Another Fine Example of American Car Quality

I have stopped speculating as to why American car company quality is considered inferior to the imports.  The reason for this is now I know why by example.  When I did break from tradition and purchase a foreign car last year, I received an owner’s manual that was at least 3 inches thick.  It was frankly quite a shock, but there is not a question you could think of that is not answered in that manual.  Let’s compare that to a recent experience we had with our Dodge Durango.  For what seems like the 20th time we had an electrical issue with this SUV.   These issues have ranged from an all out dashboard power failure, a strange conflict that caused the blowers to go out when a random combination of radio and lights were on to the recent issue where the interior lights would not turn off even when all the doors were closed.  Linda takes this SUV to various dog shows and uses the light wheel to shut off the interior lights so she can keep the tailgate open for the pups.  All of a sudden, that switch would not work and the lights in the tailgate would not shut off even when all the doors were closed.  Frustrated with the poor electrical systems, I headed out to see if I could remedy the problem, but as in the previous cases, no luck.   Assuming another inconvenient trip to the dealer the next day, I decided to at least pull the fuse to save the battery.

I pulled off the fuse panel to see what I was in for:

The very first thing I notice is there is NOT A FUSE PULLER in the compartment.  What does it take to verify that a .5 cent plastic tool is included as it rolls of the assembly line?  Let’s just call that quality defect #1.  My next task was to locate which fuse to remove (with my own tool!).  The most obvious place to me would be on the fuse box panel – maybe a quick two word summary of what each fuse is for like interior lights or headlights or radio.

This was a big strike out, since all the cover had was 3 extra fuses (at least those were there) and although you cannot read it from the picture, it appeared to just have the fuse numbers on it – that of course is something I can obtain from the fuse itself and therefore completely useless to me (if it says something else, please enlighten me).  For the meantime,  I am naming it defect #2.  No worries I thought, I’ll break down and get the user manual… all .25 inch of it and use the schematic in there to selectively pull the appropriate fuse. Wait for it… wait for it… (hit the page jump)

… no schematic is available in the manual.  About the only thing in the entire section on fuses is where the fuse box is located.  No explanation of what each of the fuses do or any clue as to what the right fuse is for the taillight.  For those counting, that’s defect #3.  I was furious… actually dumbfounded and then furious.  So instead, I have to find my 10mm Craftsman crescent wrench and take a terminal off of the battery.  Light is now finally out.

Now, my wife has to drive the Durango to the dealership where I will meet on the way from work in order to take her home (car was being fixed the next day).  Since I am not home, I have to have my wife put the battery terminal back on which has always made me uneasy after a battery exploded on my cousin causing him to lose one of his eyes.  Luckily, this went okay and she made it to the dealership.  While she was checking in, I asked the service manager where I could find the schematic so I could pull the right fuse in the future.  I was then informed that “it is in the owner’s manual”.  I smiled, went back to the Durango, grabbed the owner’s manual, noticed the 10mm Craftsman crescent wrench Linda used to put the battery terminal back on sitting in the cup holder and returned to the service desk where I politely asked him to show me where.  He confidently took the manual, went to the index, thumbed to the designated page and after a minute or so informed it was not in there.

The next day, we learned that it was a faulty wire that would cost over $300 to fix.  This brings us to defect #4.  Basically stuck, agreed to the fee and had the repair done and picked up the car.  After we returned home, I remembered the 10mm Craftsman crescent wrench that was sitting in cup holder.  Needing to return it to the case, I went out to locate it — it was not there – they took my wrench and that is defect #5.  Before I was able to call about the wrench, I received a call from the dealership asking if I was satisfied with my recent service experience.  I told him the car appeared to be working, but I wanted my wrench back.  He said he did not know anything about that, but noticed our car had over 90K miles on it and wanted to know if we were interested in a new one.  5 defects identified in 48 hours and I am being questioned as to whether I want a new car from the same dealership.   Ironically, we were considering a new vehicle and since Dodge stopped making the Durango (I wonder why?) I told him we already looked at his empty lot (and I mean EMPTY) and did not find anything we liked but would be interested in looking at an Aspen (Durango replacement).  He did not know anything about that vehicle (defect #6), but would look into it and call me back… “and my wrench?” and yes, look into where my 10mm Craftsman crescent wrench was.

6 days later and no call.  I have already decided to replace my own wrench and make sure in the future I leave no tools in any vehicle being serviced.   In the meantime, I am enjoying my zero defect import with proper documentation.

… and they cannot figure out why the auto industry is dying… please.

One thought on “Another Fine Example of American Car Quality”

  1. I feel your pain… Back in the day when I used to work in a BMW dealership, we’d have quite a few cars that experienced reoccurring issues (strangely enough, the biggest quality issue when I was there tended to be the climate control unit or the ECM). The down side? BMW parts/labor are quite a bit more expensive when chasing down a ghost if you’re not under warranty!

    I don’t think we ever had anyone accidentally take a wrench, but I do recall one time where a tech found a pair of panties (rather large) stuffed in the cup holder and started throwing those around the shop… I’m pretty sure he put those back though. Well, at least no one ever called and reported them missing. LOL

    And, one day, I was on a test drive with a customer complaining of a rattle from the passenger side dash of his new 325 iS. I was pushing on panels and trying to figure out where the noise was coming from while he drove and said, “There it is… you hear it?” I did, and it sounded like it was coming from the glove box…. so, not thinking there’d be anything wrong with opening up the glove box, I press the release, and out drops a nice shiny pistol. Talk about an unexpected surprise! Strangely enough, when the pistol was out, the rattling stopped…. I just had to explain the wet spot in his seat from where I about pi$$ed myself when the gun fell out.

    But, just so you don’t think it’s a US only problem with quality… Did you see where Toyota had an engineering issue with… get this… FLOOR MATS! Recalling 3.8 Million units.

    Apparently the interim fix is to pull out the driver’s side floor mat and not use it. Nice eh?

    Wow, seems like the life of an import service man is far more exciting than I would have thought! As of right now, my BMW has been running great (knock on wood) but the 4 year bumper to bumper no questions asked including any tire damage and all scheduled service free is pretty reassuring. Once the 4 years rolls off we will either be putting the high performance chip in (thank Linda for that need) or trading it in for another. Let’s hope from an insurance perspective we take the trade-in option. I won’t touch the panties issue but will make sure I check the cup holders and under the seats before I take it in the next time 8^) On the gun point, holy crap! did you pull a wise crack and ask him if that is to protect him from thugs while picking up hookers?… of course already soiling his seats probably offended him enough at that point.

    … and the car mats. Yes, a few hours ago I called Linda into my den to show her that article. This is extremely ironic in that our new car does not come standard with floor mats. While we were “negotiating” the price with the salesman we told him that we were screwed by BMW previously with the floormats and we were not going to get screwed again so no sale without those included. We now have a set of plush floormats due to arrive in a couple of days – how frick’n cheap do you have to be to make people buy floormats after paying cash for a vehicle – anyway Toyota made it right… now I just have to make sure they don’t kill me.

    Hey thanks for the great comment – always appreciate people taking time out of their busy day to read my ramblings and to enrich the experience with a comment is icing on the cake.


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