We purchased a 2010 Mini Cooper with about 44,000 miles in Mid-October. From Economy Honda a Sonic Dealer in Chattanooga, TN. We were presented a clean Car-fax and a clean check list. We were under the impression the car was in good working order. We were wrong. We discovered an oil leak and a check engine light about a month after purchasing the car. I sent the following letter to the Manager. After several days with no reply I sent the letter to Sonic Automotive directly.
To whom it concern,
My name is Mark Lutgen and I recently purchased a 2010 Mini-Cooper from Economy Honda. Overall I was pleased with the experience. I am not, however, as pleased with the condition of the car I purchased, or the fact that I did not receive my teacher discount. I was told it only applied to new cars, but you website clearly stated differently. Generally I have a good eye for cars, especially having spent 12 years in the car business and purchasing more than 15 vehicles from various locations and individuals. Unfortunately, something was apparently missed this time.
Before coming to the dealership I chose the car I wanted, examined the Carfax, arranged financing, and valued my trade. I did all this to facilitate a quick in and out. It still took over 6 hours. That is by far the longest it has ever taken me to buy a car. Even with that I was satisfied with my purchase.
The problem started a few days later. My wife said she noticed a burning smell coming from the engine area and then noticed a puff of smoke coming from under the hood. I went out and also noticed a faint burning smell (in spite of the rain). I thought this was most likely an engine cleaning chemical burning off the engine from the reconditioning process and the puff of smoke was simply water from the road hitting the exhaust. I told her to watch it and let me know if it continued.
It rained for a few days and continued to puff smoke every once and a while. About a week later I drove the car to the store and noticed the smoke and the smell. I thought it smelled like exhaust. When I got home I checked the spot where she parks and noticed several small spots of oil. I am a stickler about oil changes and maintaining the cars and in fact the main reason I purchased this car was because the CarFax had the oil changes listed. I decided I would take the car in on my next day off (Wednesday, 11/26).
My sister was in town and needed to buy a car. I told her to check out your store because I had to go down there anyway and you seemed like good people. I had every confidence that your dealership would inspect the car and if it was a pre-existing condition such as an oil leak, you would take care of it. I assumed the car was inspected before sale. There was no mention of oil leak on the condition report, so either it was missed or omitted.
When we arrived, Trea took the car to service while we looked at cars. We chose a car and purchased the car for my sister. At the end of the process, Trea told me it was in fact an oil leak from the oil pan, and they would pay for the parts if I would pay the labor. I declined as it didn’t seem right since I assumed I was purchasing a car that had been inspected and that a Sonic dealership is not in the habit of selling cars with oil leaks. Still confident Economy Honda will make it right I told my sister to go ahead and purchase the car. We did. Singed the papers - bought a warranty, and after 7 hours were ready to leave. Well not yet… The sunroof on the car was broken!
Trea did promise it would be taken care of, but said it had to be done next week. My sister leaves on Sunday to go back to New York where she goes to school and was planning to leave her car in Atlanta until she returns for Christmas break. We asked if we could bring it back then but he said that would be too long. So now someone will have to drive four hours to drop her in Atlanta so you can fix a faulty sunroof that should have been caught during reconditioning.
Generally I purchase cars from the Watson’s dealerships because I know they stand behind their cars. I assumed you did too. I am the “car guy.” I advise my friends and family on what type of car and where to buy. I think there is a problem with your reconditioning process. I know in the two cars I purchased, things have been missed. I do understand I bought my car as is with no warranty and I have no problem with that. However, I could never imagine that a dealership as large as yours would sell a car with an obvious oil leak. The only question now is how can we deal with these problems.
We finally received a call and were told by Shannon Harris the General Manager that it most likely happened after we purchased the car because his guys check the cars out and they get paid to fix anything that needs to be repaired, and that’s how the techs make their money. I do know that when I traded my 2007 Jetta they told me everything that was wrong with it, and that is was in such bad shape it was only worth 2000. They eventually gave me 3000. What’s interesting is I saw it listed that night on their website listed for sale for $6000.00. How could they have reconditioned such a “bad” car in such about an hour?
Shannon did offer to split the 700 repair cost with me. Funny thing is they couldn’t do the repair they had to take it to a specialty shop… Makes me wonder if they really checked this car out or if they knew about it and decided to sell it anyway. We were also told the check engine light was related to the oil leak, and the light was off when we picked it up. Of Course it reappeared a day or so later.
I took it to a local Mini shop to get to the bottom of the check engine light and was told it had a bad fuel pump, and to take it to a Mini dealer, which I did. This is what they presented me: Copy did not show up.
That’s $2800 plus $700 for$ 3500.00 in just over 3 months. This shows 2 more oil leaks. That’s a total of 3 if you include the one previously repaired. Seriously, how can a tech miss 3 oil leaks. How can a car develop 3 oil leaks in 3 months?
The technician at Mini told me it was highly unlikely that the car would throw all these codes in such a short period of time, never mind develop 3 oil leaks at the same time. I spoke with the Economy Honda’s Manager Shannon again and voiced my concerns and tried to trade this car in on a new car. They Valued the Mini at $8000.00 a car they just sold to me for just under $13000.00, and told me welcome to owning a Mini or BMW for that matter. I simply replied well I sure didn’t expect it right off the lot.
Now in fairness I bought the car. I failed to have it checked out, and I didn’t purchase their $3800.00 warranty. This is my mistake. It is my mistake for assuming that I was buying from a reputable dealer. My mistake for assuming a clean Car-Fax and “clean” vehicle inspection meant something. I just hope this helps someone else. You have to ask how long was the check engine light on? Was the car even inspected? Do they care about the quality of car they are selling their customer? The answer is hard to prove, but feel free to draw your own conclusions and make your own decision to buy from any Sonic Automotive dealer.
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