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.