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Service Like No Other… Sometimes

Car Tips | October 14th, 2008 by 19
BMW Maintenance

In my experiences, I have found BMW’s service to be rivaled to none. An incentive in buying a BMW under warranty is their famous 4 …

Service Like No Other… Sometimes

In my experiences, I have found BMW’s service to be rivaled to none. An incentive in buying a BMW under warranty is their famous 4 year/50,000 mile maintenance program, one of the programs that makes BMW stand out in front of their customers.

This program, as most will already know, covers just about every wear and tear item in the car at absolutely no cost to the customer. This includes everything from a chipped wood dash to windshield wipers. Of course, this all depends on dealership.

In some circumstances I have found the service and customer care to be impeccable, whereas other times it has been horrendous, keeping the car for weeks without really solving anything. Luckily, BMW of Austin has done a great job for me.

So I ask, how have your experiences been with your local BMW dealership?

  • Lee

    I’ve always been a little hesitant to trust dealership work, and that’s only become worse since I started working at an independent BMW/Mini shop.

    We’ve seen some stuff come from the local dealer that was pretty rough. Bolts missing, work that was claimed to be done but wasn’t… Most recently we had a customer with an e46 M3 who paid the dealer to adjust his valves two days before he took it to us. They were all out of spec when we checked them. Every single last one of them. Seems like all they did was removed the valve cover, looked at the valves, declaired “yup, they’re all still there” and slapped the valve cover back on.

    A lot of this is because of how they pay their techs. What would pay the technician 8 billable hours if the customer were paying the bill will pay 5 hours if BMW is covering it. This gives the techs a feeling of being underpaid to do the same job simply because BMW is paying the tab instead of the client, which leads to things not being done correctly/at all.

  • Lee

    Disclaimer: By no means am I claiming that the dealerships themselves or BMW’s programs are responsible for this; it comes down to the techs themselves not feeling adequately compensated for their work, which is just as much their fault as anyone’s.

  • Gil

    I love my dealer, never had a problem with them. The owner often walks around and chit-chat with customers, so you get to know them a bit more. They always have loaner cars ready for their customers. It’s not the cheapest dealer for service (my E38 740iL will tell you so). lol. But I never bitched about it because 1) it’s a BMW, it comes with the territory; and 2) the service and attention is great, somehow I never feel guilty writing them a check. Bought 4 BMWs from them (740iL, 330i, X3 3.0i, and K1200LTE).

    The only one that rivals them so far is the Mercedes-Benz (also have a W220 S500 4matic). Ugh…. you have to see it in person. It’s ridiculously nice (and so is the repair bills that come with it, LOL!!!) Somebody’s gotta pay for the in-door service bays and a fleet of S-class loaner cars, no?! haha. I love them.

  • Gragop

    Tom Bush BMW in Jax takes very good care of me. For example, the stitching in my driver’s seat bolstering began to come undone. I figured they would make me pay for it as wear’n’tear but the dealer brought it in, had it professionally repaired, and gave me a warranty on the seat itself that would be honored if it gave me problems again. I haven’t paid for a single repair or item on a BMW of mine in 6 1/2 years of ownership. I’m very happy with BMW’s program and it’s a huge selling point in my mind.

    Another example was that I’d closed my ipod cable in the lock of my glove compartment – BMW went ahead and replaced it under warranty. These things are why I recommended BMW to a lot of friends and family – you can’t beat the service plan and the peace of mind it gives you without worrying about that crap.

    To juxtapose that: taking the family Benz S500 into the shop in my hometown in Georgia was always a nightmare. Everyone was rude and too busy to help me, they couldn’t give us a loaner because they ran out. Most times the car still wasn’t repaired when we got it back.

    I’d say BMW and Lexus are probably neck and neck in terms of service departments – but that’s my opinion from what I’ve seen.

  • Eric

    Depends on the dealership. My father owned BMWs and the whole service experience used to be dreadful in the 80s and 90s – they would deny finding anything wrong, and whatever they fixed would inevitably go wrong again or the repair work would damage something else. I think Lexus really helped up the ante in terms of overall dealer service for the luxury brands.

    South Bay BMW, which is in a nearly new facility, has been great for the most part. The only time I felt screwed over was when I took my nearly new 335 in for a starter issue. I was told is was a known fault with an injector and they had to locate the part. They put me in a loaner. After no word for 3 days, I called them and was told matter of factly “oh, yeah, there’s a part shortage, so you’re in line and it may take 2-3 weeks.” I said that was unacceptable and as a loyal BMW customer I didn’t appreciate having my new car out of service for 3 weeks. Later that day the service advisor called to say he jumped the queue and the car would be ready the next day. So, they went out of their way to take care of it after some prodding.

    The new facility in Valencia also has stellar service.

    All that said, service as Beverly Hills BMW is dreadul and rude. Never ever again.

    So, depends on your dealer…

  • beto_L.A.

    I have to say that having a BMW and the 4 year maintenance program has been a great experience for me. I bought my car from Alexander imports and they go the extra mile they pick up your car from home or work and drop off a loaner, I live in Norht hollywood CA so the drive to Alexander Imports is about 30 to 45min drive…..I also use Century West BMW and they have been great, and even though I didn’t purchase my car from them I got a loaner for the day, @ both locations every time I had a problem they fixed it with out any delays.

    but it all depends on each dealer.

  • Jay Herdez

    I live in Hollywood and I’ve visited a few BMW dealerships in the LA area but so far Alexander Imports has provided me with the best service – car service and personal service. I’m happy to drive out there for their work and good customer service. The worse dealership I’ve been to is Beverly Hills BMW. They are rude, they make up crap and if you show up in the wrong gear they treat you like a 2nd class citizen. I’m happy to say that I’m getting my 2nd car ’09 328i coupe from Alexander – and I can’t wait til’ it gets here sometime in November!!! Never again will I ever get my car serviced or walk into Beverly Hills BMW

  • BernardP

    Well, the 4-Year Maintenance Program is for USA only. Not in Canada…Pity… As I understand the Canadian version of this plan, scheduled maintenance is free, but one has to pay for all wear-and-tear items. In the USA, wear-and-tear costs are included.

    A complete brake job on a 328 is about $1000, and with our harsher canadian winter, is almost certain to be required within the first 4 years.

  • Lance

    Are you sure that they will replace your chipped dash as well unless you got a new car like that? If you damaged it yourself, they normally don’t replace for you. I know in some countries, the maintenance plan is 5 years but the interior trims is only 2 years and many customers are complaining about the interior trims’ colour coating coming off (e.g. E90 door handles in grey peeling off, showing the underlying black plastic) In those countries, they refuse to replace it after 2 years eventhough it is clearly a manufacturing refault or poor quality. Also complains from E87, E90 and 5 Series.

  • Lee

    Gil, I wish we had more e38 clients like you. We see far, far too many of them that are not maintained at all. They’ll go years without taking their car in for anything but oil changes at their local Jiffy Lube, then wonder why we come back with a ton of issues after they bring it in for a minor noise. A lot of times they just want a “fix it for now” solution that inevitably ends up returning within a couple months, then they complain to me because the corners they wanted us to cut didn’t solve anything just as we told them they wouldn’t.

    We do have a handful of E38 clients with absolutely immaculate cars. It’s always a pleasure to see those come in, because it’s typically for nothing but oil & filters. Maybe belts. I don’t have to sit down for 3 hours to write estimates on the laundry list of issues with the car because the owners actually take pride in their vehicles. A clean, well loved E38 can be a gorgeous car.

    Everything in the service industry can be hit-and-miss. It really doesn’t matter if it’s automotive, restaurants, dry cleaning, etc. For the most part, just about every shop can turn a wrench decently enough to keep your vehicle on the road. It’s the ones that take the time to really provide you with good service (what a concept) that typically have a loyal customer base. If you’ve found a shop (even if it’s the dealer) in your area that goes the extra mile for you, count yourself lucky. A lot of people who drive a lot of different vehicle makes/models don’t have that option and never get to build a trusting relationship with their service centers.

  • Howie_In_AZ

    One of the problems with the BMW warranty is that they recommend changing your oil once every 15,000 miles. Most owners know that you need to change your oil slightly more often than that. Bavarian Autosport (http://www.BavAuto.com) a very well-known store, has a few PDF newsletters online that detail all manner of DIY things. Of particular note is the 2006 newsletter detailing when owners should change, for example, spark plugs. It’s available at http://www.bavauto.com/newsletter/2006_n206_newsletter.pdf.

    There’s also Mike Miller (of ‘Bimmer’ magazine fame), whose guide can be had by emailing him… but it’s pretty much the same as the Bavarian Autosport guide.

    Why, do you ask, does BMW not recommend changing the oil every 7,000 miles? Because they have to pay for it.

  • Gragop

    @Lee:

    E38′s are probably some of the most handsome BMW’s ever made. a 2001 E38 Sports Package-equipped car is incredible :-)

  • bmw4life

    @Bernard
    You are correct, Canadian Maintanance program does not cover wear and tear items, but you can upgrade to receive full coverage for about $2K more.

    As for the dealership question. We have two dealers in my town and they are HORRIBLE. I am always terrified taking my cars there… First it takes a month or sometimes even 2 to get an appointment and technicians never get is right the first time. And when that happens sometimes they make me wait another month to get. And absolutely no curtesy to your problems…I have a lot of friends that sold their bmws and went with a different brand (Acuras for the most part) because of the service issues.

    I hear the service is slowly improving, but i belive it when i see it.

  • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

    As far as Illinois, I was happy with Motorwerks Barrington and for my X3, Perillo BMW. Nothing to complain, other than not always getting a loaner.

  • Ann Nonymous

    I have recently heard (from a reliable source) that BMW is thinking about discontinuing the free maintenance program or keeping it and significantly reducing the payments to dealers for providing the service. This would be a really, really bad decision.

  • Gragop

    @Ann Nonymous: Agreed. It’s a big selling point. Enough so that I CPO’d my E46 and extended the maintenance program. That feature plays a huge role in my wanting to buy a new BMW – especially with the ever-increasing list of computers that operate everything in new BMWs.

  • Jurgen

    @Ann Nonymous: I hope that’s not true. This is huge for BMW and all the customers appreciate the free maintenance program. Many of my friends came from Mercedes, because of the amazing maintenance.

  • al

    i am a cerfified BMW dealer technician. in reading some of these posts, most people are dead on in their views of the dealer work. its actually a very unfortunate circumstance. yes we are paid much less for the same work that would be customer billed (ie. cust billable hrs 8 approx. 5 under warranty). this can lead to a problem of quality. i myself will NOT sacrifice the quality of my work because of this. although i cannot vouch for other technicians/dealers. another problem is because the wear/matinence items are paid for by BMW. they want the least expensive way to fix it. ex: BMW does not allow their brake rotors to be cut at dealers ( i still have not found and exact answer as to why) so if you come in for a brake job only you pads will be replaced unless the rotors are below the specified min thickness, regardless of their condition (like glazing). even if the rotors are only .4mm above spec, BMW does not want the rotors to be replaced. i cannot abide by this myself though. i will not do a brake job of only pads if i find that the rotors are not in good condition regardless of theyre thickness (i just state on the repair order that they are below the min spec). that is just poor quality of work. it is such a shame. these are great high quality precisely engineered cars and the definately deserve high quality, attention to detail work not unlike that of a ferrari. these maitenance plans are nice since there is no out of pocket expense, but since its money coming from BMWs pocket to pay, only the bare min. repairs are to be made. the brake job is only one small example. one other that i cant stand is that if i find something while looking over the car that was not on the repair order as a customer complaint/concern, we are not supposed to perform the repair unless it is a serious situation that would lead to a move expensive mechanical failure later down the road (ie. diff seals leaking, suspension components bad, engine gasket leaks), and then we must get a shop foreman or service managers approval before doing these repairs. its all one big bussiness and the guy at the top wants to spend the least amount possible to make the most amount possible and thats where these unfortunate situations arise. and thats how they lead to poor cust serv in my belief. im only a technician and dont deal with the customers but i can imagine the unhappiness in the quality of work done on some cars. one last comment about working for the dealer. depending on your dealer, and most are like this, they want the cars in and out as fast as possible. quality of work is not theyre concern, its profit$$$$. they want to be able to have a high turnover rate so the money can keep coming in. service writers are always trying to put pressure on the technicians to get the car finished and out the door. i do not tolerate this. my writer can push me as much as he wants but will never succeed in making me finish the job quicker at the expense of quality. i enjoy being a technician and i hold a high standard for the quality of work that i do. there are times when i will loose money on a job. warranty may pay me 6billable hrs but i may have spent 7 or 8 on a job. but to me, if its not done correctly than i may as well not do the work. i can see were other technicians become disgruntled. working on flat rate time at a dealer is very cutthroat because no one wants to loose money, sometimes though you have to take the extra time. i have many clients that will specifically request for myself only to service theyre vehicles (even if its just an oil change). so even if a little money may be initially lost on a long involved job, in the end if you value the quality of you work as tech it will pay you back in the long run since that cust will keep coming back to you. i would like to send an apology on behalf or my fellow technicians at my dealer to anyone who has been unhappy with their service/quality of work from a dealer but i hope this post gives a little insight as to why these things happen. and if you have an expeirence where you are very pleased with the work that was done, ask the service writer who the technician was that did the work on your car. next time you come in you can request that only the techician service you car. you may have to wait a little longer to get the car in based upon what jobs the tech currently has going on, but you can have the knowledge that you will recieve better workmanship.
    al
    BMW and ASE certified autmotive diagnostic technician

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