’s also unaffordable to most Corolla owners who are just your average person on an average wage. Whatever that is.

At an automotive event about 8 years ago I was speaking with one of the leading sales staff from a large dealership that sold Japanese cars. Small and large. After a couple of beers and the obligatory ‘slider’, because Mini Beef Burger isn’t MKR enough, my new friend began to confide in me some of the untold secrets of dealerships and car pricing.

After a while he asked me how much I thought it cost to build a Toyota Corolla. I thought about it for a few seconds and said “about 50-60% of the sales price”. He smiled and said “I don’t know”. I looked at him wondered if the chilli sauce in the slider had melted his brains when he leaned in to me and told me a little story.

He was at a work function where a senior VP of the Japanese manufacturer was present. After the usual formalities it was drinks and nibbles, most probably sushi sliders, and the Japanese team circulated with the local staff meeting and greeting for an all-round good time. My new friend managed to get a few minutes with the Senior VP for a quick chat. While talking with Mr Senior VP he asked this question.

“Mr Senior VP-san. How much does it cost to build a new Toyota Corolla?”. Mr Senior VP looked at him and answered “Mr Senior Salesman-san. Cost to build car is cost of metal, cost of rubber and cost of plastic”.

My new friend looked at Mr Senior VP and smiled, thanked him and moved on as his managers were not happy with his questions.

The outtake from this story is that car parts really shouldn’t cost what they do and cars these days should be pretty easy to work on. Having said that I know some are not. Also aftermarket parts and accessories should also be reasonably priced and easy to work on. Yet again, some are not.

Recently a friend of mine had a front bulb blow on his 4WD bullbar. It was one of the little lights that are mounted down low. He called it a park light but I think they might be running lights. Anyway. It’s a small cheap, and you would think, easy to replace part. Think again.

He was getting his car serviced by the dealer he purchased it from in Melbourne’s west. He mentioned the blown bulb and asked if they could fix this as well.

Now before I go on let me tell you a little about my friend. He is what I will call an older gentleman; if he reads this he will kill me but oh well; and his lifelong profession has been a farmer.

Now I don’t know about you but most farmers from the old school that I know have certain character traits. And my friend is no different. He’s laid back, is often brief in his communication, calls a spade a spade, and he’s smart. Farmer smart. He makes MacGyver look like a 3 thumbed schmuck when it comes to building and fixing stuff. He just seems to be able to do stuff and knows how to fix nearly anything. I have no idea how they do it but farmers are clever. I guess it’s because they just have to be self-reliant so they are.

So you can imagine my friend’s reaction when he got the quote for replacing the bulb in his bullbar.

Quote: “Replace bullbar light bulb…$588.00”

Yes that’s right 588 DOLLARS.

Now my friend, THE FARMER, read this in his email. Remember he’s clever. He might be over 60 but he has kept up with technology. He calls up the dealership and requests a “please explain” using language that Pauline Hanson would be proud of. Maybe he’s older but not quite a gentleman. Who knew.

The dealership ‘explains’ that in order to replace the bulb they have to take off the bullbar. His reply is brief and to the point. “Bullshit”.

He declines their generous off to charge him $588.00 to replace a blown bulb and hangs up.

At the end of the day he goes back to pick up his 4WD and asks to see the service manager. He shows the service manager the quote and gets the response that the quote includes removal of the bullbar. He replies again in his usual fashion “bullshit”. Picks up his car, pays for the service and drives home.

On his way home he stops at Repco, picks up a bulb for $2.50 and when he gets home he spends 12 minutes locating and removing the access plate from the bottom of the bull bar, he knew there had to be an easy way to do it but had never checked before, and changes the light bulb.

So for $2.50 and 12 minutes of his time he saves $585.50.

So the next day he goes back to the dealership and speaks to the dealer manager. Now let’s remember that he has purchased a brand new 4WD from these guys a few years ago and has had it serviced with them ever since. That’s what you call a good customer.

He shows the dealer manager the quote and requests a please explain from him. He gets same story about bullbar removal. He then tells the dealer manager he spent $2.50 and spent 12 minutes replacing the bulb. The dealer manager then says it must have been a typo with the decimal point in the wrong place. A sad attempt at trying to recover the situation that my friend is amazed at.

He asked the dealer manager how much work they do for $58.80. And yes it was a sarcastic question.

Needless to say he stopped the dealer manager pretty soon after he started waffling about the cost of work, told him that their behavior was reprehensible and that he would never be using them for any work on his car again. Or for his new upgrade that will be coming in 12-24 months. So they just lost a 50-60k sale.

So the moral of the story. Don’t just accept what the dealers say.

If you think the price of something is too much then ask your friends. If you belong to a club ask other club mates. Check the internet and definitely youtube. Check with your local mechanic. If you’re taking a taxi back from the dealership ask the taxi driver as they know heaps of stuff.

And if you have nowhere else to go send a question into Practical Motoring 4×4 where I am sure the team can provide some ideas to help you out. And if they don’t I know a very clever farmer who will have an idea or two.


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Geoff Lines

Geoff Lines

AWDs and 4WDs. All good to me.