Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Ford Situation

I've heard nothing from the Ford dealer that screwed up my car. I don't expect to. From a pure business standpoint, he gains nothing by compensating me.

Consider it clinically. His good customer, my father, is old and unlikely to buy any more cars there, so he's more of a liability than an asset. Ford as a brand gains when people like the cars and keep buying new ones, not when they try to own them for five or ten years. The dealer might make it back in service if the customer takes the car to the dealer for service, but most frugal, long-term car owners probably get tired of dealership service departments pretty quickly.

Long-lived used cars make Ford look good, but their true monetary value is hard to quantify. In each individual case, the car itself and its cheap-ass owner are an annoyance.

The dealer gains nothing by helping me out. I don't live in that town and I don't have money.

Disposing of the financial aspect, consider the moral one. Repairs often carry a warranty, but that is usually measured in days or weeks. While it's undeniable that the botched repair led directly to the breakdown that damaged the transmission, the service department at the Ford dealership can say that subsequent mechanics had ample opportunity to notice the substandard repair and correct it.

I might do damage to the dealership's reputation, but I live far away. And what auto dealership doesn't have a few stories circulating about questionable things they might have done? I single out none of them, distrusting all of them. Hey, prove me wrong, guys. Prove me wrong.

Auto dealerships are not all staffed by crooks and con men. They're just big institutions with all the problems a big institution normally faces when maintaining quality control. Repairs are not like manufacturing. A category of repairs might all be very similar, but they're not all alike. They don't fall perfectly into a time-and-motion model of efficiency. But big institutions have notorious problems dealing with creativity and adaptability. A little bit slower technician might yield much better results but cost the company too much money because they're willing to settle for lower precision for quicker turns. That's only one aspect of the problem.

If the dealer who screwed up my car is the smart business man I take him to be, he will do what he has already done: take the information, pledge to look into it, and do absolutely nothing while he waits for it to go away. Neither my father nor I have enough public relations value to make us a good investment.

No comments: