Friday, March 4, 2011

Wentworth in the shop

So Wentworth had to go get some preventative maintenance done on Thursday. The main reason was a recent Toyota service bulletin (TSB) regarding the inverter water pump. It would be completely covered by Toyota, as it's a potential overheating issue in the second generation Prius (model years 2004-2009), but nothing serious or immediately at risk.

I had also heard the occasional *clunk* while driving over bumps, particularly at slow speeds, and wanted to get it checked out. Apparently, the service department told me, it was the motor mount issue for which a service bulletin had been issued in 2008. It's rather subtle, and you can see on this TSB that "warranty application is limited to correction of a problem based on a customer's specific complaint". In other words, no big deal, most people probably don't notice or think anything about it. This would also be covered by warranty.

Well, after just driving the car home, everything felt fine, it drove perfectly as usual, though I had trouble keeping it in stage 4 on the way home (it's only a 7.4 mile trip - for non-Priusers, stage 4 is the desirable engine stage where the car works in full hybrid mode, allowing you to turn off the engine for gas-free gliding). Nonetheless got 64-65 mpg on the way home. Funny, because I remember my very first drive home from the dealer I got 54 mpg and thought that was amazing. A little adjustment of habits gets me 20% better fuel economy...

Today's drive home. The 64-65 mpg is calculated as a segment of the longer trip seen on the screen - but the key in this image is the wonderful 5-minute bars!

Now, the dealer's service department general response and interaction was another story. I brought it in first thing Thursday morning, if it were just the water pump, there was the possibility it would be all done that day (I didn't know yet that the clunk was a simple fix), so I waited for the call. Nothing came by the end of business hours, so I called to see what was up. Yes, they said, my car was ready, I could come get it if I needed it, they just forgot to call before to let me know. Since they had a part coming in for the motor mount fix the next day, I just had them keep it overnight rather than drive back and forth and then bring it back the next day anyway. At this point, nothing too unusual is going off in my head. No big deal.

The next day, Friday, I had been told they would have it ready by 11am, so I decided not to work that morning, losing the money I would've otherwise made. The allotted time came, as did noon, 1pm, 2pm, etc., and by the time they called at 3pm, I had started my afternoon lessons, and wouldn't be able to go get it even if they sent someone to pick me up. I had previously told them I wasn't free at all that afternoon, which is why they had said it would be done in the morning in the first place. Again, whatever, fine, it wasn't a huge hassle at this point, though certainly annoying, I would get it Saturday morning before heading out to work. They promised to send someone to arrive at 9am Saturday morning and to call when the car left to get me.

Saturday morning comes, I get up early, prepare everything I need for work that morning to take with me to the dealer, and then - well, you guessed it, no one showed up at 9am, and certainly no one called me. When I called them to ask where they were, they then told me the driver was a little late, and would be there in a half hour (in which case I'd be late for work).

So Saturday afternoon comes (that's now!), I just got home, and called them. Quite apologetically they said they would send someone right away to get me. Once you're talking with them, they're all very friendly, helpful, direct, etc., but the whole incommunicado thing rubbed me the wrong way.

So to Premier Toyota of Newport, it's OK to be a little late with something, it happens and it's reasonable, just make sure you give the customer a call to keep them updated! Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to borrow someone else's car, so for those people I imagine those three days would've been a huge ordeal. I was almost thinking of going somewhere else next time, but...

On an extremely positive note, they only did the work I asked for, and preliminarily, it seems they did it well. This seems like a given, but online Prius forums are replete with stories recounting dealers strongly suggesting to replace, say, *both water pumps* when the other one is perfectly fine, charging far too high diagnostic fees for simple things which were obvious and frequent occurences on the car, or even going ahead and "generously" replacing things like cabin air filters (which anyone can learn how to do in a couple minutes online yourself), and charging copious labor fees for the non-authorized convenience.

At Toyota of Newport I didn't have to pay anything, as everything was covered under warranty, and they didn't charge any odd diagnostic fees or suggest I get other costly repairs. The quality of service I think redeems the otherwise rather negative experience, and so I would return to them, asking from the start that they be very direct at keeping in touch.

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