About a year ago, I wrote a scathing report describing the way some auto dealer service departments screw over their customers by ignoring manufacturers’ recommendations, performing unneeded services, double billing for other services, and billing for services not performed. Some of this is sold to the customer under the guise of concern for the safety of the car owner. There was no such concern by David Maus Toyota in our experience. The only concern seemed to be the dealership bottom line.
The motto at David Maus Toyota was then “whatever it takes”. How many ways can you take that? To me, it translates to: if you’re stupid enough to bend over, we’ll stick it to you — but good!
We were indeed stupid, but to avoid further embarrassment, Artificially Sweetened, my boo, told me she wanted to take her lumps and move on. Lesson learned. So, I stood down on my plans to engage a cutthroat attorney to sue their sorry asses at David Maus Toyota and conduct an extensive media campaign against the dealership.
However, several things have come to light about David Maus Toyota since then. Most significantly, the dealership along with its David Maus brethren has been sold, so the sins of the past, while not erased, will now undoubtedly fall on the deaf ears of the new owners. However, the latent effect of the single bungled service appointment has yielded yet more crapola that has served to piss me off a year later — and these were time bombs directly related to safety that they planted by ignoring factory recommendations. Benign neglect? I think not. Bottom-line oriented shortcutting is more like it. I’ll provide details below. First, though, something incomprehensible, at least to me.
David Maus Sells Out
I suppose David Maus Toyota and its related Central Florida David Maus dealerships were quite profitable, because they attracted the attention of zillionaire financier Warren Buffet, whose conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway decided to buy the dealerships’ parent company, the Van Tuyl Group in October 2014. The new company is known as Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, with headquarters in Dallas.
So far, they’ve kept the David Maus name on the dealerships and they’re doing a helluva lot of advertising. At least we don’t have to look at David Maus’ face in those TV commercials anymore and hear him spouting his ambiguously canny motto, “Whatever it takes!” Why Berkshire Hathaway kept the name after the sale, I don’t know. Indeed, thousands of customers must have been screwed by David Maus Toyota in ways similar to those experienced by Artificially Sweetened and me. If I were an honest company — and absent any information to the contrary, I assume that Berkshire Hathaway is honest — the last thing I’d want would be association with a name as tainted as David Maus.
But Warren Buffet is a lot smarter and more financially savvy than I — “a lot” is an obvious understatement — so I’ll assume that he and his henchmen know what they’re doing. According to Cathy Seifert, an equity analyst at S&P Capital IQ in New York, the Berkshire Hathaway business model is to acquire companies and let them run as they have been running.
Perhaps part of their agreement was to keep the David Maus name on the dealerships for a specified length of time. If so, I can’t wait to see it go away.
According to the Orlando Business Journal, we can likely expect the following:
- The dealerships likely won’t continue with the same names, as they may be rebranded completely or have the Berkshire Hathaway name inserted into the franchises.
- The Van Tuyl Group already had grown to being the largest privately-owned dealership, and the fifth largest overall in the nation, but it’s still fairly regional. Berkshire Hathaway will probably want to expand its footprint.
- There certainly will be profitability benchmarks, but the existing business was successful prior to the acquisition. So if each dealership is sustainable on its own, Berkshire Hathaway likely won’t look at consolidating any of the locations.
There is hope, already, at least to erase the name from this area. I hope to hell that happens soon.
Last I heard, David Maus himself was looking at purchasing some dealerships in South Carolina, thus establishing a new beachhead for his high-profit, seemingly unconscionable practices — unless he somehow cleans up his act. (Yeah, right. That’s going to happen.) Wonder if he took that all-time winner of a service director Mike Gutcheon with him! Birds of a feather, as they say. Oh, and Automotive News says he’s looking to expand into Georgia and Florida. Florida? Oy vey!
Silence is Leaden
Predictably, my letter to Maus went into the trash can and I never heard from anyone at the dealership again. As I mentioned in last year’s article, I found a local service shop I trust, and I’ve been giving my business to them. I no longer can trust dealers to do what they should be doing — acting as manufacturer’s representatives to keep the manufacturer’s products performing properly and safely.
I’ll now describe two new issues arising out of the shoddy and cursory job done last year by David Maus Toyota. These services not performed could have had dire consequences — life imperiling consequences — but AS got lucky. However, they did cause significant inconvenience, anguish, and out-of-pocket expense. Much of this could have been avoided by a simple inspection and by paying attention to technical service bulletins.
The manufacturer’s periodic service requirements for 90,000 and 120,000 miles includes inspection of several items, including steering linkage and boots. Obviously, the boots were never examined, because not long after the fated service date, we found one torn boot and had to have that replaced. But that’s minor compared to the next one.
AS and I were going to meet at a remote launch point to paddle down Rock Springs Run. We needed two cars so we could do a one-way trip and shuttle back. AS arrived rather distraught. Her car was running badly. We took it to a more civilized location. By the time we got there, the oil light had come on and there was oil all over the engine.
I filled up the sump with oil just to get it going again. We weren’t far from my mechanic’s shop. It was losing oil fast, though. My thoughts were that we had had the oil changed at a tire place when we got tires, so maybe they didn’t tighten the filter or cracked it or something.
We left it with my mechanic and went back to the kayak launch site. I got a call from the mechanic just as we arrived there. It turns out that the leak wasn’t due to anything done at the oil change. It was a hose that was supposed to have been replaced due to a Toyota Technical Service Bulletin. Apparently, these hoses had a high failure rate, and the manufacturer had asked that dealers replace them, issuing a bulletin that extended the warranty on this part to 90,000 miles.
So, assuming that they have a computer at David Maus Toyota and that it works at least sometimes, entering the VIN for AS’s car should have triggered an alert bringing up the TSB. Instead, they just concentrated on double charging, additives, unnecessary services, ignoring other factory recommendations, etc., as I mentioned in my previous report. So all their bullshit about safety this and safety that goes completely out the window when they can’t even implement their own manufacturer’s procedures for maintaining a safe vehicle.
The cost for the necessary repairs was about five times what it would have cost to replace the hose when the issue first became known to the dealership, when David Maus Toyota could have caught it. Even if they double-charged, it would have been cheaper than the ultimate cost of cleaning up after a blown out oil hose.
Oil wound up being sprayed over everything, because the affected hose was aimed squarely at the serpentine drive belt. My mechanic cleaned up as much of the mess as he could, but the whole undercarriage is still an oily mess. Obviously, we had to replace the belt, which entailed lots of labor hours — precisely the type of jobs David Maus Toyota liked to avoid. (I say “liked” because I don’t know what the prevailing policy is with the new owners.)
What the hell is the damn dealer there for? Does a customer have to deal directly with the manufacturer to get straight information? Is that even possible? Shouldn’t there be some trust between the customer and the dealer? How the hell can these guys ever be trusted again after what they’ve done in this one case? These are all rhetorical questions.
The car is whole again, but our faith in auto dealerships is immutably fractured.