My failed GM experiment

GM Chevy Impala
At the airport bus lot.

If I have a choice, I buy American, witness two General Motors (GM) vehicles in my garage. Alas, this time-consuming and patriotic experiment has failed.

I am sitting at the GM dealership for the fourth time in two years after a dead battery stranded us at the local airport bus lot following an 11 day trip. Just what you want to come to home to.

The culprit is a 2014 Chevy Impala with all the bells and whistles — maybe, too many bells and whistles because something is draining the battery. The service manager theorizes “the computer” is not shutting off and is not sure the issue can be resolved.

A “$5,000 diagnostic” machine shows a “severely drained battery.” Ron, the service manager at Deluca Chevrolet, knows me well and has been great. Two other non starts were in the garage and one at a restaurant in the neighboring town. All were a pain in the ass.

[This just in from Ron. The car needs a new battery. One bad cell drains the other cells, apparently.] I should add that the AC failed on a hot day last summer and now the lights for the letters next to the shift lever are out.

The 2014 Impala is fun to drive and a remake from your grandfather’s Impala. A bit of a head turner, actually, for the north of 60 set. But reliability is paramount. My wife drives this vehicle and doesn’t want to get stranded as much as I don’t want to get the call from her that she’s stranded.

The Chevy Silverado with 35k on the odometer has been reliable, save, oddly, for a broken transmission dipstick sleeve.

GM still trails the Asian car makers in the Consumer Reports (CR) frequency of repair rankings even though the Impala earned the third highest road score in CR’s history (reliability and frequency of repair do not factor into road score).  That’s little consolation when your car doesn’t start.

The other #fail was the dealer where I leased the Impala and paid cash for the Silverado. I was so angered by Amesbury, Mass. Chevrolet, I go to a dealer twice as far from our home.

It was the third strike that made me swear to never pass through the doors of Amesbury Chevrolet again. The salesman promised to pay a month’s lease for the first two strikes. It didn’t and after a while, the salesman stopped communicating with me.

The whole experience soured me on GM and all its brands. And I was a proponent of the 2009 GM bailout to save good-paying American jobs.  I enthusiastically read “Overhaul,”  Steven Rattner’s account of how he oversaw GM’s rehabilitation. The deadly ignition switch fiasco has done little to bolster anyone’s confidence in the auto behemoth.

GM, it turns out, was powerless to rectify my situation with the dealer. One customer service sales person told me GM can’t touch its dealers. This arms length relationship is the result of archaic and anti-customer franchise laws in many states.

The salesman said coughing up a lease payment ($386) was in exchange for me giving the dealer superlative customer survey ratings post sale. I gave the dealer a couple of goods instead of all supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I thought the gratis lease payment was for the first two strikes and to keep the dealer in my good graces.

These customer (dis)satisfaction surveys are bogus and have zero to do with customer happiness. Rather, they pertain to money or credits that flow between GM and its dealers. One GM customer service was sympathetic and said the surveys are terrible. Sometimes, he told me, the salesman will sit down with the customer and fill out the survey for them.

Strike one was a dead battery in the first week I had the car. Strike two was having to chase down $114 in change from my first lease payment after I laid down a $500 deposit to hold the car. Not only had I recently acquired two vehicles at Amesbury Chevrolet in as many years, I bought my first car there decades ago when it was under different ownership.

Fortunately, the Impala’s lease is up next month and we will happily dump the car. We simply don’t trust it. It’s back to Toyota or Acura, which never let us down. What were we thinking?

At least, it’s not a VW diesel.

Follow @thedodgeretort on Twitter.


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