National/Regional Chains (dealers & shops)


Capt. Mike

Moderator
This topic is established for posts on National & Regional Chains doing business in several states. Recommendations or problems with individual shops in these chains should still be posted in their respective locale forum. This topic is for chain-wide comments and those verified by unsatisfactory response when appealed to the chain's upper management or manufacturer.
 
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Capt. Mike

Moderator
Leith dealerships

Leith dealerships include many brands & makes. They are concentrated in North Carolina but have facilities throughout the SE Atlantic. They are expanding rapidly into one of the super-chains.

My experience with several Leith dealerships has generally been positive. Those that I have done business with (Dodge, MBenz, Porsche) have always been up-front and I have never run into price-gouging or padding of bills. Like any dealerships, they have problems with getting quality personnel, especially mechanics. But they have a low turn-over compared to most and many in the service & parts areas have been their for years.

They are founded by brothers who are no longer active in the day-to-day management but still a presence. Mike Leith is deep into antique cars. They have auction facilities, too.

Leith does have VW dealerships -- I know of one in Cary NC but have not used them. However, we all have cars other than our Westies, so I pass this information on for what it's worth.
 
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Capt. Mike

Moderator
Hendricks Motorsports

This will probably get me all sorts of ire from the NASCAR crowd that follows Hendricks Motorsports! Hendricks is a multi-state chain of mostly US models.

My personal experiences are limited to the Dodge dealership in Cary NC but since escalation to their management and manufacturer was unsatisfactory, the problems I ran into are endemic of the chain.

The Dodge dealership in Cary is disgraceful. My first negative experience was when I tried to do the first oil change on a new Dodge truck. They did not even stock the necessary parts to do an oil change service. Complaints to Hendricks management finally got them to stock those parts.

Next I ran into service problems. Their "5-star" service department is 4.9 stars overrated. If it could be screwed up, they did it! :rolleyes: Damaging the vehicle doing repairs; no test drive; deliberately leaving items off the repair order; no testing of repairs; failure to do even the preliminary diagnosis specified in their own factory shop manuals, ad nauseum. Typically, they didn't have the parts so every visit had to be repeated. (We're talking new car, not some antique Westy!) "Couldn't duplicate in the shop" was their standard excuse for not fixing an item, even though I could duplicate it at will, including before & after the visit on the day of repairs. They refused to repair known & published NHTSA defects. It took a mandatory federal recall to get them to fix a dangerous stuck wide-open throttle defect that had been listed with NHTSA for 3 years! And even then, one service writer refused to accept the repair if it was "on the record." That repair was a 30-minute "kit" installation fix that Chrysler would pay for! In another warranty recall, the short-cutted by leaving out Chrysler-paid parts so the fix failed again, just out of warranty to the tune of $900.

Hendricks management wouldn't respond. They repeatedly refused to get me an appointment with a manufacturer's rep. Their incompetence forced me to appeal to the manufacturer, which was just as bad. Daimler-Chrysler told me to sue, which I did. They lost! :D. Although the suit was against D-C, Hendricks' conduct was resoundingly condemned by the court. Hendricks didn't send a rep or witness to the trial -- I suppose because it would have proven what I was contending all along. (That story is posted elsewhere on the site.)

So . . . guess where I don't do any of my parts and service business. And surely wouldn't buy a car where I wouldn't have it serviced.
 
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Capt. Mike

Moderator
SAM diagnostic kiosks

This is NOT a recommendation for Jiffy Lube -- I've heard too many horror stories and seen too many 'investigative TV reports'. But . . .

Jiffy Lube has started installing SAM machines at locations in selected cities. SAM, or Smart Auto Management, is a computerized system that is debuting at various Jiffy Lube, Speedemissions, Dekra Emission Check, Kwik Kar Lube & Tune, and gasoline stations around the country to give customers a quick, painless printout of precisely what's ailing their whip. Typical diagnostic procedures require a (usually pricey) trip to the dealership or knowing what all that mumbo jumbo means that comes flowing out of your ODB II reader, but SAM provides step-by-step instructions at each kiosk and prints out problems in laymen terms. So if you own a vehicle produced in 1996 or later, and feel that $15 is well worth knowing why all those check-engine type lights and buzzers are on, find a SAM near you.

It's a free-standing kiosk where you insert a credit card and it instruct you how to scan in your vehicle VIN. It will then tell you where to plug in the diagnostic lead and procede to test everything the OBD chips is capable of, giving written results in plain English. You can go to shop or self-repair. It's about $15, which is 1/3 or less of what most shops charges for just the diagnostics. Also a good honesty double-check on what your shop is telling you. Only good for 1996 & above cars with OBD.

Unfortunately, there are a number of marquees that either don't have standardized OBD or won't release the diagnostic data to SAM. Porsche, MBenz and about a dozen others cannot use SAM, but VWs can.

To find a SAM kiosk near you, go to the SAM locator. Or visit the SAM home page for demos and more info.
 
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Capt. Mike

Moderator
I have now used a SAM and have mixed feelings. The convenience and raw data were probably worth the $15. It worked like a charm and did exacly as advertised.

Except . . . the alleged "complete" printout wasn't very informative. I took a '97 Mazda that was pretty high mileage, rough and unmaintained. It gave me 3 error codes. One was catalytic converter system, but then it listed possible causes that included everything from O² sensor to crushed tail-pipe. A factory diagnostic system is capable of isolating O² sensors and causes.

Both of the other codes were generic "pollution control" and both listed (the same) dozen possible causes that were so vague as to be useless. Everything from filters, fluids, EGR system or "too much vacuum." It could need everything from tightening the fuel cap to complete wiring harnesses & distributor. That's a little too big a swing for me.

The net result was it did detect the car had potentially serious problems, but no clue as to what. Something minor or a hopeless/expensive chase down scenario? VW, and I assume all OBD's, should tell us an O² sensor is due for replacement, but that's a far cry from complete failure of the catalytic converter.

Net result; better than nothing but overhyped and nowhere near what the factory readouts should be. In NC, '96 & above must all meet EPA pollution inspections. This vehicle wouldn't and no reasonable indication as to what it would take to fix it. With no specifics, it's not even much of a diagnostic tool.

SAM claims you can go to their web site, enter your printout case number, and get a "Complete" print-out. No such thing -- nothing there but hype and marketing spiel. It also says you can get a FREE CarFax printout. Moosenuggets! The CarFax link will tell you the car has X number of "Incidents" but then wants $30 to tell you what they are. Incidents can be many things -- ownership changes, registration changes or insurance claims. A high number leads to questions -- are they numerous owners, recalls, accidents, that the car is auction fodder? But a low number could be the critical one for a flood casualty or an insurance total-out.

Don't use it exclusively. If it lists problems, yea, skip it (if purchasing) or get a pro and a complete diagnosis. But don't rely on it to prevent getting a lemon even if it lists as clean. And remember, it's engine only -- nothing about the rest of the drive chain or mechanical condition (brakes, suspension, body, accessories).

I wrote to SAM about my concerns, but they haven't shown the courtesy of a response."

Update 8/30/07: Ah, the power of the Internet and telling our tens of thousands of readers when a business doesn't produce to expectations! I sent a copy of this post to SAM and this time got a response from a Curtis Kingsley. The "complete" report on the internet is actually only a reprint of what I said was a minimal print-out from the kiosk. They will give you a list of Technical Service Bulletins (TSB's) but only a summary; the actual TSB must be purchased. Why? One can get TSB's for free from the NHTSA.

They deny any relationship with CarFax except selling CarFax the ad banner space & link on their site. The deny all responsibility for content and the misleading "FREE CarFax Record Check." Apparently the only thing for free is SAM will "Certify" that the vehicle in question has been SAM tested and shown no Diagnostic Trouble Codes. The purpose of that escapes me -- I presume if it shows a code, they won't certify it, but if it doesn't, you already have the actual print-out!
 
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