Stalls – June ’88
Right Hand, Meet Left Hand
Pretend, for a moment, that you are a major German automobile maker. Last year you notified tens of thou sands of owners of your cars to bring them in for an “engine campaign.” You didn’t have to do this, but you volun tarily spent millions of dollars to keep your customers happy. When a custo mer brought his car in for campaign work, the intake chambers and the back of the intake valves were cleaned with a walnut shell blast , the injectors were cleaned, the injection electronics were upd ated as needed and the igni tion system was gone through .
Pretend, for a moment, t hat what you told your campaign customer was that the valve carbon and injector problems were caused by tod ay’s fuels, and that a substance in the fuel called techroline would abate the problems, so long as it was used from the time the motor was clean . Customers were told to either use fuel with techroline (such as Mobil) or to add it to the fuel. To encourage its use, and keep customers happy, you sell techroline for only ca. $1 .40 per bottle.
A club mem ber had his 325 in my nail-infested driveway last week for a little integrated circuit work. The car had 3000 miles on the clock . I asked him if he used techroline. “Techro what?”, he said . “Techroli ne,” I replied . “Never heard of it ,”said the proud new owner.
The chip work finished , I suggested we d rive to the dealer who sold the car, in order to buy a case of techroline and ask the salesman some questions. The new chip seemed to work pretty well, by the way.
The salesman seemed somewhat familiar with techroline and its uses, and was aware there had been an engine campaign. I could not deter mine if he connected the two. He con ceded that he had not advised the pur chaser about techroline . ‘I d on’t discuss fuels with customers unless it comes up somehow.’ What to feed the car was, according to the salesman (who delivered the car), the business of the service department.
The car had its 1200 mile service at the same dealership. Nobody in the service department (where all this campaign work was done to slightly older cars) had bothered to tell the purchaser about techroline, either.
The owner of the dealership and another salesman had joined us by this time. The proprietor said he thought that techroline would have been added at the 1200 mile service. (It was.) But given that the second service is not until ±7500 miles (these cars have ser vice interval indicators), shouldn’t techroline be used in the interim? The owner and salesman had no answer. Frankly, I was hoping that either they had forgotten to tell my friend to use techroline or they would consider a policy of discussing the matter with all future purchasers , but nothing they said gave me any encouragement on either score. Having spent megabucks repairing poor running cars in the field, there is no protocol to keep new cars from d evel op i ng t he same problems!
One salesman who joined in this dis cussion d id give me reason to under stand wh y the service department (which, in my opinion, should do the car delivery), and not the salesman, should educate customers on technical matters. This salesman drives a VW Vanagon, and said he learned from a filling station attendant that his car, too, will develop injection problems unless techroline is used. I asked whether his car used L or K jetronic injection . He would not answer this (i.e. he didn’t know), but said it made no difference, as fuel injection is fuel injection. [This is rubbish. The L sys tem is exquisitely more susceptible than the K (CIS) system to injector contamination.] The salesman com pletely missed the point, which is that BMW has identified a fuel compatibil ity problem and has absorbed many millions of dollars correcting its effects -not to educate new buyers to avoid the problem is insane. And if I may judge from my own experience with VW, customer satisfaction is of little or no concern there . I hope this salesman was not suggesting that BMW should treat its customers the way VW does!
There is always an Alice-Through the-Looking -Glass quality about car dealershi ps. It’s kind oflike court that way (as in, a passenger doesn’t “use” a passenger car. Honest. That’s what our courts say.). And I like this car dealer ship. Maybe not enough to buy a car there, but at least enough to leave with a case of techroline. But it seems to me that when a customer buys a car, s/ he ought to be told enough information , at least about the car’s eccentricities, to avoid getting into trou ble . This dealer ship has no policy of d oing so and neither, apparently, does BMWNA.
When I bought my first 2002 (in 1971), the owner of the dealership where it was serviced not only gave me a rund own about maintenance but also demonstrated the car by inducing a little oversteer at the limit and d rift.: ing the car around a corner. I can u nderstand that such a thorough checkout may not be possible these d ays (if for no other reason than the cornering limit of the 325 is much higher), but there still should be some checkout. And so far as mechanical systems go, that includes what grade of oil to use and a discussion of fuels.
Especially when the manufacturer knows that a problem will almost inevitably occur in certain precautions are not taken.
BMWNA, let the dealers know what to minimally tell the customer. Service department, let the sales department know how to keep the customer from need ing preventable maintenance . Right hand, meet the left hand.
Postscript: Three days after my visit to this dealership, and after the foregoing column was written, received a call from the owner, letting us know that future purchasers would be advised to use techroline. Let us hope this becomes a widespread trend.
This article was originally published in the June 1988 edition of Zundfolge