January 27, 2004
I bought my V-6 Mustang at Leadership Ford brand new in 1999. In 2004, I decide to sell my Mustang and buy a new vehicle. It is in very good shape, low miles with no modifications worth mentioning and not a single blemish but my check engine light decided to come on. Not wanting to sell a car with problems, I take my Mustang back to the dealership at which I bought it new to be checked out.
They tell me it is an $80+ charge to hook it up to the computer and tell me the problem, this includes no repairs of any sort. It seems high but I agree to this and drop off my car. The call comes in to explain what my car's problem is and it turns out to be something called a DPFE sensor. It is an emissions thing but one that needs to be repaired to prevent other failures in the future. The quote for the parts and labor is just a tick over $300 which is about $100 for the part and over $200 in labor. We question the time needed to perform the repair and they reply with an estimate of about an hour but the charge is 'flat rate' and they just charge what the book says regardless of actual time. That's fair...if it is honest and accurate.
I work with a former service manager and ask his advice, he accompanies me to the dealership to pick up my car (I pay the $80+ for the diagnosis at this point, paid for and done) and we ask the service advisor to show us the part on the car. Surely it is in a difficult spot to access or requires some special tools and knowledge to replace...something to justify the $200+ labor charge quoted (not an estimate, this is what the flat rate is so this is what I will have to pay regardless of time.) According to my mechanic friend, 'flat rate' is a measure in hours that a competent mechanic with the proper tools should be able to perform the task.
This is designated by the manufacturer (Ford) and is done to prevent mechanics from overcharging the company on warranty repairs. He admitted that the FlatRate time is usually not adequate to perform the task but that's the way it goes. This 'flat rate' will be the same for ANY Ford dealership in the country; the hourly expense might not be the same but the time charged is.
It turns out that the part is a little box about the size of a pack of cigarettes and it is mounted on top of the engine with two small bolts. It has two hoses connecting to it and one plug of wires, you don't even have to get your hands dirty to replace it. I'm in shock at the price they quoted and are prepared to defend.
The service advisor, myself, and my mechanic friend are standing there in the shop looking at this part when my friend bluntly asked the service advisor "So you are going to charge him over $200 to take this part here off (pointing at the small box in front of him) and put on the new part?" The advisor replied that the $200 was for parts AND labor, which is not what the quote in my hand said. My friend explained to the service advisor that the $200+ labor price given me was not for the diagnosis (already paid for), not for the part (another $100+) and not for any additional needs because there is nothing else being done.
The advisor (now obviously rattled) explained that the labor also includes clearing the error codes from the computer, the mechanic's tools and the mechanic's training. My friend told the service advisor that the error code clearing costs the dealership nothing in either time nor material, the only tools needed is a pair of hose pliers ($3 at Walmart), a 3/8" wrench, and the training needed to perform the operation is zero.
We pause for a few moments, giving the advisor time to realize that we are not falling for this financial rape they are attempting and he just walks away. We leave, never to return. I highly doubt that Ford would pay this dealership $200 in 'flat rate' to spend 14 minutes replacing a single and easy to access piece. They lied to my face ($200 is NOT flat rate for the needed work,) defended it when questioned and walked away when challenged. How nice 'eh? I guess they prefer dealing with those who don't ask questions and hand over the Visa card...
The next day I called Greenville Ford in Greenville Texas, this is an entirely different story. They have the part in stock and it's price is $86. I asked how much they charge to put it on and they reply with $36, it includes everything that Leadership Ford was going to charge me over $200 to perform and more than that, they don't even charge to connect my car to the computer and figure out what's wrong; I had to pay over $80 for that! I said nothing about the prices I was quoted in Dallas, they weren't adjusting ... just being fair.
Leadership Ford did this to a customer who bought his car there brand new and returned for service. Imagine what they will do to YOU if you don't have a friend like mine to see through their big words and mechanic terms which amounted to NOTHING. If you don't have the mechanical knowledge to dispute their fees (even though it is apparently pointless) avoid this place like the plague. Buy your car at a fair dealership and let these overcharging liars find another schmuck to bend over.
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