Ford sucks; is anybody (affordable) any better?

By | July 31, 2006

My wife and I own a 1995 Ford Taurus, which we bought used, and a 2004 Ford Freestar, which we bought new, from Framingham Ford, in Framingham, MA. Framingham Ford has lived up to all the negative stereotypes associated with car dealerships. We will certainly never do business with them again. Furthermore, because of the experiences we’ve had with them, combined with the overall (lack of) quality in the two Ford vehicles we’ve owned, we hope to never own another Ford vehicle.

The trouble started when we negotiated the price of the Freestar. Ford had a factory rebate program going, which meant that several thousand dollars were knocked off the price up-front. We essentially agreed to pay the retail price of the van minus the factory rebate. Shortly after we bought the van, I realized that the dealership was going to get reimbursed by Ford for the entire rebate, which means that as far as they were concerned, we’d bought the van for full price. “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” I said to myself. “I could surely have gotten them to knock several thousand more off the price if only I’d been thinking things through at the time. They don’t really expect to make anywhere close to the retail price when selling to someone who’s driving a hard bargain.”

Yes, I was stupid, but after I got past thinking about how stupid I was to pay several thousand more for the van than I should have, the next question in my mind was, “Why does it have to be this way? Why do car dealerships, Ford and others, sell cars in a way which actively takes advantage of people? Why can’t they all just sell cars at a reasonable price? Wouldn’t everyone be better off if the price on the sticker were a real, reasonable, firm price, so that the dealership makes a reasonable profit and the customer doesn’t have a lingering suspicion that he’s been shafted?” I’m sure I’m not the first person to ask this question, nor will I be the last, but I’d really like to know — is there a good reason why car sales in this country work this way? Is there any company which sells new cars in the US which doesn’t act this way? I heard a rumor years ago that one of the hallmarks of buying a Saturn was that none of the Saturn dealerships haggle — the price you see is the price you get. Is that true? Does anybody else work this way?

Once we’d agreed on the price, the next sign that Framingham Ford was going to live up to all the negative stereotypes was when I was reviewing the final paperwork before signing it and found the infamous “paperwork fee,” this one for $115, snuck in near the bottom. Admittedly, I was a fool not to negotiate a better price, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to fall for the old “paperwork fee” scam. We dickered back and forth for quite a while about this stupid fee. Our saleseman pulled in at least two other people, including his boss, to explain to us how everybody paid this fee and it just didn’t make sense for us to be making such a big fuss about it. In the end, I said, “Look, if it’s so important to you that I pay this fee, then simply lower the price you’re charging me for the car by $115, and we’ll both be happy.” They readily agreed to this, and the paperwork was reprinted and signed with the new, lower price, but with the paperwork fee intact. We should have walked out of the dealership and gone somewhere else, but of course they’re trained exceedingly well to prevent customers from doing that, and my wife and I just didn’t want to waste any more time on finding a van.

Fast forward to last week, when I took the van to Totten Pond Shell, the service station I use for maintenance (Incidentally, they’re fast, honest and friendly, and I heartily recommend them. If you decide to use them, tell them I sent you; I get a $20 service credit for referring new customers! 🙂 ). The head mechanic told me when I picked up the van that they hadn’t bothered to rotate the tires because two of them needed to be replaced soon — one has a bubble in the sidewall and the other has a crack in the sidewall. Since all four tires are OEM Michelin tires which came with the van, and we’ve put less than 20,000 miles on it, both of the tires should still be under warranty, so I called Framingham Ford to arrange to get them replaced. They refused to honor the manufacturer’s warranty on the tires and informed me that I would have to go somewhere else. I said, “Let me get this straight. You’re telling me that even though I bought this van from you with these exact tires on it, you won’t handle warranty service on the tires?” The service “advisor” on the other end of the line confirmed that my understanding was correct.

Later that day, I just happened to be reading the Scheduled Maintenance Guide which came with the van, and I found this text in it:

When your tires need to be replaced, consider visiting your Ford or Lincoln Mercury dealership for name-brand tires and people who know your vehicle. And if your Ford or Lincoln-Mercury dealership sells the name-brand tire, they can also honor the tire manufacturer’s warranty.

I called Framingham Ford back and asked them if they sell new Michelin tires for Ford vehicles, and they confirmed that they did. I then faxed them this letter. Yes, I was playing the role of demanding, pain-in-the-ass customer. Yes, I was making demands which I was fairly certain they would fail to meet. But were my demands unreasonable? Was it unreasonable for me to be pissed and act that way, given that they’d refused to honor the warranty on tires they sell, contrary to Ford’s corporate policy and doubtlessly also contrary to their contract with Michelin? No, I don’t think I was being unreasonable. Looking at it another way, as Jeffrey Gitomer points out in his wonderful book, Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless, every angry customer is an opportunity to create a happy customer. If Framingham Ford had viewed by angry letter as an opportunity to acknowledge that they screwed up and do whatever it takes to make it right, they would have made me happy and quite possibly earned future business from me.

Instead, true to form, they waited over four hours to call me back, late enough in the day that it was impossible for them to do anything to solve my problem that day as I’d asked. The guy who called me was rude and argumentative. He acknowledged that his service department could, in fact, honor the warranty on my tires, but he never apologized for the fact that they refused to do so when I’d called to ask about it. He again tried to convince me that I’d be better off going somewhere else to get the tires replaced. While remaining argumentative throughout the call, he repeatedly asked me, “Are you going to be argumentative or are you going to work with me?” In the end, I told him I really had no idea how I wanted to proceed with him or even whether I wanted to proceed at all, and he told me to call him back when I knew what I wanted to do.

Instead, I sent this letter to Ford’s corporate customer relations center. If they bother to respond, I’ll post their response here.

I could tell you about all the little things that have gone wrong with the Freestar that shouldn’t have, but I won’t bother. Suffice it to say that the quality of Ford’s vehicles seems only marginally better than the quality of their customer service.

We knew when we bought the Taurus, and later when we bought the Freestar, that Ford has a reputation for mediocre quality. We bought them anyway, for various reasons which aren’t worth going into. What we didn’t know was just how terrible Ford’s customer service is. Ford has squandered the opportunity to turn us into loyal Ford customers and has instead guaranteed that Ford vehicles will be the absolute last ones we consider for any future automobile purchase.

So, who should we look at instead? Yes, I’m interested in quality, but that seems less important to me right now than customer service? Which dealerships treat their customers with respect? Which dealerships price their vehicles openly and honestly, so that customers don’t feel dirty after negotiating for a new car? Which dealerships treat their customers with respect and competence after the sale? Are the only dealerships which do this the ones which sell cars that my wife and I can’t afford?

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62 thoughts on “Ford sucks; is anybody (affordable) any better?

  1. CLEVELAND WARD

    My reply on Watertown Ford that Shane Carey the Service manager there at Watertown Ford could not find his way out of a Brown paper Bag.I’ve dealt with him and knows little about Ford and mechnical repairs.He’s always seeking some way to rip preople off.This is the Same for the management there .I have many work orders on work which was suppose to be performed but was not.i found out that later when i hay to pay another repair location out of my pocket.Mannequin face Peter king is about as useless.Stay away from this dealer.Please try Muzi.They will treat you right and not rip you off.The sell lemons and do lemon work!!Please file a formal complaint with Ford Motor Company.

    Reply
  2. Diane

    Stay away from Ford. Transmission problems have caused my 2006 Ford to sometimes travel backwards when it’s in drive. Ford has been hard to deal with and rude.

    Reply
    1. Irene

      My car same year model paid ,$4,600for a new tranmition
      PLEASE EVERYONE CALL AND cMail United States Ford Motor Company Customer Relationship Center P.O. Box 6248 Dearborn, MI 48126 Canada Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited Customer Relationship Centre P.O. Box 2000 Oakville, Ontario, L6J5E4 By Phone Customer Relationship Center United States 800-392-3673 800-232-5952 (TDD for the Hearing Impaired) Available 8:00a.m.-5:00p.m. Local Time Monday-Friday Canada 800-565-3673 Available 8:30a.m.-5:00p.m. Local Time Monday-Friday

      Reply
  3. Owen

    Dunno about the Freestar but my 1994 Ford Taurus has been excellent – 265,000 miles and still going strong. I did have to replace the tranny at about 200K. that was a tough decision. but other than that, an excellent car. As for the dealerships, of course they’re always more expensive than regular mechanics. don’t use them!!! unless it’s a recall, then the company pays.

    Reply
  4. John Stanley

    I have purchased 4 vehicles off of Chris Orme at Framingham Ford and have had nothing but a very simple transaction. He never tried to play “hard ball” or pull any crap. When I did have a service issue I just called up Chris Orme and he took care of everything he even got me a car to drive while mine was in the shop. I tell everyone I know to go there and see him.

    Reply
  5. Frank

    On July 22, 2008, I posted a complaint concerning defective repairs on my 1995 Ford Taurus (see: complaint above). Subsequent to that date, I attempted to seek redress through the Better Business Bureau. This was a total waste of time. The BBB completely ignored the evidence that was presented to them and found in favor of the dealership without explanation. I did some research on the internet and discovered that the BBB extracts monthly payments (soft extortion) from the companies it monitors. In fact, its operating expenses are covered by these fees. Across the country, consumer complaints are being summarily dismissed in favor of the BBBs paying membership.

    In absence of impartial adjudication by the BBB, I took my complaint to the small-claims Court. On the morning of the scheduled hearing, the manager for Watertown Ford showed up at my front door unannounced. He handed me a check for the total amount of my pending claim in exchange for my promise to drop my complaint. Upon acceptance of his proposed agreement, he offered me his hand while stating “No hard feelings; it was just business.” Although he rightfully understood that service department was responsibility for the damage to my radiator, he challenged the legitimacy of my complaint with the hope that I would simply abandon my quest for justice after being denied justice by BBB.

    Reply
  6. Will

    I went into Framingham Ford yesterday and had THE worst dealer experience of my life. How does this place stay in business? Rude and scam artists. Avoid at all costs.

    – Will

    Reply
  7. CLEVELAND WARD

    PLEASE NOTE THE PERSON WITH WATERTOWN FORD PROBLEMS, I BOUGHT A VEHICLE FORM THESE IDIOTS AT 472 PLESANT STREET WATERTOWN MASS, AFTER THE PURCHASE,SEVERAL MISTAKES WAS MADE ON THE DIAGNOSIS AND REPAIR ON MY AUTO ,AND THE EXTENDED WARRANTY WHICH THEY TOTALLY SCRWED UP,THEY BASED THEIR SCREWUP ON FACTORS WHICH MADE ENTIRELY NO SENSE,LIED TO THE BBB AS OFFERING TO FIX THIS PROBLEM FOR MY EXTEDNED WARRANTY, I TALKED TO SEVERAL UNSCRUPULOUS PEOPLE THERE, PETER KING, MATTHEW THOMPSON,.SHANE CAREY,ALSO THEY WOULD NOT LET ME TALK TO THE OWNER.SINCE; IN MY OPINION THEY COULD NOT FIND THEIR WAY OUT OF BROWN PAPER BAG AND ACT IN A MOST EHTICAL AND PROFESSIONAL MANNET.I HAVE STEERED MANY POTENTIAL CLIENTS INCLUDING MY HOSPITAL COLLEAGUES TO OTHER FORD DEALERS SUCH AS QUIRK, THIS INCLUDED A RECENT
    PERSON I KNOW,WHO BOUGHT AND AND GOT A GREAT DEAL AT QUIRK FORD.HIS VEHICLE IS BEAUTIFUL AND HE SAVED HIMSELF $12,000.SAVE YOU MONEY,STAY CLEAR OF THIS DEALER. FOR MINOR PROBLEMS WHICH THEY REFUSED TO FIX MY EXTENDED THEY COULD HAVE HAS MANY LOYAL CUSTOMERS WHICH I WOULD HAVE REFERRED TO THEM, BUT AS OF THIS DATE AND TIME,I WOULD NOT REFER MY WORST ENEMY TO THIS MOST UNSRUPULOUS DEALER.I WILL CONTINUE TO BLOG THIS DEALER AS I WANT THEM TO KNOW I WILL NOT FORGIVE WATRETOWN FORD FOR BEING SO DISHONEST AS A BUSINESS ENTITY.IF YOU WOULD LIKE BACK UP INFORMATION,PLEASE E-MAIL ME AND I WILL FAX ALL THE EVEIDENCE I HAVE AGAINST WATERTOWN FORD LOCATED AT 472 PLEASANT ST. WATERTOWN MASS. 02472.i ALSO FILED A COMPLAINT WITH FORD MOTOR COMPANY AGAIANST THIS DEALER,WITH THEIR RECENT PROBLEMS I AM STILL WAITING A REPLY.

    Reply
  8. OTISFORDSUCKS

    *BEWARE of Otis Ford,Inc. Quogue,Eastern Long Island,N.Y. (Hamptons).”Otis Ford Put Used Parts On My New Car”. http://www.otisfordsucks.com Website recently updated. Edward T. Otis III,owner. Also a Ford shareholder, with no help at all from Ford Motor Co. SHAME. Thank you.

    Reply
  9. T

    If you think Framingham Ford’s paperwork fee is bad, try shopping at one of Herb Chamber’s places. They all charge $450, which is bad.

    I understand your plight of not wanting to pay a ridiculous mark up, but is it a ridiculous mark up? What is the average mark up on a car? Anywhere from 0% to 15% (at most). What is the average retail mark up? Depending on what you are buying, probably anywhere from 35% to 500% (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071014134334AAKpAT6). Why are you blaming the dealership for trying to make a profit and paying all of its employees? I just don’t understand the logic? I drive a mercury, and I hope i didn’t overpay for it, but I understood that when i bought it the dealership I bought it from was probably making money off of it, even if only a few hundred dollars. I also understood that when I bought it, I might be able to get a kia for less, but I was supporting the US economy because i rely on it for stability in my life.

    Reply
  10. Frank

    I recently had dealings with Watertown Ford (Watertown, Mass.) which I would be glad to share with you.

    I recently brought my 1995 ford Taurus in for a recall repair of the cooling motor fan (Apparently, many 1995 Ford Taurus were equipped with defective fan motors and, as a result, an open-ended recall was issued by ford in December of 2001). I explained to the service department that the fan motor first started making a grinding mechanical noise while I was on the highway and, within thirty minutes, the car had overheated. I further informed them that upon closer examination I had found that the fan motor fuse had blown – hence the overheating. Furthermore, I explained that I had replaced the blown fuse with a new fuse in an effort to diagnose and repair the problem myself – but, removed the fuse immediately as I could see that the fan motor was severely compromised (noise and heat). While researching the problem on the internet I stumbled across the aforementioned recall notice.

    Watertown Ford affected the necessary repairs on my vehicle within the parameters of the Ford recall. Upon completion of the repairs, they informed me that the fan motor was not working at all. When pressed they said the fan motor was working but not coming on at the required temperatures. They further explained that it would cost me $99.00/Hr to diagnose the problem. They assured me that the diagnostic and repair costs would be covered by Ford if they could be directly linked to the failure of the cooling fan motor. After expressing my feelings of trepidation inre to trusting Ford Motor Company to voluntarily take responsibility for any subsequent repairs, I agreed to have them do a maximum of 2 hours of diagnostics on the problem.

    The service manager contacted me later in the day and explained that they had found a problem with the fuse receptacle that controls the cooling fan. He explained that one of two spade-fuse receptors was making inadequate contact with the fuse and, therefore, the fan was not getting the current it needed to operate. He said that it was a simple matter of bending the receptor contacts back into shape.

    I returned to the dealership the following day in full expectation of picking my vehicle without charge as there was no mention of remuneration during the phone call the day before. Upon arrival, the service manager tried to charge me for the time required to diagnose and repair the fuse receptacle. I told him that I was unhappy with the idea of paying for any diagnostics or repairs for the following reasons:

    1. The old fan was operating prior to the Watertown ford effecting repairs. If there was a problem with the fuse receptors the old fan simply would not have worked.
    2. The 2 spades on the fuse that I replaced were seated extremely snuggly in there respective receptacles. In fact, It took a considerable amount of effort to remove the blown fuse. There was no indication at all that either spade receptor was loose during the installation of a new fuse.
    3. They (the service dept.) had already indicated to me that the new fan was working… That it was a timing problem that was the focus of there concern. They had even cited a number of components that could cause the fan not to turn on at the proper time. When I raised this fact with the service manager, he said that they knew the new cooling-fan motor was working because they had applied twelve volts to it from an external source to test it. He couldn’t explain, however, how they were able to come to the conclusion that there was timing problem with the fan motor circuit if there was no voltage to the installed fan. It doesn’t make any sense at all to be focusing on timing problems if the cooling fan circuit itself is not getting the requisite voltage it needs to operate. From a diagnostic point of view, one always checks source voltage first! I concluded my arguments by suggesting to the service manager that the real reason the mechanic couldn’t get the replacement fan to work was because there was no fuse in the circuit. As previously stated, I had removed the fuse (to prevent further damage and possible fire). I told him It was my belief that the mechanic had never been told by the service department that I had removed the fuse. It was only when he decides to check source voltage for the cooling fan circuit that he realized why it was that the fan was inoperative.

    Having challenged the service manager’s version of events (veracity), I asked to speak with the owner of the dealership. The service manager stated that he was not on location and, with all the contempt he could muster, he waved the diagnostic and repair charges. In conclusion, I believe that this dealership has knowingly engaged in a act of deception in attempt to elicit from me repair costs to which they were not entitled. Had I not had thirty-five years of electronic repair experience, I might have been victimized by this scam. This service manager seemed well practiced in the art of deception and I am left with little doubt that this is how business is conducted at Watertown Ford on a regular basis.

    Update:

    Within hours of filing “Watertown Ford Deceptive service practices Watertown, Massachusetts,” I examined, more closely, the work that had been done to my vehicle. To my astonishment, I discovered a stress crack in the radiator. The crack emanates out from the base of one of the shroud-flange support posts which are affixed to the back of the radiator. It is apparent that the crack resulted from a considerable amount of torque being placed upon the shroud-flange fastener when either removing the old shroud or installing the new one. Upon seeing the crack, I checked the fluid level in the radiator and found that the radiator was almost empty. This would explain why I did not notice any water dripping from the car upon returning home from the dealership. I contacted Ford customer service (888-781-7319) and gave them full assessment of what had transpired with Watertown Ford. After contacting Watertown ford, Ford’s customer service informed me that their service manager refused to take any responsibility for the crack in the radiator. They went on to say that, although Watertown Ford flies the Ford flag, “Ford Motor Corp has no real power to intervene on the behalf of a dissatisfied customer” as Watertown Ford is “independently owned and operated.” This Ford customer service representative was kind, courteous, sympathetic and, most of all, utterly professional. But, at the end of the day, I’m left with a vehicle that is more damaged then it was before being serviced by Watertown Ford. I brought my car in for a defective cooling fan and now have a crack in my radiator that is squirting a stream of water out at a very visible rate when the cooling system is pressurized (car running and warm) and the radiator is full.

    Reply

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