I had an interesting and enlightening experience with my local car dealer today. Well, with the service department, but it showed me some interesting facets of car manufacturers and dealers. See, I went on a loooong trip, and during that trip my car passed out of warranty. But! Before that, I experienced a malfunction of the cooling system. As soon as I could, I had the malfunction documented (I was at that time right at the warranty limit).
Today I went in with my documentation to get the car fixed. The person at the service desk, with a beatific smile, told me that, once upon a time, when XXX had lots of money, they could do "good will" work, and it didn't matter that I could prove the malfunction happened before the warranty expired, it was no go and so long loser. The attendant's attitude was so smug that I vowed then and there never to cross the door of that dealership for any reason whatsoever.
Now, I later found out that it's not enough that the malf happen under warranty, you have to tell them, though how I might do that from 2000 miles away is a little bit of a mystery. Would a phone call do it? "Hi, there. My car's not working and I'm about out of warranty." What do you think the response might have been (see the "So long loser" sentence)?
Here's where the enlightenment set it. If the attendant had said, "I think you're in the right. Let's do it" I would have been theirs for life. Oil change? Go to my dealer. Windshield wipers? Go to my dealer. Any loss in doing the warranty work would have been easily made up in future work.
So, point one: Someone needs to point out to the auto maker that a crucial item for success is that you don't consider your customers to be enemies. The one adjective that floats through most discussions of the auto makers bailout plan is "arrogance." But it's not just the arrogance of the big dogs at the top of the heap. It trickles down to dealerships, to salespeople, to service reps, to mechanics. Do you have any idea how successful a business could be if the bosses just told the employees, "Don't hate your customers"?
Point two: As far as I am concerned the auto makers can take a long walk off a short pier.