Alan Graham, General Manager of Erhard dealerships in Michigan
Wayne Orchowski, VP of Ops BMW North America (also COO of BMW FS)
Peter Miles, EVP of Ops BMW North America
Chris Koenders, EVP of Sales and Ops BMW North America
Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW North America
Norbert Reithofer, CEO of BMW Group
Various BMW customer service email recipients
BMW, decent product, but what the heck is wrong with your dealerships?
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, my friend asked me to go with him to Erhard BMW, a dealership in Farmington Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. He was having problems with his 2011 BMW 750li (with 55,000 miles) suddenly going into limp mode, so I agreed to join him - like every other guy out there, I love looking at cars, and seeing as the lease on my 2013 BMW 335ix is about to come to an end, and I'm within the 6 months pull-ahead period, I'm also looking to find my next car - and up until this happened, I was planning to take European delivery of a BMW at the end of the year.
Unfortunately, this is one of the only dealerships in the area, and one I have visited several times in the past; it's also not the first time I'm treated with the same courtesy that a recently-released Bernie Madoff would be treated with by those who invested in his ponzi scheme. But I thought... heck, it's been a while, and I'm all for giving 2nd, and even 3rd chances to companies whose products I like, BMW happening to be one of them.
I'm a 25 year old MBA graduate from the University of Michigan, I work in management as a Technical Business Analyst for a reputable company where I'm actively involved in restructuring its internal processes. I also provide business consulting services, and I'm involved in the decision process of several other businesses. I'm a firm believer in customer service, and treating every single person, not only those who pay you, with respect - a word which appears to be defunct in the vocabulary of Erhard BMW sales representatives. That being said, I'm going to tell you about my experience at Erhard BMW on Saturday, March 28th, 2015.
My friend and I both drive in to the dealership separately because we know that if he has to leave the 750 at the shop, they will not have a vehicle to give him in return, and since it was after 12pm, all rental places are closed. You might think that's not an issue in other countries, like Germany for example - but in the United States unless you book your dealership trip a couple of weeks and up to a month in advance, there's absolutely no way you're getting a loaner BMW, regardless if you have a 3 series, an M5, or a 7 series - Hertz, Enterprise, and National become your friends.
We leave the vehicle with an interesting individual whom we have to plead with in order to have someone take a look at the car. We're told there are only 3 technicians on staff and they're swamped. After a little bit of begging, he agrees to take the car in the back and give it to a technician for a spin. Meanwhile we decide to hit the showroom to also satisfy my reasons for visiting the dealership.
On the showroom floor there are a few people checking out cars, mostly cluttered around the front desk, so we start looking for a sales representative that might be able to help us. Erhard BMW's showroom has a large rectangular-shaped floor with little claustrophobic cubicles around the interior walls of the building. We start from the back of the showroom to the front, looking in each cubicle to eventually find one with an individual named Linda Yates. Upon tapping on her window she snapped at us saying she was with a client, (even though she was the only one in her cubicle), and we proceeded towards the front desk.
Seeing as the front desk still looked the same way we left it the first time around, we decided for a second pass at the row of cubicles - which really reminds me of one of my earlier IT jobs at a business unit of Hearst Corp, a company as rigid and stale as the cubicle walls that were secluding everything from communication to collaboration. We then met Mr. Mark Savoury, whose character, unlike his name suggests, was anything but. I told him that I'm looking to drive an M4, that we were both BMW owners, and one of our cars was in the shop. I can't remember if it was before or after he greeted us, that he asked me whether I was going to buy a vehicle that day - I brushed the question off, not thinking twice about it, because that was the moment when I should have turned around and left that place.
He then took my drivers license, made a copy, and scurried off to talk to his sales manager; he returns 30 seconds later with the phrase "I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news" - like someone in my family just got murdered, "but we can't let you test drive the car until we've locked in a deal with you." At this point I'm only slightly irritated because this reminds me of the same service that I've experienced at that dealership in the past. I tell him that I'm within the 6 month pull-ahead period of my lease as it is about to expire, and tell him I'm not locking in any deals until I test drive this vehicle, reminding him of both my friend's and my investment in the BMW brand (which if you put us together is somewhere around $160,000). I also asked to speak to the manager if that was going to be a problem.
Mr. Savoury comes back empty handed and says no problem, let's go into my office - he meant his 3 x 5ft cubicle adorned with an article on the wall from 2010 which "counter-intuitively" explains why All Wheel Drive is really "not what it's cracked out to be." My friend and I couldn't help but chuckle at that. After he takes my information down on his lead form, because computers have not been invented yet and we're still writing on paper, he asks me what will make me buy the car today haha - to which my response was: today's money factor, the residual value of the car, and ultimately how it drives. I had test-driven another friend's M5 that week and was still considering that as well. He then continues by saying "So you're not going to buy the car today." I told him I would consider it, what else does he want me to do, prick my finger and sign in blood?? He repeats "That probably means you're not." He excuses himself to go talk to the sales manager to come up with the lease pricing.
After 5 minutes, he comes back with the rates, (which were outrageously high by the way - probably just to spite me) and says that he's again sorry to be the bearer of bad news, that we will not be allowed to test drive the vehicle. I ask again to be seen by his highness, The Sales Manager, to which I'm told he's busy. The sales manager's name is Mike Sadowski. Luckily Mr. Savoury's and Mr. Sadowski's make believe offices are literally 5ft from each other so I could overhear some of the conversation happening between them, which was simply denigrating to my character. I overheard one of them tell the other something along the lines of "You wouldn't believe how many people come here wanting to test drive cars to not even buy them." You're a dealership, people come to check out your cars - and if you let them, they might even buy from you!!
At this point I've wasted more than half an hour of my time talking to someone who's unwilling to make any effort to even show me the car, let alone let me drive it. He said he was sorry, that it was not his name on the dealership (but to me it didn't look like Mr. Sadowski's was either). I remembered his name because 2.5 years ago when I was in the market for my 335ix, I was treated with the same amount of carelessness and disrespect and a complete lack of customer service, which is the reason why I didn't buy from Erhard then. But without any oversight and proper training, how can Mr. Sadowski be nurtured into making the right decision for the company he works for, for the brand he represents?
I asked for the name of the general manager, Alan Graham, whose office is not at that location - and from what the employees were saying, he only visits once a week - "if you can catch him."
This isn't just a problem with a specific dealership, this is systemic, and prevalent at most BMW dealerships that I've been to. There's a severe lack of quality control and oversight, and not just in sales. I had to take my car to BMW of Ann Arbor 4 (FOUR) times, to get an issue fixed. FOUR !!!! The first 3 times they didn't even bother to check whether the issue was fixed - they simply followed their Service and Repair procedures for an issue they thought they had diagnosed, performed the operation, and had me pick up the car. I had to tell them twice to check my levels, fluids including oil, which were low. Nothing! Only after involving BMW NA was I able to get some sort of resolution, after I had wasted more than a week of my time. Outrageous.
In any case, this is why I will probably take my next $80,000 somewhere else - because while your sales might have gone up 8% last year, you don't care about your customers, and your trickle down management is clearly ineffective. Your dealerships do whatever they please, and they're ruining your brand. It's been fun, but I think Audi and Benz deserve a shot now.
Grüße aus Detroit (the automotive capital of the world where outside of BMW dealerships we usually treat people with respect) and I really hope you fix your issues before you lose all your customers.
I Recommend This Dealer:
Mike Sadowski, Mark Savoury
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