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Looks like you need a costly car repair...not!
May 2, 2012 12:43 PM   Subscribe

How do car dealer customer reps in the repair shop get paid? Salary? Commission? Both?

I've been taking my car to the dealer for repairs with great result. That is to say that in about ten plus years (and two different cars) I've not needed any major repairs (which I'll define as over $1000). As a result, I get the impression that I have never been the target of a fleecing. Fast forward to current day and I'm told I need a major repair ($2500). Since the car is now older I figured I'd get a second opinion from an independent car mechanic work colleagues swear by. He takes a look at the car and says nothing is wrong with the car. And in the 6 weeks since that diagnosis, the car has been fine. Even brought it back to the independent mechanic and he says things haven't changed.

So I'm torn about my allegiance to the dealership's shop. What are the incentives of the sugary-sweet and polite customer reps? Straight commission? Quotas? Other? And I guess on the backend, do the mechanics have any incentive to "find" something wrong? Are they "incentivized" in any way?
posted by teg4rvn to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Service advisors in most dealerships are commissioned salespeople.

As for the mechanics themselves, they are typically paid by the hour of actual work done. If they have enough work to do to keep them earning what they want, they are not really incentivized to invent unnecessary repairs, but if they're idle, they're not making any money and so might be incentivized to fabricate. This would rarely be an issue in a busy shop, though.
posted by kindall at 1:11 PM on May 2, 2012


What model is it? How many miles on it? What, exactly, did they say you needed done?

A lot of the recommendations made by dealerships are based strictly on schedules set by the manufacturer. Thus, if the schedule says "Replace timing belt at x-miles" that's what the dealer will tell you needs to be done, regardless of what condition the belt is actually in.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:13 PM on May 2, 2012


I should have been more clear. This was not scheduled maintenance. FWIW, it was claimed I had a leaking oil pump (?) and leaking CV boots/bands on a 2002 honda odyssey minivan with 150K miles. The independent mechanic said neither of these two were happening and any "leaking" oil was likely due to a sloppy oil change.
posted by teg4rvn at 1:20 PM on May 2, 2012


Just to throw this out, devil's advocate-style: you have 10-plus years of good apparently-honest service from the dealer; the independent mechanic might be dishonest here, in hopes of getting you as his regular customer.
posted by easily confused at 2:03 PM on May 2, 2012


They should be able to take you into the shop with the car on the lift and show you the torn CV boot.
posted by tippiedog at 2:17 PM on May 2, 2012


Years ago the woman I was dating (now my wife) took her car in to a dealer mechanic for something like an oil change, and the next time I saw her she had decided to buy a new car. The dealer had told her that her very dependable older car with no obvious symptoms needed about $2500 worth of work, i.e. enough that it wasn't worth fixing. We weren't yet so involved that I was working on her cars or sticking my nose into her financial decisions, but I always felt that the dealer's diagnosis was meant to do exactly what it did -- trigger a sale with trade-in of an easily resalable vehicle. I don't, however, have any way to prove it.
posted by jon1270 at 2:18 PM on May 2, 2012


Years ago the woman I was dating (now my wife) took her car in to a dealer mechanic for something like an oil change, and the next time I saw her she had decided to buy a new car. The dealer had told her that her very dependable older car with no obvious symptoms needed about $2500 worth of work, i.e. enough that it wasn't worth fixing. We weren't yet so involved that I was working on her cars or sticking my nose into her financial decisions, but I always felt that the dealer's diagnosis was meant to do exactly what it did -- trigger a sale with trade-in of an easily resalable vehicle. I don't, however, have any way to prove it.

They pull a version of this one on my grandfather all the time. "Oh, you need new tires and a battery. You can give us $600 and we will do that, or sign these papers and walk out with a brand new car for the same monthly payment." It's not the worst logic in the world, but it's not the most honest thing to do either.

I would personally take it to another independent and tell them the story. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle- maybe the dealership is right, in that those parts aren't working 100% any more, and maybe the independent guy is right to say "don't worry about it".
posted by gjc at 3:18 PM on May 2, 2012


The CV joints needing some attention at 150K is not unbelievable, unless you have recently had them done.

a quick google search indicates that there is a gasket for the oil pump that fails, so your dealer mechanic might be right. (e.g. This forum post)

Sorry I don't have an answer to the actual question you asked, though.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:00 AM on May 3, 2012


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