And I will echo the prior positive comments on allowing the customer to talk to the tech. I agree that there are good and bad SA's. I have mainly found them bad to mediocre.
First, as a former flight test pilot and engineer, I know how to do a good technical writeup. I (usually) don't give the SA my diagnosis of the malfunction - I provide a very good and detailed description of symptoms, and the conditions under which they happen (especially if they vary), and ask that he pass it on to the tech - so the tech can do what he knows to do.
I have had one SA who simply refused to pass along the information I provided (typewritten) the the tech, which resulted in repeated visits until I demanded to see the shop foreman - and then the problem was resolved right away.
During my most recent service experience, my car was kept for three days while the shop came up with repeated "CNDs" - could not duplicate - until I went into the shop, and drove the car with the foreman, pointing out exactly what was happening. He had the problem fixed by late that morning.
Unfortunately, this experience has been repeated often - again, neither the tech nor the shop foreman had seen my detailed writeup - only the SA's brief and inadequate description.
The problem is not unique to Mercedes. In one Audi dealership some years ago, I recognized the high-pitched squeal (varying with speed of the car, not engine rpm) of the forward CV joint failing in the propeller shaft connecting the transmission and rear drive of a Quattro drivetrain. I had heard it before (twice, in a car with a bad engine mount that went undetected; such failures were rare, and expensive to fix). It was only on the sixth visit, with only a thousand miles until warranty expiration, that a tech finally heard it while I drove with him (despite my having asked them to use a stethoscope, on three separate trips) - and he didn't know what it was (though on that occasion, I told him what I thought it was, and that I had heard it before - when the same joint in a different car had failed - twice). At least, he annotated a squeal from "somewhere in" the drivetrain, but checked no further.
After the warranty expired, and the week I was turning the car in from lease, the forward CV joint failed completely - grinding. I took the car in, and they took it out of service, undriveable. They then insisted that I pay to repair the shaft ($1300 at the time, plus labor - Audi wouldn't replace just the joint - only the whole shaft). I protested, and Audi of America requested the service records. The SA forwarded them deliberately editing out information that I had complained of the problem on 6 visits, three of them only for that particular problem. She did not forward the fact that the tech had heard the "undefined" drivetrain squeal, either - but I had the tech's notes on the service receipt, and my typed writeups (and the receipts with "CND") from each visit.
Anyway, I sat down with the salesman for the new car I was purchasing, and the senior tech who headed the service department (and was over the SAs), and we did a conference call with Audi of America - after the complete, unedited paper service records had been forwarded. Audi bought the repair, and the dealership got my new car ready immediately.
Yes, a bad service advisor. She didn't work there much longer. I was saved by talking to the tech directly - even though he treated me as if I were nuts because I had twice had a problem he had never seen himself, and had recognized it, even though he didn't - that's not so bad, but then he had failed to make any effort to trace it down (likely picking up on the SA's attitude) using the technique that had been used by techs to find the same problem in another car.
But once we got the skilled department head (not the foreman) into it, the problem was resolved, and the dealership saved a sale (while waiting for the records to get to Audi of America, I had gone to a competing MB dealership and picked up a CLK for a test drive - drove it back to the Audi dealer just before the discussion - and I'd have bought the CLK if matters had not been resolved satisfactorily; it was the same price as the Audi I had special ordered).
One of the recurring annoyances I have experienced with Mercedes is that the sales staff - including the delivery specialists, where those are used - and the SAs don't know enough about the cars they sell or service. The sales staffs at every Benz dealership I have had experience with has provided bum information on why I could not get something to work - "it was an option that year, your car doesn't have it" was the most common excuse. In fact, my car did have the feature, and either a module needed replacement or the system simply needed resetting. It was talking directly to the tech that resolved the issue.
In fact, the techs volunteered additional information on things to watch for, such as the evidence of cracks developing on the front strut mounts on my '00 S500 (before it happened - which it did), and checking the harmonic balancer for evidence of separation (before the recall). It was very instructive (and in the case of the struts, allowed me to make a $500 out-of-warranty preventive replacement rather than having the airmatic system degrade to needing a $6000 repair).
That is one of the things that started me on the forums. The dealer's "front end" would mislead the owner; their opinion of owners was that they are fat cat idiots who don't care about anything but the prestige of driving the brand, and that owners are too lazy or stupid to understand how the car and its features work. I have had that opinion voiced to me in only slightly gentler language by sales staff when it became apparent to them that I did not fit that category (as most participants in this forum don't).
Not only the service departments, but the sales staffs need to become far more educated in the cars. However, having a senior tech over the SAs is a good start - and letting the techs talk to the customer is the best thing you can do. Perhaps having the SA present will keep the extraneous conversation down and avoid loss of time for the tech - but it should still happen. Any more, I insist on it unless the car is in for only scheduled service.
I have had somewhat better luck with parts departments - they seem generally to know the cars better. However, this experience in not universal, and I pity the poor owner who wants to retrofit a hands free phone system, for example, and has neither a telematics tech nor a parts tech who knows anything. I get a LOT of private messages from such folks, seeking help. Throw an ignorant sales staff into the mix, and the owner (and Mercedes) really have a problem.
I would really like to see better communication among the three - if even only one department is knowledgeable, it could educate the other two, and save owners a lot of trouble.
2005 S500 4-Matic
Last edited by Skylaw; 09-28-2007 at 11:36 AM.