Doing My Part To Bailout GM
By: Mark W Adams

Which would be easier for you do without for a week?  Depends on where you gotta go and if you have decent public transportation of course, versus how pervasive your internet habit.

I had the unpleasant misfortune to make a back to back comparison over the last two weeks.  No working internet machine last week, and just after getting back online my wheels break down.  From a sheer ulcer-inducing bout of aggravation perspective, dealing with a failing multinational corporation like General Motors is hands-down the winner on the hit-your-head-with-a-hammer scale. 

Fixing my computer was cheap, easy, and hassle free.  My 2000 Firebird convertible, not so much.

I'm a life-long Pontiac owner, 4 of 'em plus two other GM products.  I made the mistake of trying to get some kind of discount/consideration/just-a-simple-answer-to-a-simple-question when a part I don't even want on the car (catalytic converter) catastrophically failed -- causing the car's computer to refuse to let me go into 1st or 2nd gear. 

The part is warranted for 80k miles or 8 years.  I only had 34,000 miles on the car, ridiculously low, but the warranty expired a couple of months ago.  But hey, stuff happens.  I researched Teh Googles (now that my iBook is back in action) to see how much a new converter would cost.  Answer: about $200-$300, plus I got an estimate for $189 from an exhaust shop my local mechanic suggested if he could use a "universal" part - otherwise it might be "Big Bucks. 

As I surfed around, I saw a reference to a "Technical Service Bulletin" (TSB) issued to all the Mr. Goodwrenches around the country that extended the warranty for the cataytic converter to 10-yrs/120-K for my make/model and year vehicle as well as a whole bunch of other GM cars and trucks.

Awesome!  I called up GM to check it out.  Mind you, I was already out $107 for the diagnostic at my local mechanic who had told me the original warranty had expired.  That was Sunday.  First thing Monday I called GM to see what this extended warranty TSB was about and was told that only the suped-up 5.7 Liter engines were covered, not my little 3.8L.  "But don't despair" they said.  They would try and do something for me, maybe a discount, a goodwill gesture, something, since the expiration of the original warranty was so few months ago (November) and there was an obscenely low amount of miles on the car.

This is important.  They told me that "maybe" they could help me out.  They didn't say "Yes," but didn't turn me out either, giving me hope that down the road they'd keep me as a satified, loyal customer.

Okay, let's see what GM will do for me.  The catch of course is that I have to have the car towed to a Pontiac dealer and they have to perform the same test I just had done -- and there's no guarantee that I won't be out of pocket for the two hundred bucks to have it towed to Mr. Goodwrench so he can tell me what I already know: I need a new converter.

The nice folks at GM appreciate my concern, but can't help me at all if I don't play by their rules.  See, the game is, they won't even tell you "No, you're fucked" unless you pay for the privilege.

Monday evening, after hitting up friends and neighbors for rides for my kids to get to school and back, Mr. Goodwrench tells me what I knew he would, what I already knew.  The shocker was the sticker price.  They wanted $1,050 just for the new catalytic converter, not including labor or the tow and diagnostic.

Seriously, a Grand for something that only degrades performance.  I live in a county that doesn't even check emissions before you renew your license plates  like they do in the bigger cities.  In Cleveland that extra hassle was a source of job security for muffler shops throughout the county, not here.  I could have (should have) just cut the damn thing off the car and ran straight pipes. (Cap and Trade that.)

Mr. Goodwrench did have another option.  He'd send the car out to the folks at the muffler shop around the corner where he sends out all his exhaust work (where he'd probably send my car anyway with the thousand dollar, diamond enchrusted, stupid-priced converter) and it would only cost me $350. 

Back to the Oh, so very polite folks at GM who didn't get back to me until Wednesday.  Okay, we got the certified, yes you-betcha diagnosis with a stupid cost estimate, so how's about that, uhm, discount thingy?  Cuz I ain't paying no thousand-plus bucks on top of what I'm already out. "Oh yes," outrageous price to fix it, "Absolutely." A car with so few miles, loyal Pontiac owner, we should be able to do something for you as a gesture of "Goodwill."

How's about a certificate for $1,000 off your next new GM vehicle?  No reimbursement, no deal where I pay the labor and the cut the cost of the converter. No discount, no joy.

That's it, a coupon, good for a year, on a car I will never, ever buy.

Since it would cost another hundred to have the car towed to the guy who might be able to fix it for $200, maybe, I bent over and had Mr. Goodwrench send it to his buddy who at least said he would/could fix it for a higher yet certain price.

I will never buy a GM car again, ever.  If you aren't going to stand by your product, just say so up front.

All they had to do was say from the beginning was "No, you're fucked." I can respect that.  I didn't need the run-around for days, the aggravation, or to be overcharged for the work or be out of pocket for a tow and diagnostic I didn't need.

I let the district rep know my feelings on all this, why this is the reason she will be looking for a new job soon because her company is failing and will continue to do so -- bailout or no.  The brand is becoming poison.  They are no better than dealing with any insurance company or a bank out to screw over us serfs.


Grandpa Eddie said...

Yup, you got screwed, and I bet you didn't even get a reach around or a hug.

Mark W Adams said...

Nope, just a kiss-off.

Lia said...