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A Little Friendly Advice

This is the advice I give lately to people who feel they've been mishandled by Ford and want to know what they should do now.

It's important that you understand the Rules of the Game. The Rules are different for each side, and knowing what they are will help you to navigate your way to a satisfactory outcome.

First, the rules for big businesses:

Big Business Rule #1:

Get the customer's money.

Big Business Rule #2:

Keep the customer's money.

Those are the basic rules for them. If you keep them in mind, some of the things they do will start to make sense. Now here're the basic rules for you. These rules require some investment in time, but you've already invested a few thousand dollars, so what's a few hours?

Customer Rule #1:

You are NOT an idiot. Don't take "No" for an answer. If there's something wrong, stay on top of them. Come back every day if that's what it takes. Find out what the chain of command is for your dealership. Write down the names and phone numbers in the back of your service manual. Don't mess around with someone that wants to give you the song and dance, just tell them, "That's not good enough, I want to speak to [next higher up]." Be sure to portray yourself as polite, calm, logical, and determined. If the folks at the dealership aren't forthcoming, start writing letters. Keep going up the chain of command, attaching your previous letters to each new letter. If nothing else, this sends a very clear message that you're p.o.ed and you will do what it takes to rectify the matter. And the most important thing to do when writing is to STATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS! Don't just write and tell them how mad you are. They get that all the time. Tell them *exactly* what you expect from them, something like, "I will not rest until my [whatever] is fully replaced and I get a formal apology from the service manager at [your dealership] for the treatment I suffered. If I do not hear from you within 10 business days, I will refer this matter to your superior and, failing that, to my attorney." One more thing before we go on to Rule #2: It's perfectly acceptable, when a mechanic "can't find any problems", to insist that there is in fact a problem and that they need to call out an engineer to check it out. Be adamant if it gets to this point. I had a friend whose Mustang's front end wouldn't stop squeaking. When he told them they had two options, to either give him his money back or bring out an engineer, they brought out an engineer from Ford to look it over and determine what could be done. The problem was resolved shortly thereafter.

Customer Rule #2:

Make yourself familiar with the Lemon Laws in your area. Amuse yourself by quoting relevant portions of it the representatives at the dealership and watching the blood drain from their faces.

Customer Rule #3:

DO NOT STOP MAKING YOUR PAYMENTS. This one is critical. The problems you have with your car and the agreement you made to pay off the loan you took out to finance your car are two completely separate legal areas. If you stop making your payments, you will ruin your credit. It doesn't matter what else is going on, you must protect your ability to purchase another vehicle once everything is straightened out. When you finance your car through Ford, that is no different from taking out a car loan through a bank. And Ford Credit doesn't care what your car is doing; it's not their problem any more than it would be a bank's problem. You must resolve the issues with the car with Ford, the dealership, and the court. If the court decides you get your money back, great, but don't ruin your credit rating.

Customer Rule #4:

If you are told something, get it in writing. If they won't give it to you in writing, then they are LYING. Well, ok, maybe they're sincere at the moment, but the spoken word is pretty much useless in business dealings, and these people are not your friends. If, on the other hand, you didn't get it in writing and there's a conflict, ask to speak directly to the person that made the promise AND ask to speak to their manager. Let them both know, in no uncertain terms, that you will not let this rest and that they had better come clean.

Customer Rule #5:

Along with Rule #4, make a folder that you keep every scrap of paper in. Take pictures of your vehicle before and after you have it serviced and put these in the folder as well. Never give ANYONE the original copy of ANYTHING in that folder. Make them a copy instead. This folder becomes your proof that things went awry. A well-documented case is an easy case.

Customer Rule #6:

There are laws regarding warranties, and there are legally required warranties on all repairs or new items. Most repairs are covered for something like 60 days or 1000 miles (those numbers will vary). Such repair warranties are independent of purchased warranties. I do not claim to know all the laws and regulations regarding warranties, so be sure to ask your dealership representative what they offer. If it becomes an issue or you get conflicting stories, contact a legal advisor.

Customer Rule #7:

Be prepared to sue. Before I go any further, here's a disclaimer:
     I make no claims to legal expertise.  I am not a
     lawyer.  Any suggestions I give should not be
     construed as legitimate legal advice.  Please
     consult a lawyer before pursuing any legal action
     against any parties.
Ok, having said that, the following assumes that you've talked to a *trusted* attorney and that person had given you the green light to proceed.
It makes sense to big companies to play the "wait and see" game. They'll completely ignore you, even when you serve them with legal papers, until you actually walk into the court room. The idea is that, even when people are *really* p.o.ed about their cars, they rarely go the distance in suing. It pays for the company to see how serious you really are. When it's clear that you have your ducks in a row and you actually show up in court, it then pays for them to back off and give you the new parts and service. Make no mistake, it's all about money, and Ford, like most big businesses, is not concerned with making you happy. They're far more concerned with keeping as much of your money in their pockets as possible. If it looks like you have any chance at reducing their bottom line, they'll cough up the parts and service, simply because it would cost less than defending themselves in court. What you have to decide for yourself is what will cost less: paying for the repairs/a new car, or paying to show up in court.

Customer Rule #8:

I've never heard of an extended warranty that was worth the paper it was printed on. Warranties, especially the "extended" ones, only cover parts the manufacturer is pretty sure will not break. Think about it: drive trains are built tough. Car radios are not. That's why the drive train is usually covered for 60,000-100,000 miles, while everything else on the car, if it's covered at all, is covered for a much shorter period. It's a well known fact, even among the car salesmen, that you're better off buying a savings bond with the money you would have put into the extended warranty, and cashing it out when something vital breaks that isn't covered by the normal warranties. At least then, *you* get to decide what's covered and what's not.

Well, that's it. Following the rules makes you someone they'll want to satisfy so they can get on with the business of getting and keeping other people's money. Here's the address of one person you can contact at Ford, if you feel the need to butt your head against a brick wall:

Mr. Alex Trotman
Ford Motor Company
World Headquarters
The American Road
P.O. Box 1899
Dearborn, MI  48121-1899
As per Customer Rule #1, I'd make that the last person I wrote to. I'd write letters to each person up the chain first. By the time it gets to Mr. Trotman, it will be quite a packet of correspondence, and it will be obvious that you are a determined and highly irritated individual. He *may* be moved to action by this.

Last updated January 7th, 2005
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