Car dealers are basically scum. I strong recommend buying the book "Don't Get Taken Every Time" by Remar Sutton, describing the car buying process. I went to many Toyota dealers, as well as many other dealerships. I have been to several nice car dealerships.
I could list all the not-so-nice car dealerships, but I don't have enough space for them all. Most salesmen that you run into as you enter a dealership are well-meaning, but clueless. As the book says, you want to go to fleet sales. Here the salesmen actually know what they are doing. I have run into a competent fleet sales guy at a ford dealership years ago, and I have know one at Longo Toyota.
Dependable Dodge is located in Canoga Park, CA. I was driving my car in the dark, and in the rain. I ran over a piece of wood which was about 4"x4"x16". It broke my transmission case in half. I went to the nearest Shelby authorized dealer, which was Dependable. They said they could rebuild the transmission. I decided to replace it with a stronger transmission that had a hardened case (the 555 trans). This work was done using my AAA insurance. Even though the transmission was removed and replaced with a new one, they didn't want to align my front-end. They said that they marked where the everything was before taking everything apart, and put it back. I thought if I hit some wood hard enough to break the trans, then the front end could use an alignment. I called AAA, and they said of course they would cover a front end alignment. The trans is a 5 speed manual, and has a floor mounted, cable operated shifter. There are springs so that if the shifter is in neutral, and it is pushed to the right (needed to engage 5th gear), the shifter will spring back to the center. Also if the shifter is pushed to the left (needed to engage 1st and 2nd), the shifter will spring back to the center. When the car was new, it worked fine. After the new transmission was installed, and the shifter was pushed to the right, there was a very weak force pushing it back to the center. I complained about it, and was told tough. I won't go back there again.
Dave Ellis Chrysler is located in Canoga Park, CA across from Dependable Dodge. After my bad experience with Dependable, I decided to go to Dave Ellis. Their mechanics are usually pretty competent folks. Lately, things have gotten much worse. The last few times I was in for service I had a few problems. I was having the engine rebuilt. I decided to get the turbo rebuilt also (at Turbonetics). I told them to send to the turbo shop, but the parts people seemed confused, and never shipped it. After I called the parts people up, they finally shipped it out.
The engine was rebuilt at Dick Landy Enterprises, who is well known for building high performance Mopar engines. What I didn't know was that it would take them many months to rebuild my engine, which was a unusual engine for them (2.2 liter) compared to their mainstay V8 engines. When it was done, they said they would send it to Dave Ellis. It took about three weeks from the time I paid them until it actually arrived. I am not sure who is to blame for that, but each place, had the others phone number. After many calls on my part, it finally got to Dave Ellis.
But the fun was just beginning. Dave Ellis 'lost' my battery. Someone told someone else that they had seen me take the battery. This was not true, and the someone was never named. I did ask the main mechanic, Simon (a pretty competent guy) to charge the battery every month. When I went to get my car, there was a new Dodge battery inside. I thought this was a nice gesture, but I had a less than one year old Optima 800S battery in there. The Optima is perhaps the finest battery you can buy for a car. When my previous battery died (due to sitting at Dave Ellis for many months without being charged), I bought a new one. I did mention that they should have charged my battery quarterly or so. I told them I wanted a new Optima, as it had a 2 year free replacement policy, as well as a 6 or 7 year warranty. At first they said no way. Then they said if I provided a receipt, they would replace it. I had just moved, and couldn't find the receipt. Perhaps I had lost it prior to the move. After I called Dave Ellis himself, and made quite a stink (I was prepared to sue in small claims court, but didn't mention that), I was given a new Optima 800S battery (with receipt).
The car wasn't running very well. It turns out that the timing had never been set. The mechanic assumed that the engine builders had set the timing. The cam wasn't broken in by the engine builders, nor by the folks at Dave Ellis. After paying for some more diagnostic time, it was determined that the fuel filter was clogged. The fuel filter and the timing was making the engine run too lean. Being a bit trusting, I sorta assumed that they has checked these things when installing the new engine.
Well, that was fixed, and the car passed the smog check with flying colors. But when it got hot, and I turned on the air conditioner, there was a terrible squealing. I hoped the AC belt was just loose. I took the car back, and they tightened the AC belt, and that fixed the squeal. One would think that the belts would have been tightened when the engine was put in the car...
Now the car seemed to be running well, but there were some odd noises. I took it in, and they replaced the starter which they had replaced when they rebuilt the engine. They also replaced the exhaust donut. These fixed didn't fix the noise, and they thought it was coming from the clutch. I told them to take it apart, and fix whatever was wrong. This is a 10 hour task. They took the trans out, and ordered a new clutch and flywheel (these are Mopar performance parts). The clutch is a Centerforce clutch that has a bunch of weights which are used to clamp the clutch to the flywheel. The weights were making the noise. Same noise on the brand new clutch. The mechanic (Steve, a very nice and smart fellow), said my clutch looked fine. He also said there was some play on the trans shaft in one direction. I told him to take it apart, and fix it.
Now, I was not very clever. I should have had this done while the engine was out, when it wouldn't have taken 10 hours, but no. Steve found that 1st and 5th were a bit worn. I told him to put in new parts. The car was finally ready. I got the bill. Imagine my surprise to see the clutch and the flywheel on the bill. I went to talk to Steve. He said he had not installed the clutch or the flywheel. He had ordered 1st gear (and the synchro) but they had gotten the wrong parts, and he decided that mine were serviceable. Nonetheless, there on the bill was 1st gear and its synchro. So I went to speak to the parts folks. They agreed not to charge me for 1st gear and the synchro, but they insisted on charging me for the clutch and flywheel.
They said they were special-order, and they could not return them. I told them that was their problem, not mine, and they couldn't charge me for parts that I didn't order, and that weren't installed in my car. Also on the bill was the starter $110 + $30 core. I told them that the starter was a warranty replacement, and they said that nobody told them that. This was odd, considering they installed the previous starter. Also on the bill was a Sleeve Assy cl rel $62. I think that was a throwout bearing. I asked Steve about it, and he said that he didn't install one of those. The head parts person, Michelle, went to talk to Steve. Steve said that he ordered the clutch, because I had said to replace whatever was broken or worn. This was the key. If I had ordered it, I would have had to pay for it. If Steve had told me that once it was ordered, I would have to pay for it, then I might not have told him it was ok. Steve also didn't tell me when he was looking at my clutch and the new clutch, that I had bought it, whether or not it was to be installed.
So they tried to overcharge me about $675 in parts. This is quite the 'profit center'. Now I can get Dodge parts at 25% below MSRP, by ordering them from Koller Dodge (Napirville IL 630 355 3410), and I order stuff from them, but I was willing to pay more for the convenience of getting the stuff quickly at Dave Ellis. After over one hour of 'gentle discussion' I got the unused and warranty parts removed from my bill. If I had not examined the bill closely, and talked to Steve about it, I would have been out quite a bit of money.
But wait, there is more. Today I decided to rotate my tires. I was unbolting them (actually unnutting them), when I found that all the nuts were not 19mm. They used to be 19mm nuts. I had actually replaced a few of them, after the cheesy metric cover popped off the nuts. It is possible that some more metric nut covers had popped off without me noticing. However, one of the nuts did not have a metric cover, but instead was a one-piece closed nut which was 18mm. This certainly didn't come with my car, but someone had placed it there. Now I am not 100% certain when that happened, but Dave Ellis was the only folks to work on my car for over 2 years. Also another nut's metric cover was severely damaged. It took great cleverness and force on my part to remove the nut. But the switched nuts weren't a big deal. I could always buy a few more. What would have been worse is to have to change a flat, with the 19mm tire iron socket. I would have been 100% stranded, as I could not have removed the 18mm nut, nor the mashed nut, nor the 6 nuts that were missing their metric covers.
Now my car has factory alloy (really cast aluminum) wheels. The wheel nuts are supposed to be torqued to 95 foot-lbs or so. The nuts were all too tight to remove. So out with my trusty craftsman torque wrench. I have been using this trusty tool for 13 years or so with no problem. Surprise! most of the bolts were torqued to over 120 ft-lbs. This is no good. Now, when I was at Dave Ellis, I noticed that the left rear wheel was wobbling a bit. They fixed the bearing, and in the process, removed and reinstalled the wheel. When I tried to remove that wheel, the bolts were totally stuck. Some were torqued to around 150 ft-lbs, which is the limit of my torque wrench. Finally I got one really stuck one. I gave it a mighty tug, and it came loose. Also my torque wrench broke. Now I have a simple and reliable torque wrench. No fancy ratcheting ones (after I borrowed one, and didn't hear the quiet click, and broke a bolt). I had a simple beam torque wrench. The main load bearing beam is a piece of hollow steel tubing about 1/2 inch in diameter. There is a non load bearing solid steel rod with a pointer at the end of it. There is a scale which is welded onto the load bearing tube, and the pointer points to the load on the scale. Pretty simple and rugged. The scale weld broke. I don't know how much torque the wheel bolt was torqued to, but it was well over 150 ft-lbs. I know that many shops use air wrenches to install and remove bolts. I know it is quick and easy, and doesn't tire out the mechanic. I also know that the torque limit can be adjusted so as to not overtighten bolts or nuts. I tried to glue the scale back on, but it didn't last long. Now I am not 100% sure that Dave Ellis mechanics torqued all of my wheel bolts. I am sure that the left rear was done by them, and that one broke my torque wrench. Some may say that I should have used a breaker bar to loosen the nuts. Sure, in hindsight that would have been the best way. I don't happen to own a breaker bar, and I had no idea that someone would have tightened any wheel bolt to well beyond 150 ft-lbs. I have been using my torque wrench for many years to remove wheel bolts with no problems.
Today someone from Dave Ellis called me and asked me how I liked the service. I told him. I decided to put this up on my web page so others can know. It would be nice if they sent me 8 wheel nuts. A new torque wrench would be very nice. I sure hope that they haven't damaged anything with overtightening it. Of course, I am unlikely to find out what might have been damaged until something actually breaks.
The last time the engine was replaced there were also a few problems. The AC line was partially smashed. It didn't leak, so they didn't fix it. They managed to loose a few of my spark plug wires. They replaced them with OEM wires. I mentioned that my wires had a lifetime replacement warranty, and that the OEM wires wore out quickly. After a bit of arguing, they replaced all the wires with Mopar Performance wires, which are probably better than OEM, but has no warranty whatsoever. (As an aside, when I called Jacob Electronics who made the wires, they sent me the missing wires, without even requiring a receipt. They make really nice wires, and are very friendly folks).
I happen to have racing seats in my car. The drivers seat is literally bolted in place. There are slide rails, that have a 6-32 bolt through each rail, as well as some more bolts behind the headrest. When I got my car back, the bolts behind the headrest were broken. The 2 6-32 bolts in the seat rails had sheared off. Some ape had decided to push the seat back. This also broke part of the seat (made of kevlar) where it ran into the seat rails, when forcibly pushed back. I took it in, and showed it to them, and they said they were sorry. Guess who had to fix it?
But wait, there's more. I went to start my car, and I could not get it into gear. When the engine wasn't running, it would go into 1st through 5th, but not reverse. With the engine running, it would not go into any gear. It turns out that one of the bolts that hold the clutch on loosened up and kept the clutch from disengaging. The clutch was last worked on by Dave Ellis Chrysler. I have never had a clutch bolt loosen up before.
Based on my previous good experience in 1997 at Longo Toyota, I decided to order another Toyota in 2011 from Longo. This was a bad idea, though I did not realize it at the time. The good fleet salesman Clem, had unfortunately retired. I spoke to the 'fleet manager'. He was quite professional over the phone, and generally helpful. I ended up ordering a plug in Prius, in white. These have to be ordered over the Internet and are available in 'limited' markets. It turns out that the color white costs more because it is a 'premium color'. Sammy said that he would not charge me the extra cost for white. Though I didn't keep a screen-shot, I am pretty sure the delivery fee was $620 or so.
The magic day finally arrived, and the car was ready. I drove it, and it was harmless. Not so much with the paperwork. There was $220 charge for white. I told him that he agreed not to charge for it. The delivery charge was $760. I told him that I was pretty sure that was more than I agreed to pay for the delivery charge. In addition, there was vehicle registration and about $200 more fees. There was a flat fee, a tire fee, a electronic transfer fee (about $55), and another fee. He tried to get the delivery fee and white fee reduced. What was surprising was he left to talk to 'managers'. If he is really the 'fleet manager' he shouldn't need to talk to anyone else. In the end, he said he could just charge me the 'dealer cost' for the white paint. I told him that isn't what he said when I ordered the car, and left. According to Kelly Blue Book, the 'dealer invoice' is only about $1,300 less than the MSRP, so there isn't a whole lot of profit for this car. Adding $150 of destination charge, and $220 for paint is almost 30% more profit for them. However the cost of all of these fees is their honesty and integrity. How the mighty have fallen...
The next day he called me and said he may have forgotten his conversation with me about not charging me extra for the paint. He said I could get the paint for free. I agreed to get the car. I picked it up a few days later, as I was pretty busy. I dealt with the 'internet sales manager' as the 'fleet manager' was unavailable. The 'internet sales manager' was very professional and helpful. He pointed out that the tire fee was incorrect, as it was for 5 tires, but the car only has 4 tires (no spare tire). He fixed that. He answered all of my questions, and sent me email with links to a variety of sites that were relevant to the car. I was very satisfied with his help.
Longo Toyota is located in El Monte, CA. A friend of mine referred me to a competent fleet sales guy at Longo Toyota. His name is 'Clem'. A prince among salesmen. Actually honest and honorable. He also knows his stuff. If you go there, and see him, tell him 'Hi' from me. He usually sells more cars than the rest of the fleet sales guys. He is the only salesman that I would go to again.
For a modest fee over dealer invoice, I was able to order my Tacoma with the options that I wanted. I added a SR5 mirror with some lights (so I could read maps at night), and I discovered that one of the grab-handles bolts was inserted by someone clueless. They had managed to bend the bolt, without stripping it. Of course, as I removed it, I trashed it along with the grab-handle pretty badly. I told Clem about it, and showed it to him, and he ordered me some new parts. What I didn't know at the time was that he paid for the parts out of his own pocket. I was shocked.
I decided to buy a Nissan Leaf. In order for Nissan to figure out how many people were serious about buying one, they had people pay a $99 deposit to order one. I paid my deposit around April 2010. They sent a bunch of surveys asking how long they should make their warranty, and silly stuff like that. They even offered 'free' chargers, if you were willing to have data collected for a year or two. (You can charge from a normal 110v plug, but if you want to charge at 220v you need a special box with a special plug. Charging at 110v will take about 18 hours. The box costs about $1500, plus installation.)
Jan-31-2011, Nissan sent me a message saying I can request a price quote from a dealer. I picked Glendale Nissan for no clear reason. A few days later, I got an email saying that I had gotten a price quote. I logged into the Nissan Leaf site, but I couldn't get to the quote. It looked like their web site was broken (I have noticed it is quite buggy.) I tried to call on their phone number, but was told there was a storm, and the number wasn't working. I tried to use the chat function, but that wasn't working either. I find it quite odd that an international car company such as Nissan has such an unprofessional web site. Also, since there will always be environmental problems, any serious company has contingencies to deal with them, like backup sites for their web and phone numbers. But not Nissan Leaf. I was quite unimpressed by that. A few days later, I contacted them, and was told that the quote had expired since I hadn't accepted it. I pointed out that I couldn't due to their website being hosed. They generated another quote, which I accepted. It turns out when you get the the 'free' charger, Nissan cleverly upgraded you to the luxury package, which costs about $1000 more. They do this without telling you. When I asked them, they said it was required with the 'free' charger. They pointed out that the luxury package includes the high voltage (600v) DC charger connector, which they say makes the batteries hot, and reduces their life. Clearly, the luxury package isn't really necessary for the 'free' charger, but they wanted to make more money, by selling silly things I don't really need, like a rear spoiler with a tiny solar panel. Now if it had a few square meter solar panel, it would be useful for something...
I started getting spam from Glendale Nissan. Specifically from Brandon Wishengrad. Not stuff related to a Leaf, but stuff about their car sales, their used cars, and junk like that. It was unsolicited, and commercial email, which is the definition of spam. I figured it was a random, one time thing. Then I got another. I foolishly clicked unsubscribe. I also replied to it, saying I don't do business with spammers, and I was shocked and dismayed. I thought that would be the last of the spam, but no. I got more. I tried to call Brandon, but got voice mail. I asked to be removed from their spam list, but got voice mail of their Internet department. I tried to speak to the general manager, and was bounced around for a while. I tried to speak to any manager there, but nobody was available. I finally got someone with a tiny clue voice mail, which listed a cell phone number, which I called. I spoke to them, and told them the story. He wanted to fix the problem and offered to have Brandon call me. He said they want to keep their customers happy. I said I had already sent him email, and unsubscribed and I had no desire to talk to Brandon. I didn't get his name, but he was the one person with a clue that I spoke to.
I called Nissan Leaf, and told them I wanted to buy the car from another dealer. They said if I wanted to do that, I would have to cancel my order with Glendale Nissan, and pick another dealer, and go to the bottom of the waiting list. I said that was unacceptable. They said that was the only way to switch dealers. I asked them for another option, and I was told I could completely cancel my order. I did that. Of course, while doing that on the Nissan Leaf website, I got a '404 page not found error'. I wasn't surprised, as their website seems to be designed by amateurs.
Nissan claims the leaf will go 100 miles on a charge. They then clarified that as being with the EPA urban test. It turns out Nissan says you can go 100 miles, if you are driving at 28 miles per hour. At 55mph, you can go about 70 miles. There were other conditions that had even lower ranges.
I tried calling Nissan USA to get the car from another dealer. They said once I canceled my order, I could wait until they were taking reservations again, but I was out of luck for now. I am really shocked by the unprofessionalism of Nissan USA, Nissan Leaf website, and Glendale Nissan. This indicates a systemic problem at Nissan. I can only imagine how they would treat someone after they had purchased a car. I called a large Toyota dealer, and ordered a Plug-In-Prius. Took less than 10 minutes. I have had one problem at Toyota dealers in over 10 years, and that person was fired. Get a clue Nissan.
I thought I was done with Glendale Nissan, but no. I got yet another spam email from them sent from 'glendaleinfiniti.com'. It talked about the Nissan Cube, the Infiniti FX50, and other cars. I thought they had fixed their spam problems, but I was wrong. I called the sales guy, and he said he was quite surprised and had no idea that spam was still being send out, and said he would fix it. I now suspect they are totally clueless, rather than malicious, but one can never be sure.
I got a call today from the sales person at Glendale Nissan. He had a Leaf for me. I could pick it up today. The only catch was since someone didn't want their car it was released to retail sales. The retail folks decided to add $5000 to the sticker price, and I would have to pay the extra money. I thought that was quite a good profit center for Glendale Nissan, but I told the sales person, I had an agreed price, which was the sticker price, and I wasn't going to pay an extra $5000. The Plug-In-Prius is looking better and better. I have heard several rumors of poor quality of Nissan cars, and Toyota has an excellent reputation for quality. Their $5000 markup attempt makes me think they have no desire to make things right after spamming me, and reflects poorly on them.
Aug-2011 Nissan USA starts sending me spam about "Huge Savings on Nissan's entire line ends soon". There are advertisements for the Altima, Rogue, and Maxima. I got six emails from them. I can understand cluelessness from a specific dealer, or even from the Leaf people, but getting spammed from Nissan USA is completely inexcusable. Needless to say, I won't be buying any Nissan vehicle. My Plug-In-Prius should be arriving in February or March 2012. I called them to get unsubscribed from their spam, but that didn't work. I finally changed my email address to firstname.lastname@example.org . I hope they like getting their own spam.
Apr-2012 Glendale Nissan sent me yet another email. This time it was from glendalenissan.motorsnap.com . It started out "My name is Your Friends at and I am your net contact at Glendale Nissan." Needless to say, it is yet more spam and proof that they are either terminally clueless or spammers. Take your pick.
Keys Toyota is located in Van Nuys CA. Keys has many car dealerships. A friend has a 1995 Tacoma 4wd. It had a technical service bulletin about the springs (along with lots of other stuff). My friend got the new springs from Keys Toyota. It took him four trips to Keys until the springs were installed correctly. (The first time trip was to get the part numbers, the second was to get it all installed, but they forgot to order the springs, the third was to get the springs installed and the fourth was to get the nuts put back on and tightened. Keys did provide a rental car for trips #3 and #4.)
I went on a 7 hour drive with him in his 1995 Tacoma on the day before Thanksgiving to Big Bear CA. There was a small snow-storm. The truck may have been handling oddly in the snow, and when we got near my place there was an odd suspension-like noise. Shortly after he left my place, he heard the odd noise again and he pulled over, and noticed that 2 or the bolts that hold on the leaf springs on one side were missing, and that the other two were loose. He drove home very slowly. The next day, he called Keys, and after some argument, they agreed to tow the truck in on a flatbed. He believes that the tech at Keys neglected to tighten down the bolts on the leaf springs on one side. Needless to say, had the bolts came off, things would have been exciting.
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