WE vs DODGE!

So, we took the Neon into the nearest Dodge dealer to have an out-of-province inspection, as required in order to register the vehicle and get us some fancy Alberta plates (so much for my ability to blow off my bad driving habits with, “hey, I’m from Indiana…”). We dealt with this dealership earlier in the year when some crackhead destroyed the steering column while trying to steal the Neon, and our experience with them was not exactly what we would describe as positive – especially compared to the insurance company, who were above and beyond.

Sufficive to say, they have not increased their level of respect with us…

We’ve been annoyed by some minor brake squealing most of the summer, and knew we would eventually need to install a block-heater to keep the Neon’s powerful engine from shattering during our sub-Kelvinesque winters, so we asked Dodge to go ahead and prepare an estimate on that work while they were performing the inspection.

The call comes back later in the day with bad news: the Neon’s Daytime Running Lights module is broken; as this is a requirement in Alberta, it needs to be replaced – along with every other module in the dashboard? – bringing our work estimate up to $1500+. I’m skeptical that DRL is an actual Alberta Infrastructure requirement, so I tell Dodge to put a hold on everything while I do some research. A quick call to AI confirms Dodge’s claim, so I decide to find a cheaper replacement method – perhaps I can find the required parts used or after-market. Dodge is expectedly against the idea, but with some prodding agrees to install a part that I bring in on my own – it will take longer (ie. cost more in labour $) and they don’t actually expect it will work, which will mean us having to go their route eventually and paying for everything twice. Friendly folk, aren’t they?

The part is a ‘cluster’ of all the modules, priced at $650 OEM. A few phone calls around local part stores and wrecking yards, and I learn that an after-market DRL kit is available for $30! The consensus is that it’s a bitch to install, but it’ll pass inspection. I swing by Dodge to pick up the Neon so that I can go fetch this Excalibur’s Sword of midday luminescent engineering, and (surprise!) their Technician tells me that he won’t install this particular after-market item, because it doesn’t match the required electrical specs, and he doesn’t want to screw something up and jeopardize our warranty.*

* during this whole process it was learned that the SuperDuperExtendedWarranty that Lesley was sold as part of her trade-in deal is actually only a power-train warranty, and completely unaffected by electrical work of this nature.

I was half-expecting something like this from them, so I’d made some calls to local repair shops and found one that could install inspection-worthy DRL on the Neon for $250 or less after labour and taxes. If Dodge didn’t want to install DRL on the Neon for less than $800, they weren’t going to be doing any of the work on it and could snack on a net profit of $0.

But Dodge is a wily beast, and had already completely installed the block-heater and begun work on the brakes (they were dirty! the brakes, I mean… well Dodge, too I guess. Anyway…) I guess they decided to get in as much of the work as possible once they found out I was calling other mechanics for opinions. We were furious, but decided (probably against our better judgement) to let that go, giving them the benefit of the doubt – after all, English was not the Technician’s first language, and our Rep had mentioned that they have ongoing issues with him and misunderstandings of presumably similar nature.

Skip ahead. The Neon has been to our local mechanic, the DRL are installed and functioning, the invoice was exactly as quoted, and to top it off the staff were *gasp* friendly! We return the Neon to Dodge so that they can finish the initial inspection and give us our paperwork. Shockingly, they call later in the day to inform us that the installation from our local mechanic is not to specification – it seems our DRL are installed using the fog lamps, but they are supposed to use the turn signals? I asked our Rep to have the Technician bring her the appropriate documentation to back up this claim, and I would have her fax it to me as proof.

While she scurried off, I made a call to AI again and had someone there read me the relevant passages from the official Methods & Standards book (which apparently, he’s not allowed to send me copies of directly). The requirements are that the DRL be (i) on the front of the vehicle; (2) using white or amber lights; and (3) operate automatically whenever the motor of the vehicle is in operation – all criteria that our local mechanic has fulfilled dutifully.

The phone rings. I can see it’s Dodge. I prepare myself to unleash unholy fury on the poor soul on the other end of the line. I actually yelled “It’s on!” to the rest of the office (who have been following this little drama from start to finish, whether they wanted to or not) and pumped my fist a few times before picking up the receiver.

Anti-climatically, Dodge was calling to concede victory to my perserverence and research skills. The Neon was ready to be picked up, with full certification, at no further charge.

Clearly we will not be taking any of our future work to Dodge directly unless there is no other option. We’re also taking the boys at Franklin Auto some cookies and beer for their help.