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Maintenance/Warranty Problem and Customer Service Nightmare!
I have a major safety concern with my 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT, which is still under warranty. Recently, when I was pulling into the alley near my house, the oil pressure light went on and the steering stiffened up to the point that I could not complete my turn. I turned off the vehicle, restarted it, and it seemed to work fine. However, the incident was scary, so I didn't drive it again and had it towed to this dealership the next day. I was concerned that this jarring event might be related to two previous problems:
1) a power steering fluid leak (which was fixed) and associated noises in the steering system (which were supposedly fixed twice but never went away)
2) the car consumes up to 2.5 quarts of oil between oil changes (3000 miles), which Chrysler has refused to fix because they say that it is normal for their vehicles. (Prospective Dodge/Chrysler Buyers Beware!!!)
I contacted Chrysler customer service about the latest problem, highlighting the evident safety concerns, and over the course of about 12 days, they progressively offered the following steps of action:
-they encouraged me to take the car to a dealership, and promised that the problem would be examined by one of their STAR teams if the dealership couldn't find anything wrong.
-they promised to notify the "district manager" who would order a special inspection by the dealership.
-they promised to contact the "regional business manager" who would find a solution.
-after 11 days, they informed me that my only option was to go through the dealership, or to start the process again at another dealership. Russ Darrow (who had the car for 12 days) then promptly refused to investigate the problem further and insisted that I pick up my van, which I did last week.
Over the 12 days that they had my van, Russ Darrow worked very hard to deny that there was any problem, repeating over and over again that they could not "replicate it". I know this is the typical dealer runaround when dealing with warranty problems. However, it was evident from my conversations with Chrysler that the dealership was actively discouraging the company from taking any action. On every occasion that the Chrysler customer service agents put me on hold to speak with the dealer (to assess the situation, see about offering me a loaner vehicle, etc.) they returned to the line with a dismissive attitude toward my problem. They stopped short of actually calling me a liar, but that was the implication.
In addition, Russ Darrow repeatedly displayed a careless and flippant attitude toward my very serious safety concern. I provided the dealership with a copy of my service records and a one-page document that outlined previous problems/complaints, but the Russ Darrow representative never read it, even though I mentioned it to him on multiples occasions. When I picked up the vehicle, the service order record did not even accurately describe my problem, even though it was communicated in exacting detail to the dealership service representative on multiple occasions . The form simply said that the oil light comes on occasionally and that there is an occasional loss of power steering. There was no mention that the events occurred simultaneously, nor of the fact that the loss in steering control felt more severe than simply a "loss of power steering"
Compounding this outright negligence, the Russ Darrow service representative repeatedly told me that I would need to gather more data on the problem when it recurred (such as telling him what the weather was like, which incidentally, I was able to do for the first incident!) In other words, they ignored the data that I did provide, and then told me that they would need additional data before being able to fix the problem. When I mentioned the obvious safety risk for my wife and four small children, the Russ Darrow representative suggested that I drive the car by myself and keep a log of problems. (It is my family's only vehicle, only two years old, and under warranty) Apparently, an accident that would leave my children fatherless rather than dead is an acceptable solution for Russ Darrow Milwaukee.
In addition, during my last call with Chrysler customer service, the representative confirmed that the company had communicated multiple orders to the dealership regarding the aforementioned STAR team intervention and inspection. On multiple occasions, the Russ Darrow service representative denied that any communication had taken place.
Before giving up on the dealership, I searched the Edmunds.com forums for information that might be relevant to my vehicle's condition. I found enough information to suggest that the ongoing steering problems (leaks and noises) are endemic to this model of minivan (and therefore, it was probably easily identifiable to the dealership just based on my description). I copied the relevant reports from the Edmunds forums directly into an email that I sent to the dealership. The manager responded by closing out my account and leaving the car keys with the cashier for me to pick up.
The final verdict is hard to determine. Did the dealer sabotage my efforts at customer service with Chrysler? Did Chrysler and the dealership play me off of each other to avoid resolving the problem? In the end, I explicitly mentioned to the Chrysler customer service agent that any accident resulting from this problem would clearly result in legal damages much greater than whatever it would cost to ensure my safety. They openly said that they were willing to accept that risk.
I do feel that if Russ Darrow had taken my complaint seriously and been an advocate on my behalf, the situation might have been resolved acceptably. Instead, after 13 days without my car, I'm still forced to drive around with no clear answers. Their negligence certainly goes beyond the ordinary sleaziness that one encounters with car dealerships.
Readers! When deciding where to buy or service your vehicle, I hope you will remember Russ Darrow's callous and negligent attitude toward my family's safety.